REVIEW: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie is an astounding, phenomenal story with an all too real voice bringing to life the darkness lingering just around the corner and the power of human connection. If you haven’t read Sadie yet, please do yourself a favor and get reading. 

Trigger Warnings: childhood sexual abuse, drug abuse, pedophilia.

When I first picked this book up, all I knew about Sadie was that it was the story of a girl murdered and a girl gone missing. With each turn of the page, the story developed into so much more than that—and it was effortless to become invested in Sadie’s story. Told in the format of half-podcast, half-narrative, we follow both Sadie as she hunts down her sister’s killer and West McCray as he searches for Sadie after her own disappearance through episodes of his podcast. The dual narrative is well balanced and the unique twist of the podcast provides Sadie with an intriguing take on the usual girl-gone-missing story. Sadie herself, however, was the driving force behind the outstanding story that was Sadie

“I just wanted to matter to someone.” 

Sadie was hungry—and girls with appetites aren’t regarded highly in a patriarchal society. She was hungry for justice, for vengeance, for a world she knew she’d never get in which her sister was alive and Sadie herself was cared for in the ways she never had before. Personally, it felt as if Sadie spoke not just for herself and her sister, but for the countless girls that have been hurt in this world. The universality of her story is a tragedy, but Courtney Summers handled the grueling topics with a delicacy that allowed Sadie to become fleshed out without being insensitive to the reality of what was happening, and in turn provided sensitivity to readers who have endured similar experiences. The issues in which were tackled in this book were approached phenomenally. There were no graphic descriptions or sensationalization of the abuse Sadie endured as a child, and nothing was written in such a way just for the sake of simply shocking the reader. While some parts were hard for me to read, I believe the book has the ability to ignite imperative conversations regarding rape culture in modern American society. Sadie is, for any reader, a brutal book to read. And it should be. Sadie’s story isn’t kind or happy or what any child should have to endure. It’s going to leave you sick, uncomfortable, and wishing it was a gentler story. And that’s exactly why I suspect Sadie could easily turn into a classic. Sadie isn’t afraid to drive that knife into your heart and really make you think about the world around us. In order to read Sadie’s story, you have to be able to listen to her—and you’ll be on edge with anxiety and anticipation as the narrative hurdles you forward along with Sadie as she hunts down her only reason left to live: avenging Mattie.

“Sometimes I don’t know what I miss more: everything I’ve lost or everything I never had.” 

Being inside Sadie’s head was a beautiful, terrifying thing. She was left empty after the murder of her sister, and filled with bloodlust. In moments, I could almost feel her longing for a different life—one in which she could cultivate her own happiness and overcome her childhood—but she wouldn’t turn away from her mission. As the story went on, she became more driven, and more animalistic, in her desperation to find her sister’s killer, but the humanity wasn’t lost in her. Sadie was still, if anything, a hurt child that needed love and support more than anything. It was hard to imagine Sadie as a child, alone, having grown up in the circumstances that she did. Throughout the story, I kept wondering how Sadie would’ve turned out, and how much happier she would’ve been, if she’d been kept safe—and that version of Sadie always seemed to be right below the surface of the Sadie we got to see. Personally, I didn’t find Sadie hard to like. She was relatable, fleshed-out, and more unique than most characters I’ve read about lately. In that regard, she’s become one of my favorite heroines in YA literature. One word describes Sadie perfectly: unforgettable.

Even after turning the last page, I felt the impact of Sadie’s story as the ending ran through my mind. The ending was perfectly written, left to the reader’s own devices. It was fitting for the horror-mystery aspects of the book, and I was glad to be left unknowing. Even now, I’m still holding on to hope for Sadie that she can find justice and create a life she’ll love. I want better for her, and I want to see her happy. This story ended up meaning so much more to me than I ever expected it to. Sadie is more than just a story about abuse and murder—it’s about sisters, about love, about the lengths we’ll go for those we love. Whether or not you read YA, I recommend it completely. Sadie’s story deserves to be told, and every girl that’s gone through her story deserves to be heard as well. 

RAINN is always available if you need to turn to someone. You can also call 800-656-HOPE. Both are free and confidential. You deserve to be listened to and believed.

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