Author: Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: September 4th, 2018
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller
Subjects and Themes: Abuse
Page Count: 320 (hardback)
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.
Giving a rating for this book feels…strange.
It’s like listening to someone sing a heartfelt ballad at a funeral and afterwards turning to your neighbour and saying, “Oof, it got a bit sharp at the end there, eh? What a shame.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly want the infamy of being the person who went all Simon Cowell on a group of mourners–however novel it may be.
But here we are.
First of all, massive, massive kudos to all the voice actors who worked on the audiobook. Their performances made me forget I was listening to a book and not a fiction podcast. Sadie’s VA, especially, was phenomenal. I mean, I would have loved the character regardless; she’s an incredible mix of affection and awkwardness and rage (so much rage–I will never stop waxing poetic about authors who give their young female characters leeway to be angry and vengeful, and not in a pretty, Hollywood-approved way) and it’s impossible to not fall for her, but the performance lends her an extra layer of complexity. There are scenes near the end that are dizzingly raw and had me breathless in turn.
As much I loved Sadie’s narrative voice, I did find her chapters inconsistently paced and that had my attention drifting in places. I actually enjoyed West’s podcast chapters more. They’re more tightly structured and they give us an outside perspective of Sadie, through the side characters’ interpretation of her, and her relationship with her family.
In terms of the plot, one might also complain that it turned out to be a straightforward revenge story rather than a thriller with twists and turns.
But….child abuse is straightforward. Missing girls are straightforward. They are painfully straightforward things that occur every day in real life.
Doesn’t make them any less important.
Sadie is a harrowing account of a young woman who will grab you by the heart and twist it into knots. I may not have loved it as much as I thought I would, but there’s no doubt that this is an important piece of work worthy of all the attention and future awards.
If you’re looking for stories of similar subject matter (but in a different media), I highly recommend Netflix’s docuseries The Keepers. Just keep some pillows nearby because it’ll make you want to scream into something.