Author: Courtney Summers
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, thriller
Release date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page count: 311
Sadie has lived a turbulent life as a casualty of her mother’s alcoholism and neglect. Her one solace has been loving and caring for her younger sister Mattie. When Mattie is found brutally murdered, Sadie sees only one option: kill the man who took her sister away. Readers follow Sadie on her manhunt, while reading the transcripts of a podcast about Sadie and Mattie. Sadie is a gut-wrenching, impactful novel of sisterhood, pain, vengeance, and the trauma that haunts too many girls.
This chilling novel was undoubtedly worth the hype, and will stick in my mind for a long time. Readers should be aware that Sadie deals with sexual abuse, rape, pedophilia, and violence against women/girls. Sadie’s story is one of revenge. She is vigilante avenger of all girls—not just of her sister. Through her quest to find her sister’s murderer, whom she believes to be a former boyfriend of her mother’s, Sadie encounters other male abusers that she unleashes her anger towards. Her mission is focused on seeking justice for her sister, but it is at its core about the trauma that unites so many girls and women. Sisterhood extends beyond Mattie and Sadie, connecting all girls who have been hurt or abused. Courtney Summers captures this connection with unflinching honesty and doesn’t shy away from violence in its many forms.
Sadie is a complex character who is confident, clever, and quick-thinking, but also fearful and unsure. She has a stutter, which is something not often featured in YA; I appreciated that this was not treated as the “problem” of the story, but was rather, just a part of Sadie’s life. She’s sure of her strength and believes herself to be dangerous, but is still self-conscious of her stutter, which made her feel relatable. In terms of diversity, there are minor characters noted as being queer or POCs, and Sadie’s sexuality is presented in an ambiguous, fluid way. Another important topic is that of addiction as a disease; Sadie questions mother’s actions and whether she is at fault for her alcoholism (and, indirectly, Mattie’s death).
Sadie excells not only in the power of its story, but in its craft as well. The novel alternates between Sadie’s first-person perspective and transcriptions of “The Girls,” a podcast about Sadie’s disappearance and Hattie’s death. The podcast transcripts incorporate nontraditional structure, making this a great choice for fans of Tiffany D. Jackson’s Allegedly or Lygia Day Peñaflor’s All of This Is True. These revealing podcast chapters make this a good book for reluctant readers and those who enjoy mixed-media formatting (I’ve also heard that the audiobook version is amazing).
With each episode of the podcast, readers get more glimpses into Sadie’s life: we hear the pained voice of her surrogate grandmother desperate to find Sadie, we discover truths that Sadie has omitted from her narrative, and we learn more about Sadie’s childhood and the man she believes to be her sister’s killer. The podcast chapters add another layer as we witness the creator, West McCray, go from being a disinterested man just following his boss’s instruction to being obsessed with finding Sadie— slowly realizing that Sadie matters, and so does her story. It was incredibly validating for me, as a female reader, to see a man, who perhaps never considered how differently women experience the world, learn to listen to and care about girls’ stories.
Sadie is one of the most relevant books of 2018. It’s one that hits you hard, weighs on you, and sticks to your bones. It’s one that is both riveting and hard to read, haunting in its realness. Courtney Summers’s painfully real depiction of violence and vengeance make this an excellent choice for fans of The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis. Sadie is a stunningly well written book that feels so real (though I hope, someday, for other girls, it won’t).
Sadie will stay with readers. It’s likely that they will never forget her.
I know that I won’t.