I've been starting things I was really excited about and wandering away for weeks now. I'd pick up a highly anticipated new release and find I just couldn't stick with it. But then I started reading Sawkill Girls, and I burned through it in a couple of days.
At first I was concerned that this was going to be a book that depended on Hidden Information--there's a mysterious something going on on Sawkill Island, what could it be? Marion is new there and weird things happen to her; Zoey is mostly an outcast and has lost her best friend and has Suspicions; Val is popular and has a Dark Secret. The cover copy did not give you a lot more information than that, and if the book had tried to run out the hinting and the mystery, I would have exploded.
But it didn't! We gather information as the characters do, and "what's going on?" is only the first of many questions. You see, girls go missing on Sawkill Island--not too often, but more than you'd think. Zoey is suspicious. Val knows the darkness. Marion is about to get caught up in it.
Where can I begin with what I loved? It's got all the touchstones of what I need from both a narrative and emotional point of view. There are lots of young women who are all very different but fully developed. There many configurations of friendship, family, and love, and they all look very different and involve different emotions. There is real emotional fallout from huge things that happen.
The more I think about it, the more I think that it's the depth of emotional reality that I loved here. Taking just one example, the idea of forgiveness--people hurt each other in ways large and small. One character, exhausted and hurting, lashes out at a friend with the most hurtful thing she can say, something she doesn't mean. What happens to their relationship? It doesn't end entirely, but it doesn't snap back to normal in an instant, either.
But there are other betrayals, large and small, everything from going out to have fun and leaving someone behind to helping a demon kill people. How the characters treat each other and how that treatment evolves is so exquisitely rendered, I'm just bowled over.
But this makes it sound like a languid, internal book, when actually, there is a monster, and a secret society, and doppelgangers, and chase scenes, and superpowers. There is blood in this book, and gore, but it's not gratuitous. It's huge, world-breaking.
So one other thing I loved--you can't have a story of superpowered girls fighting monsters without at least noticing the existence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There are some nice little nods here--the use of the word slayer, the creepy controlling team of old men who stick themselves in the middle to steer things, etc. I'm not sure if they count as Easter eggs or references or if it's somewhere between an homage and just an ur-story. But I'm pretty sure there was a nod to Buffy fandom in there, if only because you almost never hear the word "effulgent" in day to day life.
Anyway, this book made me supremely happy, and I am going to have to run right out now and read more Claire Legrand, because she clearly has a direct line into my reader brain.
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