Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Title:Sadie

Author: Courtney Summers

Genre: Contemporary YA

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: September 2018
Paperback: 311 pages

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial?like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray?a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America?overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Bought

Format (e- or p-): ebook

Review

“Girls go missing all the time.”

I actually read Sadie by Courtney Summers a few months ago and have been thinking how to write about it ever since. Let me start by saying that Sadie is a very good, impeccably written and gorgeous book like only Courtney Summers can write. It is also a book that does not pull any punches, it is very difficult to read as it deals with child abuse and child death and it does not have a happy ending – at least I didn’t read the ending as such – your mileage may vary, caveats and all that.

The main story is deceptively simple: a 19-year-old girl, Sadie, goes missing after her beloved sister Mattie is found murdered.

There are actually two books in Sadie.

Half the book is narrated by Sadie, it is her perspective as we follow her on her mission to find the man she believes has murdered her sister, determined to find the killer the police never found (nobody cares about girls from the wrong side of the tracks, right? Girls go missing all the time).

This is a dark, on-the-road revenge narrative: Sadie says very clearly in the beginning that she will kill him when she finds him. Mattie was Sadie’s whole world, the person she loved the most, her little sister she effectively brought up since their mother was absent most of the time. Sadie herself had been abused by the same man – one of her mother’s former no-good boyfriends – and that story is fucked up, awful and too sad for words. Nobody saved these girls, nobody took good care of them and it is painful to read about those broken lives. All the more so when Sadie’s narrative is also full of a heartbreaking mix of hope, love, devotion and sadness as she connects with people who could care about her if it wasn’t too late. Dear lord, just thinking about it breaks me all over again.

“Girls go missing all the time.”

Half the book is composed of transcriptions of a true came podcast called The Girls. You see, Sadie’s narrative is months in the past. She has been gone for almost a year at the point when the podcast starts as journalist West McCray starts his investigation into Sadie’s disappearance. He gets involved after Sadie and Mattie’s surrogate grandmother gets in touch, desperate to find Sadie. McCray’s investigation leads him to follow on Sadie’s footsteps interviewing the people in the life she’s left behind as well as the people she has met on the road.

The coolest thing – if one can use such a descriptor for such a harrowing story – is that the podcast actually exists. You can – and should – listen to The Girls which is available everywhere podcasts can be downloaded. I listened to the non-spoilery podcast first and I would urge you to do the same because when you get to the book after listening to the podcast and read the transcriptions alongside Sadie’s narrative, the podcast takes a whole different turn, a whole different meaning.

This is where we are confronted with our obsession for true crime podcasts, by what it means to listen to cold, detached and biased narratives about real people’s lives – and even if everything here is fiction, the podcast and the story, it feels very much real because girls DO go missing all the time. And people don’t care. When you listen to the podcast first and you hear people’s description of Sadie, you form a story and an image in your head that is directly deconstructed when you meet the real Sadie in her own words. It is brilliantly done, and very, very uncomfortable.

It took me this long to recover from the experience of reading the book all those months ago to be able to write about it coherently.

Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfect

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