Book Review: “Sadie” By Courtney Summers

Adaora Olisa, journalist

Photo courtesy of Amazon

“Because I can’t take another dead girl.”

You can’t forget “Sadie”. Its premise can be laid out in one simple quote:

 “I’m going to kill a man. I’m going to steal the light from his eyes. I want to watch it go out.” 

After her younger sister is murdered, the titular character vows to seek revenge on whoever killed her. With a rented car, photograph, and blade, she drives down a dark path. Identified as a runaway, her caretaker makes a desperate phone call to popular radio host West McCray, in an effort to bring Sadie home. McCray travels to the small town of Cold Creek and picks up the clues she has left behind in a mess, which gives birth to the serialized podcast called The Girls. With every step he takes to find answers, more questions appear. In this confusing puzzle, will he be able to put the pieces together?

“Sadie”, a YA novel, is not for the faint of heart. Right from the start, I could tell that a happy ending was not on the horizon; yet I still hoped. Why? Perhaps it is because of Sadie’s love for her sister. For her whole life, Sadie has done the best she could to provide for Mattie, so of course, readers and I long for Sadie to obtain closure by finding the murderer. But like I said, this is not a happy book. If, while reading the story, you feel uncomfortable, then Summers’ purpose has been achieved. You walk the paths Sadie takes and shudder at the horrors present. Despite her stutter, her blunt voice is filled with a wild desperation and sadness. It pained me to see her like this, a husk of a girl who once had something to look forward to (the presence of Mattie). With Mattie gone, it leaves a gaping hole in her heart that will never seal up. This sentiment is echoed throughout the book in heartfelt yet painful flashbacks, such as when Mattie and Sadie meet for the first time:

“I stood over her crib and listened to her breathing, watching the rise and fall of her tiny chest. I pressed my palm against it and felt myself through her. She was breathing, alive. And I was too.” 

Time and time again, I found myself wishing I could reach into the book to give Sadie a big hug. The circumstances she goes through serve as a grim reminder of the monstrous acts humans are capable of committing and the broken pieces they often leave behind. But all I could was look on as Sadie loses herself ever so slowly, in the name of vengeance. With every person she meets, Sadie always leaves a mark: a stain that cannot be scrubbed off with time and ignorance. These marks are left with supporting characters forever, some of whom meet with McCray as he tries to track Sadie down. I rooted for McCray the entire time, as he attempted to solve the mystery and save Sadie from the monsters she was about to meet, and maybe even herself. 

I wish his darkness lived outside of him, because you have to know it’s there to see it. Like all real monsters, he hides in plain sight.”

Summers’ writing is lyrical and raw at the same time, which leaves readers with a sense of despair as they witness Sadie navigating the trials and tribulations of life. Summers conveys how the monsters we meet are not under the bed, but rather right in front of us. They blend in, and we may never expose their true colors until it’s too late. The novel deals with this theme perfectly. 

The dual POV between McCray and Sadie works well and makes the story much more engrossing. Courtney Summers has quickly become one of my favorite authors, and I will definitely read more of her works. If you love a good murder mystery, if you cherish the bonds of sisterhood, and if you want your heart to shatter and mold itself back again, “Sadie” is the book for you.

Trigger Warnings: Pedophilia, sexual abuse, drugs, child neglect

“Sadie” is published by Wednesday Books.

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