Normally, when I talk about my 4.5 and 5 star reads I tend to use words like ‘amazing’ or ‘fantastic’. But as that tends to conjure up images of me running over hills, singing about the sound of music, that vocab may need a bit of an overhaul here. Considering this book deals with poverty, drug addiction, neglect, loss, murder, and child sexual abuse, it’s pretty much the perfect example for which to break out a Ron Weasley classic: You’re going to suffer but you’re going to be happy about it. Or more aptly: you’re going to enjoy reading Sadie even though it’ll take your fragile heart, break it into little pieces and then set those pieces on fire.
I’m totally selling you on this one, aren’t I?
Why You Should Read this Book
A Realistic World
One of the things that really stands out about Sadie is how real everything feels. This is surprising because Sadie spends much of the book travelling around the US, meaning most of the places and people don’t get a lot of time to make an impression. However, there’s something about the way Summers writes that just makes everything jump off the page. By dividing the book up into podcast transcripts and Sadie’s first person POV, we get both a textbook description of settings and characters as well as a more biased, personal perspective which really helps immerse you in the story. No matter where the book is taking place or who Sadie (& West) is interacting with, you’re very easily able to visualise it/them.
Fantastic Plotting, Pacing & Writing
Going into Sadie my biggest concern was that it would feel rushed. I mean, look at it, I don’t think there’s any chance of me ever trying to use it as a paperweight. It only took me a few pages to realise that this wouldn’t be a problem. I can imagine some people might even find it too slow or subtle, but for me, it was paced perfectly.
The choice to tell the story half as a podcast transcript was a great one, not only because it’s entirely believable that events like this could form the basis of a crime podcast, but because they provide balance and variety to the novel These “transcripts” were very useful as they allowed Summers to flesh out characters that interact with Sadie and details of her life that wouldn’t come up organically in her own POV. They’re also great at gradually building the foundations for some of the heavier reveals later in the book. As West is essentially playing catch up to Sadie, some parts of his journey will feel repetitive but there’s something very interesting about watching him try to piece things together from what Sadie’s left behind and what people will tell him.
Sadie’s POV is tragically sad but beautifully written and I found myself lost inside her head. Both the internal and external components of her plot seem to have this sort of natural progression. Reading through Sadie’s memories and recollections is almost like putting a puzzle together. There’s a sense of direction in that you’re getting closer to understanding why she is the way she is and why she’s doing what she’s doing. Summer’s writing is wonderfully emotive and she transitions between memory and present so seamlessly. Similarly, in terms of reaching her goal, while most of Sadie’s leads don’t exactly pan out as expected, you somehow always feel as though she’s getting increasingly nearer to the end.
Dark Subject Matters
As I mentioned earlier, Sadie deals with some heavy topics and it does so in a brutally honest way. Better break out the chainmail, cause this is going to hurt. This book really does remind you that the world is not even close to a perfect or nice place and that sometimes real monsters are far worse than any creature you could find in a horror film. Weirdly though, Sadie manages to be disturbing without ever being graphic or gory. Dark moments are always alluded to but never described in detail on the page. I have to give Summers points because she understands that what the human imagination can conjure is often a million times more awful than anything she could ever describe (I can definitely vouch for my own imagination, you bloody overactive nuisance). Sadie doesn’t shy away from the darkest corners of the world. It’s not always a comfortable read but it’s extremely difficult to drag yourself away from it.
Sadie as a Character
One of my favourite parts of the novel turned out to be Sadie, herself. There’s something so deeply broken and vulnerable about Sadie – she grew up with very little money, in a household in which her mother was a drug addict and neglected her, had to take responsibility for her sister, Mattie, at a young age, was sexually abused when she was only eleven years old, and to top it off she has a stutter. There’s just so much pain and darkness in her life and all you want to do is protect her from suffering any more harm. The fact that she’s nineteen and has such a bleak view of people and the world is consistently heartbreaking yet understandably justified. However, at the same time, she somehow also displays a great degree of courage and determination. There’s this immense underlying strength that pushes her towards her goal despite knowing it’s dangerous. Even with her sister gone, Sadie’s still fighting for her and while her path may be extremely self-destructive and often involve some not so great actions, I can’t help but admire her.
Why You Might Skip It
An Open Ending
If there was one singular thing that brought this book down for me, and only because of pure, unadulterated frustration, it would be the ending. I’m warning you now, if you’re someone who loves closure and explanation, the conclusion to Sadie will make you want to scream. The end of this book drove me crazy for ages because it’s open and there are so many unanswered questions. After all the pain in this book, you just want one small bit of happiness. Courtney Summers says NO. No catharsis for you.
Sadie is a raw, dark and unflinchingly honest read. If you’re looking for a YA thriller that’ll make you feel some intense things, this is the one for you. If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here, hiding under the bed covers because the world is a scary and horrible place.
So, if I worked in quarter stars and wanted to be super petty by deducting points for the ending, this would be 4.75 Stars but because I don’t and I’m not, we’ll round it up to…