A riveting, gut-punch of a thriller with a must-listen audio production.

“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.”

This was one of those titles that was dangerously close to being over-hyped. I’d seen so many glowing reviews that it seemed unlikely the real thing would live up to my expectations.

“This plot is driven; a reckless drive, and it’s Sadie behind the wheel, the reader sitting shotgun alongside her.”

Kristen (KC) – Traveling Sister

“Just climb in, let Sadie take you for a ride and tell you her story, and try not to let your heart get too broken in the process.”

Destiny at Howling Library

BUT IT DID.

Sadie is every bit the suspenseful, powerful, painful thriller that I was promised. This is a fearsome, fearless book with the quality to back up its heavy subject matter.

~Sadie~

Sadie is a YA protagonist I’ve never seen before, and I wasn’t sure that was possible anymore in the “badass teenage girl” category. But she brings something new to the table: a hyper-realistic take on what it would actually mean for a young woman, a child, still, to be immersed in violence and darkness.

YA has plenty of guarded, traumatized girls who’ll kick your butt for looking at them funny, but very few that live in a world that reckons with the ramifications of that attitude.

Every time Sadie insisted to the reader (and herself) that she was dangerous, that people should fear her, was like a punch to the gut. You can see clearly how much effort it takes for Sadie (who is, of course, a tough gal) to appear unaffected and intimidating, and how that prevents her from showing her intense vulnerability.

Sadie’s stammer (another quality I rarely see represented on-page) becomes the perfect representation of her desperate need to tell her story and inability to open up and lack of safe confidants. The words are there, she knows exactly what she needs to say–but just can’t get it out. And if she did, who would be there to listen?

~Style and Structure~

Sadie’s mixed format gave me pause for a while. Half the story is told from Sadie’s (gut-wrenching) perspective, but the other half plays catch-up on her story through transcripts of a Serial-esque true-crime podcast.

“It begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.”

At times, I worried the podcast chapters were dragging down the story. They seemed more like an excuse to fill in backstory than anything. By the time I reached the end, however, I was just invested in the podcast chapters, which deliver the thematic punch that Sadie’s half alone never could.

I’m not really a fan of true crime entertainment. I did listen to Serial when it first aired and I’ve enjoyed some documentaries (Netflix’s Casting JonBenet, for instance) that interrogate true events in new ways, but I have a limited tolerance for works that make entertainment out of the sordid details of a real person’s trauma.

From American Vandal Season 1

I am, however, a big fan of American Vandal, also from Netflix, which leverages the true crime format for a fictionalized satire of modern teen life. The Girls, the podcast following Sadie’s disappearance, achieves something similar. West’s arc is a perfect counterpoint to Sadie’s. In many ways, he is an antagonist, even though he deeply wants to help Sadie. He represents the societal forces that have conspired to trap Sadie in her tragic circumstances. He exploits her story for his own education and edification, even as he falls prey to the same prejudices and assumptions that prevented so many adults in Sadie’s life from seeing her true life.

The Girls and Sadie’s narration are beautifully brought to life in the full-cast audiobook, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Otherwise, though, the podcast chapters are available for free as an actual podcast and would make a perfect accompaniment to a print or ebook reading.

~Subject Matter~

My biggest reservation about Sadie is that I’m very unsure about shelving it as Young Adult. If New Adult were a thing that publishers were willing to invest in, it might fit perfectly there, but alas, most authors end up trying to cram NA stories into YA novels.

Sadie is 19, which is a hair older than the usual boundaries of YA. Her story is also decidedly adult. The point, of course, is that this child has been thrust into the role and trauma of an adult, but I’m not sure that means the book itself is geared towards teens. It doesn’t make To Kill A Mockingbird a children’s book because Scout is a kid.

This book comes with many a content warning:

Child abuse (Pedophilia, on-page molestation, mentions of child pornography, child abduction, statutory rape)

Violence (off-page murder of a child, on-page moderate physical violence, on-page minor car accident, sexual violence-see below)

Substance abuse (on- and off-page drug abuse, discussion of alcoholism, addiction-shaming,

Sexual content/violence (fade-to-black consensual activity, fade-to-black sexual assault, on-page attempted sexual assault)

First-person portrayal of PTSD, abuse survivorhood, prior death of a sibling

5 thoughts on “Book Review: SADIE by Courtney Summers”

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