“What I’m saying… 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.”
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
Sawkill Girls is the feminist horror to watch out for this year. It’s told from three perspectives: Marion, the new girl on Sawkill Rock who starts hearing a ‘bone cry’ after an accident on her family’s first evening on the island. She’s the quiet, shy one, the one who holds her family together. She’s also plus sized and likes girls (although I don’t think she’s given any specific label on page – she is in a f/f relationship in the book though – and I loved that ship). She soon meets and becomes friends with Zoey, the down to earth daughter of the island’s sheriff; a girl who’s black and asexual and determined to find out what happened to her best friend, who disappeared mysteriously like many other Sawkill girls have in the past. She suspects Val; the island’s Queen Bee, from a rich family who essentially run the island but who’s women carry a dark secret with them. Val is probably the most complex character as she has such conflicting thoughts. She’s also queer. There’s also a fourth perspective from the island itself, but I won’t go too much into that, except to say that girls have been disappearing on Sawkill Rock for generations… and Sawkill Rock is tired of seeing so many of its girls in pain.
“Decades of dead girls. Poor girls and rich girls. Black and brown and white girls. All of them Sawkill girls.”
Anyway, the three POV characters are from very different backgrounds and lifestyles but are thrown together when the island’s mythical monster makes an appearance, and the three of them are the only ones who can stop it. The different perspectives help you to uncover different aspects to the mystery; Marion with her bone cry, Zoey with information stolen from her sheriff father, and Val with her family’s history on the island.
We see the girls battle a girl-stealing monster, the stereotypes hanging over them that they are unable to do anything because of their gender, a woman-hating cult claiming to help but in reality not caring about what happens to the girls, their own personal traumas and losses, and challenging social norms. Sawkill Girls delves deeply into the toxic mindset of girls being pitted against each other, always forced to compete and prove themselves, and smashes it to pieces. It brings together three people who only have one thing in common – that they are women – and together they beat this stereotype. There’s also very much a narrative of female ‘purity’ vs. strength; the monster will only feed on girls, however, girls are the only ones who can ultimately hope to defeat it, despite them being presented as vulnerable and weak. We see the girls of Sawkill Rock shown as both prey and predator, and we see a fictional monster out of a horror story becoming representative of very real life horrors that real girls face.
“I am my own weapon.”
For me, Sawkill Girls cleverly worked real life horror into fiction. My key aspects for the perfect novel would be something that is character driven but doesn’t scrimp on plot, and with enough world building for me to feel that place in my bones. Sawkill Girls definitely delivered on all of this for me, and it immediately became one of my favourite reads of this year. As I said, this isn’t a book that you want to sleep on.
“You are a small girl. You are mighty. You are fragile. You can move mountains. You are breakable. You will never break.”
Trigger warnings: violence, murder, sexual abuse, parental abuse, blood, gore, loss of a loved one/grief, suicidal thoughts. There is also an acephobic comment made (which is challenged and resolved on-page, but do be aware of it).
lots of love,