ARC Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers
Genre: YA contemporary mystery/thriller
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication date: September 4, 2018
A gripping novel about the depth of a sister’s love; poised to be the next book you won’t be able to stop talking about.
A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind.
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.
Disclaimer: I was provided with an eARC from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Netgalley.
Sadie comes out in September and there’s already quite a bit of hype around it…and I’m just going to add to it, turns out. I have no regrets.
Sadie is split into two formats to tell its narrative: a investigative reporting podcast called The Girls in which West McCray–over a year after the incident–attempts to solve the murder of Mattie and the appearance of her older sister Sadie, and Sadie’s own first-person, present-tense narrative account. What’s great about this is you not only see how people were affected by the events, but it’s also constructed in a way that makes you feel like the reporters are just one step behind figuring out what happened to Sadie.
I think it’s best to go into this with knowing as little as possible about the plot, and that certainly worked for me, but I will say: major trigger warnings for child molestation, child pornography, and child neglect. I don’t think descriptions of such incidents are graphic, but Sadie does have flashbacks and the undertones are always there. Your mileage may vary.
It was kind of a slow-burn at first, but then I found I just needed to know. I absolutely tore through about the last two-thirds or half of the book. The great thing is the podcast chapters weren’t just recaps or the aftermath of what Sadie’s chapters told us…they uncovered things she wouldn’t tell because she was so upset and traumatized. No space was wasted. Even the podcast host got some character development! Plus, the writing was descriptive and atmospheric.
I really want to highlight some aspects of Sadie I found unique and important. There are plenty of books I haven’t read yet, but I do believe I’ve never seen abject poverty like this represented in YA. Sadie and her sister grew up in a trailer in a small Colorado town. Their mother is young, a heroin addict, and alcoholic, and they are often undernourished. Sadie “grew up” at a young age, taking on mothering responsibilities over her sister and dropping out of high school to work. All of this is dealt with from many perspectives thanks to the podcast. I also really liked Sadie’s description of her sexuality (a label isn’t mentioned, but it’s close to pansexuality, or another fluid/multiple-attraction identity) and appreciated that was included.
Speaking of the podcast–I admit I haven’t listened to Serial, the hit podcast The Girls seems to be based on, but I listen to a lot and it’s great to see this medium entering YA. Even more exciting: apparently, The Girls is being adapted to an actual podcast by the publisher! Despite the podcast’s title, there’s a lot of commentary in it about missing and dead girls in thrillers–a topic we’ve been discussing recently with hit titles like Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, et al–and it explores Sadie with the nuance she needs. I’m not much of a thriller or mystery reader in part because of these plots, so if you have that trepidation like I do, I recommend checking out Sadie!