Published by Katherine Tegen Books on October 2, 2018
“Decades of dead girls. Poor girls and rich girls. Black and brown and white girls. All of them Sawkill girls.”
If I could describe what I read this summer in a single phrase, it would probably be: “A lot of books about sassy, catty teenage girls trapped in the woods.” I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods with clusters of these ladies, and so when I went to pick up Sawkill Girls, I was not expecting anything revolutionary. After all, I’ve read this plot like three times already this summer, right?
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Sawkill is a tiny island community, full of horses and mostly owned by a mansion-baron matriarch and her daughter, Val: the Mortimer family. We slip not just into Val’s head, but Zoey’s – daughter of the police chief, the token minority family on the island and a girl who is convinced something fishy is going on – and Marion’s, who has moved to Sawkill with her mother and younger sister following the tragic death of her father. Marion’s mother is to be the housekeeper for Val’s family, and Marion is just not too sure about all of this.
There were so many more girls on Sawkill. But there is also something malevolent on this island. And that force – the Collector – giveth, and taketh away. And it takes, and it takes, and it takes.
We meet Zoey knee-deep in the throes of depression. Her very best friend has mysteriously vanished, and she was not the first Zoey knew. In fact, it seems that anyone who gets close to Val, the stuck-up brat who lives in the mansion, vanishes. There is something fishy going on there, but nobody will believe her. Then one day, she discovers a creepy-looking notebook in her house – one her father snatches away before she can get a good look at it. What does he have to hide? They share everything.
Marion is called “little mountain” endearingly by her family and those closest to her. She is quiet and careful, calculating and severe in her approach. Marion internalizes everything and you can really feel the pain built up inside of her, her pressing need to be strong no matter how bleak the circumstance. She is the physical embodiment of a solemn prayer. And lately, she’s felt this strange fizzing sensation in her bones that grows stronger the closer she gets to certain things.
And Val? Val possesses a singular ability to turn heads wherever she goes, her beauty sweeping over you like a cloud of perfume and …well, you’ll just have to get to know her yourself, won’t you?
The Bottom Line
This is a book about girls loving girls. Supporting girls, cherishing girls, getting dramatic and feisty with other girls (let’s face it, teenagers are teenagers, even if they live on a murder island). There are some lovely LGBTQIA backbones and threads woven throughout – namely same-sex relationships but also, delightfully, asexual representation gets some representation.
This is also a book about Some Heavy Shit. I’m talking the full Monty: all kinds of abuse (emotional, physical, sexual), violence, minor gore, teen drinking and teen pregnancy … if it’s a hot button topic, it’s here somewhere, I promise. But while it’s present, it’s not completely in your face about it, and Legrand takes care to discuss it without being too intense. (That said, a couple of scenes definitely had me clapping my hand over my mouth).
Sawkill Girls kicks down the drawbridge to your heart and tells you it is okay to be exactly who you are – no more, and no less. You can be any color, any creed, anything – you can feel whatever you’re feeling, and you can do anything. This is a love letter to girls everywhere, and I am 100% here for it.