Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
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.
**** Thank you to Katherine Tegen Books for providing me with a copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review ****
**** Trigger Warnings: Abuse (Physical & Verbal from Parent to Child), Animal Death (Not Graphic), Violence & Gore ****
I just don’t even know where to begin with this one, honestly it’s such an unique reading experience and has so many wonderful things going for it. It’s queer, it’s horror, it’s adventure, there’s romance, there’s magic, there’s diversity, and it’s feminist!
I’d like to start off by saying this is YA horror but at the same time it’s magical realism, so I really think you can enjoy this even if you aren’t a big horror fan. There isn’t anything super scary in this but it is a bit on the gory side at times. Overall I’d say the atmosphere is very eerie but nothing overwhelmingly so. (Hopefully that makes sense!)
The story revolves around the island of Sawkill Rock and it’s dark mystery: girls keep going missing and no one knows how or why. Three girls and their stories come together and they must fight the dark and powerful evil force that inhabits the island. As I already mentioned the atmosphere is dark and eerie, but I loved how unique it felt and how interesting it was. I especially loved the island setting (off the eastern coast of the U.S.) and how well written, immersive, and haunting it was. Words can’t even begin to properly explain it but trust me it’s just…so good!
There are three separate POVs throughout the story and I thought each was handled very well. We got more than enough information and story from each POV and all of them were interesting to read through. No dreading certain POVs and loving others, they were all good! There’s also a fourth POV that comes along for a few paragraphs and disappears again: the Rock. That’s right. The island the story takes place on has its own POV. It’s as neat as it sounds, I promise. This is where the magical realism bits came into play more and they made the story so much more interesting, the fact that the island is a living/sentient being is pretty dang cool!
I absolutely loved the first half of the book. It’s interesting, the pacing is decent, there were enough little twists and action to keep me turning pages. However, I did feel that the later half of the book slowed down a bit with the pacing. It did have moments where it dragged and I lost a bit of interest and skimmed. Other than that I felt the story flowed well and nothing felt super abrupt or too convenient.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the world building it was very creative and was a huge part of why I kept reading. There’s magic and monsters and I think what made it feel all the more terrifying was the fact that it was all so real. (Magical Realism/Fabulism). There were some things I would have liked to have known more about but I didn’t feel that made it lacking, I think it fit in well with the grand scheme of “the universe is a big place and we don’t know everything about it” that the book had going on.
As if the plot wasn’t good enough already we got three amazing heroines to go along with it! Overall they had everything I love and look for in characters: they developed over the course of the story, they had personality, and they had their flaws. There are a few important side characters that were done well too but not enough for me to really make a special note of them.
Marion is the newcomer to the island, trying to help keep her grieving family together after her father’s death. She gets caught up in the mystery of the disappearing girls of Sawkill Rock. Marion is more on the shy side but very kind and willing to do anything for those she cares about. She is also bisexual and has a relationship with another girl in the story.
Zoey was my favorite character because of how spunky, passionate, and stubborn she is. This girl will take anything on! She’s also black and asexual, hello representation! Her asexuality is actually a big thing in the story without being the focus, I thought it was handled fantastically as well. There is a moment where she is shamed for it but it’s immediately challenged on page.
Then we have Val. Val is probably one of the more complicated characters and develops quite a bit. She appears at first glance to be your typical “queen bee or high school mean girl” but that’s just a front. There’s a lot of dark feelings and secrets Val is hiding and you’ll get to find them all out I promise, I don’t want to say too much more for fear of spoilers! Val is also queer but it’s never stated what she identifies as specifically, she does have a relationship with another female character in the story.
There was some romance but honestly it was all so adorable and I shipped it all! I can also ALWAYS appreciate romances that don’t completely overshadow the plot. Each main character has a love interest and one of the romances is F/F, I do feel that the F/F romance did have a bit of insta-love because it felt kind of abrupt but by the end I really enjoyed them together. Other than that the romances were pretty trope-free, though I wouldn’t say either of them were very slow-burn if that’s what you’re looking for.
What I Loved:
- Unique, creative plot line
- Interesting world building
- Eerie, haunting atmosphere
- Neat island setting
- Decent action and plot twists
- Diverse characters including POC and LGTBQ+
- Adorable romances that didn’t overshadow the plot
What I Didn’t Love:
- Pacing did slow down and drag at times (especially the second half)
- The F/F romance felt abrupt and out of nowhere (although I did end up loving them)
I definitely recommend this for my fellow horror lovers but I also recommend it for those of you who enjoy magical realism and don’t mind a bit of spookiness and for those of you looking for some diversity (asexual, bisexual, lesbian, and POC) in your YA fantasy/magical realism/horror books. Overall the story is very strange and a bit weird but in the best way possible. This definitely won’t be for everyone but in my opinion it’s worth checking out!