SAWKILL GIRLS by Claire Legrand

“Why do the monsters eat girls?” she asked at last.

“Because,” Marion answered, looking beyond Zoey to the sea, “when a predator hunts, it seeks out the vulnerable. The desperate.”

Zoey’s laugh was bitter, “Oh, and we poor delicate girls are vulnerable and desperate, is that what you’re saying?”

“What I’m saying,” Marion said, now looking right at Zoey, her gray eyes bright, “is that girls hunger. And we’re taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn’t enough food for us all.”

I finished Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand yesterday – and it’s a great spooky YA book. A monster lives on a small island populated by the wealthy elite – and it feeds on the innards of teenage girls. There’s a lot going on in this book – but at its heart its about girls and how disposable they are in society. It’s about female anger and how girls fight back.

I loved this book – but I confess I wanted more from it (which I’ll dive into below in the spoilers section). Overall, it was an enjoyable, spooky book and I definitely recommend it to those who seeking a good, bloody story featuring a diverse (in color and sexuality) cast.

I desperately want there to be more books in this series. All my fingers and toes are crossed for further exploration into the pocket dimensions, powers, cults, and monsters lurking in new books. Even if it’s different characters each time, she’s opened a window into a very unique world and I want to go there again and see more.

Rating: 4 Stars.

So… SPOILER DISCUSSION TIME…

 

 

Okay.

First thing is first. How cool was the monster? I absolutely loved it! And all of it’s eerie implications. I mean… how much did it even like the women it enslaved? It knew them enough to pacify them with hot male impersonations and kisses. Who knows what we are to infer from the basement bedroom? I mean… eeeek.

That the monster remained fully OTHER the entire story, while also being fully developed as a creature with interests, desires, and ambition, is quite good story telling. It can be a challenge to make a thing real without also trying to make it human. But Claire Legrand has done it. And she did it very well.

She also managed to give a voice to an island, for crying out loud, and that’s definitely something she deserves accolades for. I remember loving when A.S.King gave the town pagoda a voice in Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and how interesting it was to have an object as an observer within the story. The island in this story is not only an observer, but an active participant in the plotline. I loved it.

Character-wise, I was pleased with the odd assortment of girls. There are certain things I wanted to know more about though, with each of them.

Marion: the new girl. I felt her burden of being the family’s rock. I sympathized with her while the island and its forces wrecked havoc with her body. Anyone who’s experienced a severe panic attack knows how scary it is – and how embarrassing – to be out of control. I’m sure this also applies to seizures and other such maladies. She seemed lonely and isolated from the start – but I do wish we’d had a little more development of her personality.

Teenagers are very eager to self-identify and to explore their interests openly.  It’s what compels the young to brand themselves, covering their walls with posters, covering themselves with clothing that advertises the media they enjoy. This is teen-speak, to help them connect with others with similar interests and often used as short-hand to refer to certain personalty traits. Val rocked her sporty, preppy perfection as a persona. Zoe had her rocker, misfit look. And Marian? What did Marian like? She felt a bit short-changed in the personality department.

However – after her interdimensional final chapter and subsequent return to “reality” – I am sooo, sooo intrigued by what Marion might be like now. How did that change her? The possibilities piled up in my mind like a mound of laundry waiting to be sorted.  Maybe she can open portals now. Maybe she can sense other monsters. Maybe the monsters can sense her. Maybe she gained new powers. Oh my gosh, the options are so unlimited… I want more Marion!

Zoey: the pariah. I loved Zoey’s character. It was fantastic to have asexual representation – especially a romantically inclined asexual. It was realistic, to me, that she was considering giving sex another try to make her partner happy. Many asexuals do. I thought her relationship with her boyfriend/friend was interesting. As with all teenage relationships, who knows how long it will last.

Her father was ultimately more intriguing to me, with his secret cult association. It doesn’t seem at all a stretch of the imagination to have a bunch of cloistered dude’s keeping patriarchy alive at the expense of women. What fascinating villains!

Val: the queen bee. Oh my gosh, Val.  I mean, she was born and raised to kill and serve a monster. You can’t really fault her with it. I think the second she started to realize she could rebel was the second she became sympathetic. And as much as the characters wanted to hate her for what she’d done, it was true she didn’t have much choice. The alternative was basically suicidal, to go against the monster. So until the gal had backup, she was just surviving under incredible and horrible circumstances.

I wanted to know so much more about this horrible family legacy! I hope we get another book with more backflashes. The small interactions we had with her mother, the memories she had of her grandmother, those were goldmines. The ultimate isolation of the otherwise most socially powerfully family was delightful to contemplate.

Ah me. Sawkill Girls was a rare treat in YA. It felt fresh and new, while simultaneously feeling ancient and mythological.

I’ll be looking forward to this author’s next book.

Rating: 4 Stars.

Originally published: October 2, 2018
Author: Claire Legrand
Title: Sawkill Girls

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