I’m not sure I have the words to adequately describe just how good Sadie by Courtney Summers is, nor the words to describe all of my thoughts and feelings whilst reading it, but I’m going to try.
If I could use only one word to describe this book, it would be raw. Sadie is about nineteen year old Sadie, who is on a mission to find the man she believes is responsible for the murder of her thirteen year old sister. Honestly, that is all I knew before starting this book, and I was hooked by that premise alone. This book is told in two different formats: through a serialized podcast after Sadie goes missing, and Sadie’s first-person narrative when she runs away to track down Mattie’s killer.
I would say this book is less about the plot and more about the characters. We really get inside Sadie’s head in her perspective, learning all about her past and what fuels her now. This is not an easy book to read. Sadie’s childhood was rife with hardships— a drug addicted mother, absent father replaced by her mother’s not-so-great boyfriends, physical and sexual abuse, and more. From a very young age, Sadie took over the role as a mother figure to Mattie and looked after her right until Mattie’s murder.
Ultimately, the only thing keeping her together after Mattie’s murder was her need to exact revenge on the man who murdered her. Summers writes with such a raw, emotional voice, and we can really feel exactly how Sadie is feeling in each moment. The guilt that Sadie carries and the blame she puts on herself for what happened to Mattie is so palpable I found myself having to stop reading at some points.
Summers explores a lot of heavy topics throughout Sadie and whilst it may seem like a lot of pack into one story, she handles is expertly. There is an excellent portrayal of how deceptive abusers can be, showing how they use their charm and charisma to fool people into believing they are harmless. On the other hand, Summers also writes an excellent portrayal of abuse survivors and I loved Sadie’s fierce support of other abused girls.
I also appreciated that there was some great representation— both Sadie and the podcast presenter are queer (I loved that both of these were very casually mentioned and not made into a big deal), and Sadie also had a stutter. Sadie’s relationship with her stutter is explored really well throughout the novel, and I liked that Summers challenged misconceptions and ableist assumptions about people with stutters both through dialogue and Sadie’s inner monologue.
I only have two very small complains about Sadie. The first is that there were a few times throughout the book where addiction was portrayed as a choice. In Sadie’s perspective, it is explored that she drilled into Mattie’s head that addiction is a sickness and their mother didn’t have a choice when it came to her addiction, however Sadie’s own thoughts on the matter contradict this entirely. Now, I think it’s possible this can be chalked up to Sadie’s upbringing and not the author’s own views on the topic, however I wanted to note that some of the sentences around addiction rubbed me the wrong way. Secondly, I found myself a little unsatisfied with the ending. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, I think I was just expecting something a little more. In saying that, the ending is heartbreakingly realistic and reminds the reader of just how the world really is.
Overall, Sadie is a haunting, heartbreaking, beautifully written book about family relationships and a girl seeking vengeance for the death of her sister. Summers has an incredible writing style that pulls you in and makes you feel so many feelings. She expertly explores some very heavy topics and realistically portrays the world we live in. I very highly recommend this book, and I know it’s a book I won’t be able to stop thinking about for a long time to come.
REPRESENTATION: queer main characters, main character with stutter
TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNINGS: drug addiction, child abuse, sexual abuse, violence, murder, parental neglect, PTSD, death