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.
It sounds simple when you describe the beginning of it all to someone: one dead girl, one missing woman, and one man chasing down the sisters' story. In execution, podcaster West's investigation of Mattie Southern's murder and Sadie Hunter's disappearance absolutely isn't. Sadie is a novel of creeping realizations and this slow bloom reveals more secrets with every petal. Dread the depth of your average lake deepens into an ocean as the pages fly by, the tension driven well by the alternation of Sadie's own narration with podcast transcripts.
One such chilling realization: Sadie and West are months apart from one another, leaving you unsure how things will turn out for either character.
When Sadie speaks for herself in her chapters, her fury is palpable. As she lets down her guard and allows readers to find out what happened to her and Mattie, that fury becomes contagious. Traveling across the United States to murder a man is a terrifying extreme for retaliation, but once you're in on her pain, you get why she put her moral compass away. To say the least, Sadie and Mattie never got a fair shake from life.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING:
This may be a book for a very specific kind of reader, though? If you fell in love with long-form investigative media like Making a Murderer and Serial, Sadie hits that spot just right because that's what the podcast West works for is doing with Sadie's story. That? Is not me at all. For my tastes, think My Favorite Murder, True Crime Garage, shows ranging from Forensic Files to Investigation Discovery trash. Y'know, people chattering at one another about crimes and short-form specials. If you've got the same preferences I do, give the full cast-recorded first episode of Sadie's companion podcast The Girls a listen. It may help you make a decision!
And those legendarily ambiguous endings characteristic of a Courtney Summers book? Oh man, you've got one in full force, but the ending is possibly too open this time. Without giving anything away, readers are almost certain to drift toward one of three endings: the optimistic, the tempered optimistic, and the pessimistic. It's the kind of ending that's intended to be unsatisfactory but is unsatisfactory in its execution, if that makes sense.
Whether it's to your tastes or not, Sadie is a YA novel like you've never read before and it'll be a while before any YA novel can even hope to compare. If you haven't already read Summers's other books, do iiiiiiiiiiiiiit. DO IT. Her backlist us full of brilliant books, my favorites being This Is Not a Test and All the Rage. I've got a feeling many, many people are about to discover one of the best authors currently producing YA novels.
The two girls lived in a trailer park in a rural town and were somewhat looked after by a grandmother figure, May Beth, who contacted the radio show to have them search for Sadie. After their mother disappeared for a final time, Sadie kept Mattie together and kept things going, same as she had before. Now that Mattie is dead, Sadie is searching for a man who had once dated their mother. We pick up small clues and tidbits along the way as we piece together why she wants to find him and who he really is.
Sadie has been torn apart by Mattie's death and all the reasons why (aside from their relationship) develop as the story is told. West McCray speaks to people she encountered along the way for his serial podcast investigating the events and her disappearance. Through this and Sadie's own chapters, she fully develops into a three-dimensional and incredibly strong character.
What I didn't expect was how hard this book would be to read- it's a very emotional ride. I want to put a warning on this book that there is pedophilia (not described in detail) plus sexual assault, but it makes it quite a difficult book to read, and considering targeted to a young adult audience, might be better for older teens. The ending was the most frustrating for me- it does not deliver the closure I was hoping for. Maybe that's for the best, but I do prefer my books to have a lot of closure. It looks like this will be a stand-alone so we may never know for certain what happened. However, I do not regret reading it- I think it's a book that will stick with me for a while.
Overall, this is an intense YA thriller with an interesting format (mostly podcast transcripts) that gripped me from the get-go and was quite an emotional ride.
Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher. All opinions are my own.