9:00 am EDT, September 4, 2018

‘Sadie’ book review: Courtney Summers’ layered, realistic thriller stays with you

Sadie by Courtney Summers tells the story of a girl who is willing to go to any length to find her sister’s killer. Here’s our review!

If you’re looking for a feel-good book to gently lull you to sleep at night, Sadie is not for you.

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If you’re looking for the type of catharsis that only comes with the most realistic of thrillers, then I highly recommend picking up this book.

Sadie is a 19-year-old girl who just lost her sister. Mattie was murdered, and Sadie knows who did it. She’s hellbent on finding the killer, and nothing will stop her until she brings him to justice. But what kind of justice does a person like that deserve?

One of the most interesting things about Sadie is the structure of the book. It’s told in alternating points of view, between West McCray, the journalist looking for Sadie, and Sadie herself.

West’s chapters are written in the style of a podcast. It’s easy to hear the voices as you read them on the page. Each character West interviews is born, fully realized, in front of you as you meet them in turn. Their voices carry such weight that despite only getting rudimentary details about their appearances, you’re able to picture them as if they were real.

What’s funny is that our narrator, Mr. McCray, may be the most mysterious of them all. You often wonder, as does he, why he’s taking the time, the money, the energy looking for a girl he knows nothing about. Is it for the show? Is it for her? Is it for himself?

There are layers of story being told here, some more important than others. You care about Sadie and Mattie’s story instantaneously — you’re meant to — but not everyone deserves the same immediate loyalty. Some don’t deserve loyalty at all. But what keeps you wondering, and what keeps you invested, is knowing that there is a connection, however minuscule, between each one of them and Sadie.

You already know what happened, but now you want to know why. You want to know why Mattie was killed. You want to know why West can’t let this story go. You want to know why Sadie took off without telling anyone she knows what happened to her sister. You want to know why the world is the way it is.

You don’t always get the answers you want, but there’s a strange sense of satisfaction in that, too. Life is messy and not everything will work out in our favor. Sadie reflects this, which only makes the book hit even closer to home.

Alternatively, Sadie’s chapters are written from her perspective, not in the form of a podcast or an interview. Though her actions are technically in the past — she’s already been missing for five months once West is knee-deep in the investigation — they carry a weight and an immediacy you can’t ignore.

Sadie’s voice is a powerful one, which she would find ironic, considering she has a stutter. But the way Summers crafts Sadie’s sentences when she’s just thinking to herself lends you to believe Sadie is so real you might have met her somewhere along the way.

Her thoughts are a stream of consciousness that borders on haphazard but never crosses the line into unintelligible. She is the most open, and most honest, when she’s by herself. Uninhibited by her stutter, she refuses to be held hostage by the words she isn’t able to speak. Her run-ons lend themselves to her frenzied and freed inner dialogue.

Sadie is a bag of contradictions. She’s strong but broken. Vulnerable but dangerous. Lost but determined. Fearless but terrified.

You know something awful has happened from the onset of the book, but as the pages unfold and the story unwinds, you unearth a tragedy that simply can’t be buried because it’s not quite dead yet.

Sadie is not for everyone. It’s a dark and terrible tale that’s more reality than we’d care to admit. Stories like this happen all the time in our towns, our cities, our states, our countries. Reading this book is brutal and heart-wrenching, but it’s necessary.

How many times do we scroll past a news story about another girl who has been murdered or has gone missing? How often do we feel empathetic toward her and her family until we’ve moved on to the next tweet, the next post, the next bit of breaking news?

Sadie is a book that will stay with you. And it should. It reminds us, as it does West McCray, that people like Sadie are real. They’ve got friends and family. They have a past, even if they don’t have a future. They’ve got a story that needs to be told.

The lesson in Sadie is not that good guys are heroes and bad guys are evil. Those lines are often blurry and confusing, both in the book and in real life. What it teaches us is compassion. It shows us that we need to care, even when it’s too late. Because maybe that will be enough to save the next person.

And if it’s not, then we just keep on caring until it is.

Sadie hits store shelves on September 4, 2018. You can purchase it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound, or add it to your Goodreads list.

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