★★★★★ | pub. 2018
“Screw that book,” said Val. “It was written by men.” She held out her free hand to Marion. “We’re rewriting it.”
First of all, if you wanted to see a Buzzfeed Unsolved investigation into this book, yes, that exists, and there aren’t even spoilers. Second of all, this book was a freaking masterpiece and I need you all to read it.
Sawkill Girls is a book about not being your parent’s mistake, the deep and long-lasting effects of trauma and loss, and the repression of grief we all go through. It’s also a horror book. Also, it’s also about three girls and they’re all sapphic and all so well written and developed I want to cry.
I don’t quite know how to describe what made this book so fantastic – it’s a character study that’s also a thriller, a supernatural horror movie that’s also a discussion of grief and trauma. The thematic arc around Zoey’s loss of Thora; Marion’s experience with loss of someone close to her, and her experience of losing her mother’s being fully there, a loss of a loving family that isn’t even full; and Val’s feeling of never having had a loving family, but mourning for the love she’s never gotten nonetheless. It’s just fucking awesome.
➽C H A R A C T E R S
→Marion – bisexual daughter of a mother in mourning, trying to find her own identity.
→Val – morally grey lesbian abuse survivor.
if any of you know me you possibly know that this a character archetype written for me, personally,
→Zoey – black and bi and asexual legend trying to recover from grief over a friend.
🌷Val’s character arc and character development is lowkey someone reading my 2015 tumblr posts and being like “okay so what does she like in a morally grey character” she’s Morally Gay™️ and I love her. On a more serious note, I genuinely related a lot to some of her characterization; her ideation around love as something temporal, but her contrasting desire for some kind of real love nonetheless.
🌷Zoey… is such an important character to me? god she lets herself be angry about things and the NARRATIVE lets her be angry about things and humanizes her so much and god I love that !!!!!!!!! In all seriousness, it’s really rare for women to be allowed by their narratives to experience angry grief; Zoey is not here to be punished, because even with occasional blips, she is processing her emotions.
🌷Marion was actually somewhat my least favorite, but I still absolutely loved reading her chapters, which should definitely say something about how freaking good this book is. I really love the emphasis put on her ability to grow and move past her grief, not putting it in the past but also not making herself into a vehicle for it. And her relationship with her mother, who is not always there for her, was utterly heartbreaking.
Despite the fact that they’re not leads, I enjoyed the other characters as well; Zoey’s dad is awesome, and Charlotte was a lot of fun. Perhaps more importantly, Grayson has done nothing wrong ever in his life.
➽T H E M A T I C S
🌷At its core, this is a book about grief. In their own ways, each character in this book is dealing with what it feels like to mourn, to be alone, to miss people who aren’t coming back. For Zoe, it is her ex-best friend. For Marion, it is her father and one other close person. For Val, it is love that she has never had. And their reactions!! are so different!! I think the way grief is handled within this book is so glorious and incredible.
🌷We got in on Val!! So let’s talk about Val. The arc around commodification of body as experienced by Val is just genuinely…. incredible, and one of my favorite arcs within this book. Val is being preyed upon by a creature who has essentially given her no other choice than to be an accomplice to murder, time and time again — and more than that, she is the daughter of a mother who has never taught her that she has worth. Legrand refuses to shy away from the horror of what Val has gone through and is going through every day, while also not allowing her suffering to outweigh that of others. It’s a hard-to-handle real-world issue wrapped up in a horror movie premise, and that is exactly what works so well about this discussion.
🌷I really really love how much this focuses on girls. All I can say is the blurb of this as “girls loving girls, girls kissing girls, girls being friends with girls, girls helping girls” was really not pulling its fucking punches, and god this book was what I deserved in the year of our lord 2018.
➽A T M O S P H E R E
🌷This is one of the most atmospheric books I read in 2018 or like, ever. Actually, no, guys, I should warn you, this book was fucking scary. If any of you have read The Diviners, in all its paranormal reading-this-for-the-characters-but-also-I’m-terrified glory, you will know what this feels like. And don’t worry, the fear factor is not playing around: with one (1) singular exception, this didn’t stray away from the character deaths.
🌷I felt Enveloped in this book, and it is because the writing of this book is fucking glorious. This is one of those books that I had to highlight on almost every page. I actually read this backstage, while very stressed out, at a show I was teching for, and it was the only thing that I couldn’t be distracted from.
➽R O M A N C E
🌷Grayson and Zoey !!!!!!!!!!! Grayson and Zoey Christ the #1 m/f book ship of my entire life god im crying they’re so good and soft
Okay, so Grayson and Zoey are best friends who dated and are now exes, and I’m beginning to think I really like the exes-to-getting-back-together dynamic. I like how frank the discussion of relationship insecurities was here; there is no glossing over the issues their relationship had. And by the time anything happens between them, their friendship had already convinced me fully of their platonic-soulmates capacity. (Ironically, I platonically reconnected with my ex on the exact same day I finished this book. What’s happening, @ the universe?)
🌷MARION AND VAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I don’t even know if I’m joking when I say Marion and Val are one of my favorite f/f ships I’ve ever gotten out of a ya book. I sometimes struggle with villain ships, but this dynamic is just so interesting. I absolutely loved how their dynamic evolved and improved over time, and their development made me so happy.
➽I N C O N C L U S I O N
I somehow managed to hold it together without crying for this entire book and then I read the last page and the dam broke and I just,,,,,, I don’t even know what to say I can’t review this or think about this it’s too flawlessly catered to my taste on every single level I would give my life for it. I originally titled this review laundry list of reasons this was written specifically for Elise, 17, user @TheBookishActressand honestly… mood. This was so perfect and just what I wanted to close off my 2018.
TW: acephobia (challenged), homophobia (challenged), sexual assault, parental abuse, animal death.
release date: 11 October 2018
✨Arc received from the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review.