Author: Courtney Summers
Genre/Themes: Young Adult, Mystery, True Crime style Podcast, Mixed Media Narrative
Blurb from Goodreads
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 meagre 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.
- themes of child molestation and sexual abuse of a minor
- absentee parents
- bodily violence (but not too graphically described)
‘Sadie‘ has an incredibly intriguing premise. It’s the story of a nineteen year old girl named Sadie who seemingly goes on the run to avenge the death of her little sister, Mattie.
The book uses a mixed narrative to tell the story. It’s part transcribed podcast hosted by a journalist named West McCray that is set some months after Sadie’s disappearance and part Sadie’s PoV from the time immediately after her disappearance.
Together the two timelines weave together the story of what really happened to Sadie and why she was motivated to leave all she knows behind.
This was a relatively quick read. I read it over the course of a rainy Sunday afternoon / evening. And yet I could have read it much more quickly than that. I kept finding finding myself putting the book down and had to force myself to pick it back up as I wanted to be rid of the book… (It was a book group read ergo my desire to read it to completion so that I could discuss it with my friends)
So I guess even though I found it eminently readable I never really connected with any of these characters. Yes it was deeply sad when the motivations for Sadie’s vengeance were truly uncovered but I found Sadie’s voice in this book to be extremely passive. I guess this could be explained as her being so broken by all the trauma she had to go through; neglect due to an alcoholic / drug addicted mother, responsibility for her sister from the age of six, dealing with her sister’s horrific murder…
But I needed more from the writing.
I really felt that this was a book of telling rather than showing. As a character she was written in much too much of a flat style for my personal taste.
I definitely enjoyed the sections of transcribed podcast a lot more as it was easier to feel horrified by Sadie’s story through the eyes and words of West McCray. He kept the story much more grounded in my opinion. Uncovering the truth of Sadie’s existence through his research just felt more raw to me. He seemed much more emotional than Sadie ever did and I think because he was able to interview/interact with people that knew Sadie it made her feel more like a real person than compared to her own PoV sections.
I’ve heard it said that ‘Sadie‘ works quite well as an audiobook and while I am loath to ever recommended that format I can certainly see the advantages it may have with this book. I imagine that the podcast sections would feel quite intense and that a voice actor might, through their performance, be able to imbue Sadie’s PoV with a lot more heart and emotion than actually is contained within the physical book. This is a similar feeling that I had after finishing ‘Daisy Jones and The Six‘ which is another book that uses a transcribed interview format.
Overall I feel a little disappointed by this book.
There is a lot in it that feels unique and readable but I do feel let down by the prosaic writing style of Summers. I’ve read one other Summers’ book in the past and I had similar quibbles with that so I think this is a case of me not meshing well with her style.
What I do applaud however is the way she handles dark themes in a manner that does not feel cheap or tacky, i.e. nothing in this book felt like it was there purely for shock value and everything made sense to the plot. I also very much enjoyed how the book ended. I like the choices Summers made with regards to what truly happened to Sadie and feel that it was the perfect ending to the podcast.
A mixed bag