Book Talk: Sadie by Courtney Summers

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: Sadie by Courtney SummersSadie by Courtney Summers
Published by Wednesday Books on September 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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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.

Despite my love and respect for Courtney Summers’ books, I’m always deeply hesitant to start them. In this case, I saw it on NetGalley, got super excited, requested, and then, when it came to read it, I second guessed. I knew it would be good (it was), but I also knew it would hurt (it did). I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant to read (it was more pleasant than I expected but also mostly yep).

I’m a reader who, especially when shit is bad in the world, needs fluffy, escapist books, and Summers’ books are aggressively the opposite of that. They punch you in the face with realism, but they do it in this really subtle and quiet way that has you a bit off your guard. Unlike some of the so-called “issue books” or dark contemporary, Summers’ books aren’t melodramatic; they’re dark and scary and painful, but they don’t revel in it. Sadie actually looks away from it in this way that only draws your eye because you know how much worse everything is even than what you’re seeing.

So yes, I was scared to start this book, because it’s very much not a Christina book. Immediately, though, I knew Sadie would be good. The novel alternates between transcripts of a podcast about the search for Sadie, who is missing, and a timeline running slightly ahead from Sadie’s point of view. This sort of mixed media storytelling is either the best or the worst, and it absolutely pays off here. That first snippet of the podcast totally captured me, against my will.

The weird thing is that I don’t even listen to podcasts. I’m too much of a completist for them. But even so, I could hear the podcast like I was listening to the audiobook, rather than reading the egalley. It felt so real, leaped off the page. That’s something that only happens with the best authors, and I’ll never get tired of the feeling of it when it does happen. Actually, I caught myself tempted to google stories referenced within its pages, because I would actually forget everything was fictional. Which sounds a bit silly tbh, but that’s how real it all felt.

For the first part of the book, I loved the podcast, but I was less invested in Sadie’s chapters. Ironically, though invested in the podcast of her life, I was less invested in her actual life unfolding. By the end, I’d been sucked in to both timelines, though I never really did get a complete grasp on who Sadie really is. That may be intentional, though, because a lot of the point is that Sadie herself doesn’t know who she is without Maddie, her little sister who was murdered, her little sister who died. Sadie doesn’t have friends, she has one person who cares about her, and she’s been abused badly her entire life. Her only motivating force is revenge, so she’s not an easy girl to get to know.

Vengeance tales are as old as stories, but Summers makes this one feel different from the pack. Often they come with a moral, but this one doesn’t. It’s not all about how pursuing revenge prevents you from focusing on the positive, though there’s certainly a consideration of methods possible. In this case, Sadie’s revenge feels needful, deserved, if not for her than for the world. Sadie feels almost like an antihero, and though she’s at the center, the story at times seems like it’s less about her than about protecting every child in the world, as suggested by the distancing name of the podcast, The Girls. It’s her story, but it’s also not; she’s a microcosm, an example of the horrific shit that people let happen every day.

Unsurprisingly, Sadie is not a happy book. Beyond the quest for vengeance, it’s an unflinching look at sexual abuse of children. When I say it’s not melodramatic, there’s nothing that happens on screen, no detail. It’s not played for shock value. It runs throughout, and you might not even notice at first, but when you do you it hurts all the more for that. This book doesn’t preach or yell; it harshly whispers but makes you listen all the harder. The ending doesn’t leave you feeling satisfied, but it does feel like the ending this book needed.

I thought All the Rage was dark and intense and painful, but Summers definitely had some more rage left, and she put it to damn good use.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

2 responses to “Book Talk: Sadie by Courtney Summers”

  1. lenore says:

    I *almost* took this to the beach, but figured it was not beach reading!
    lenore recently posted…2017 in Review – MusicMy Profile

  2. Leah says:

    I felt the same way–I was happy I got an ARC, but when I decided I was ready to read it, I was nervous. But god, this book! It’s definitely one of my best books of the year.

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