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.
TW: sexual abuse
Dark and heartwrenching at times, Sadie by now is a fairly common household name among YA readers and even beyond. But as a thriller? I’m not so sure it held that level of suspense, but there was definitely a mysterious allure to understand what happened to the titular character, Sadie.
Before I dive into why I did not love it as much as I had hoped along with everyone else, I will highlight the things I did thoroughly enjoy.
The two different formats alternating in the book definitely made everything feel more fast-paced, giving a sense of time flying even if the events that occurred were separated by days. I loved The Girls show and the transcript format. I could almost imagine hearing West’s voice coming through the speakers, and all the “guests” he interviewed in his search for Sadie.
Sadie’s POVs were interesting too. First of all, I liked that she wasn’t some special snowflake kinda protagonist. She had a stutter. And while she wanted to believe she was dangerous and strong and could kill the man who killed her sister, we see events that make us wonder if she could really do it if push comes to shove. Or would she be overpowered? She wasn’t special, but her uniqueness and memorability came about because she was a normal girl growing up in circumstances that shaped her. She lived up to the situations she was put into, resourceful and sometimes just darn lucky. I loved seeing through her eyes as she found her way towards the man she hunted. And in a way, this man made her into what she became, someone with a darker side to her than meets the eye.
I get that feeling I got when I first saw Montgomery, that if I can’t have any of this for myself all I really want is to see it ruined.
At the heart of this story is Sadie’s love for her sister. As West even mentioned, girls go missing all the time, and unfortunately not all interest the media and the general public about their lives. But as he dug further into Sadie’s life and disappearance, I believe he fell deeper and deeper into the search because of the depth of love Sadie had for Mattie that drove her to such lengths. The risks she took, the people she met and even scared a little. It was almost unbelievable and reckless at times, but she didn’t take that into account because she was singleminded on her goal. Vengeance for Mattie. And justice for herself.
But no matter how much I liked Sadie and sympathized with her journey, I just didn’t feel the intensity I thought it would bring. While decently fast-paced, I wasn’t scrambling to see what happened next. There were lag times between towns Sadie visited, and The Girls Episodes were always behind what we figured out previously in Sadie’s POV.
I classify thrillers normally with twists, even if they are ones I saw coming. I’m not sure this was really the goal for this book as there were no real “revelations” that unfolded as the story went. It was more like a puzzle where we had little pieces coming together slowly to form a picture, but nothing like a piece that turned over and suddenly changed from what we thought it was. I will admit there was one element to this story that hit me like an ahhh moment that I should’ve seen coming, but other than that, it was a little flat.
And the ending? I won’t go ruining it for anyone, but I’m not sure if I’m torn that I kind of expected it or that I wanted more than what was given. I normally can make up my mind on which it is, but it’s almost like there was no ending that could’ve satisfied me.
I came to Sadie with expectations of a masterpiece. Having read Courtney Summers since her debut, I definitely enjoyed this more but it was not the masterpiece everyone kept telling me from left and right. I liked Sadie, and it is a book that people should read – once the trigger warnings have been made known – to get something that is different from other YA books out there. It’s a true crime podcast book, that’s for certain, but one that didn’t carry the suspense through.
Sadie proclaims to be a dark thriller, written in the unique alternating format of true crime podcast and the POV of the missing girl the show is based upon. One half of that is true. I loved seeing the events through Sadie’s eyes in real time and the episodes West conducts as he tries to piece together what happened to her. It’s different and gorgeously written. But the intensity was a little flat as we are always playing catch-up in the episodes while Sadie’s POVs were a little slow and disjointed as we move from one chapter to another, one city/town to another. It was a good book for its genre, and Summers handles the subject matter delicately and with empathy. I just don’t know if I felt the suspenseful drive as others did, and its lack left a hole I could not ignore.