The Chilling Horror Novel You Should Read Next

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand is the perfect horror novel for this Halloween season.

   The young adult horror novel takes place during autumn on an island, Sawkill Rock, where young girls from the small community keep going missing. It follows three girls who live there—one who is new to town, one whose best friend has disappeared and who is determined to discover the truth, and one who is trying to keep her connection to the disappearances a secret.

   Writing a good horror novel is no easy task. Deanna Bryan, a Darby student and fan of the horror genre, believes that tone is everything. 

   “A good horror story should make you feel tense and uneasy,” said Bryan. 

   The prose in Sawkill Girls is incredibly atmospheric and effectively creates that tension. The novel’s setting—a secluded rocky island with a small town and acres of dark forest—seeps into the author’s writing. As the stakes rise and the protagonists slowly uncover the truth, the tension gradually mounts. 

   Bryan elaborates that tension in a good horror story should lead to satisfying payoff. 

   “The story should have scenes that stay with you—stuff so terrifying you can’t stop thinking about it,” said Bryan. 

   During Sawkill Girl’s most frightening scenes, Legrand crafts vivid images that certainly stay with the reader long afterwards.

   Sawkill Girls also stands as a notable young adult novel due to its focus on friendship. YA novels tend to emphasize romantic relationships, with friendships pushed to side. Sawkill Girls does the reverse. 

   Nikki Henkel, Darby’s Media Specialist, believes that friendship-focused YA is important for teen readers. 

   “I have friends that have been a part of my life since high school who I rely upon like no other. Romantic relationships tend to come and go but those friendships are what are really important. You want to identify yourself not just by your romantic relationships, but all of your relationships, and friendship is such a huge part of that,” said Henkel. 

   There’s nothing wrong with romance in YA. In fact, Sawkill Girls includes two wonderful romantic relationships. Still, it’s refreshing to see friendship emphasized in a book aimed at teen readers. During teenage years especially, romances tend to be fleeting. Forming strong friendships to get us through high school is incredibly important.

   Sawkill Girls is a bit long for a YA book, and since it’s a horror novel that focuses on atmosphere, tone, and mounting tension rather than constant action, it can feel slow at parts. As long as you can be patient, though, the slow parts are worth getting through for the epic conclusion.

   Sawkill Girls stands up as a chilling, unsettling horror story and as a powerful YA novel about friendship and defying the odds. It’s a perfect pick for this time of year and will leave you equal parts impressed and unsettled.