Book Haul: March Mystery/Thriller Book Buying Madness

Something I hadn’t realised until recently is that this is the first time I’ve ever actually done a book haul post. Pretty crazy, especially considering I’ve been blogging since 2017. It’s probably because I tend to list my hauls as part of my monthly wrap ups. But there’s a first time for everything after all, and now seemed like the time. With my newbie status in mind, I made sure to check out some other blogs for hints on how to format this. From what I could see, most people tend to copy the book covers off Goodreads, list the synopsis and some brief thoughts, and go on their merry way. Smart, efficient, practical. But me, oh no. Past Ashley was like, I should take proper photos of everything!

Never. Again. Let it be said here: past Ashley is stupid.

Moving along, as the title suggests, recently I’ve been really in the mood for mystery/thriller type reads and, as you do when you get fixated on something, I’ve bought a few of them over the last couple of weeks. Okay, more than a few. Here are the new additions to my shelves in all their (annoying printed sticker) glory.

Final Girls – Riley Sager

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Surprisingly, I’ve already finished this one! I was really in the mood for a quick, satisfying thriller one day and after enjoying Sager’s The Last Time I Lied earlier this year, I thought this might be just what I was after. As it turned out, it wasn’t quick or satisfying. The main story took so long to finally get going and I wasn’t very keen on most of the characters. The big reveal was disappointing, too. Another one of those cases of a good premise and poor execution, I’m afraid.


Stillhouse Lake – Rachel Caine

Gina Royal is the definition of average—a shy Midwestern housewife with a happy marriage and two adorable children. But when a car accident reveals her husband’s secret life as a serial killer, she must remake herself as Gwen Proctor—the ultimate warrior mom.

With her ex now in prison, Gwen has finally found refuge in a new home on remote Stillhouse Lake. Though still the target of stalkers and Internet trolls who think she had something to do with her husband’s crimes, Gwen dares to think her kids can finally grow up in peace.

But just when she’s starting to feel at ease in her new identity, a body turns up in the lake—and threatening letters start arriving from an all-too-familiar address. Gwen Proctor must keep friends close and enemies at bay to avoid being exposed—or watch her kids fall victim to a killer who takes pleasure in tormenting her. One thing is certain: she’s learned how to fight evil. And she’ll never stop. 

This book was on my 2020 TBR and I never got around to buying or reading it. So, when I found it on sale on the kindle store last month for less than $2, I couldn’t resist hitting that ‘buy now’ button. I think it’s the cheapest book I’ve ever bought! I’ve seen quite a lot of positive reviews for Stillhouse Lake and the premise is intriguing, however I know it’s the first installment in a series and there’s a cliffhanger ending, which I’m sure will drive me crazy.


The Nowhere Child – Christian White

Kimberly Leamy is a photography teacher in Melbourne, Australia. Twenty-six years earlier, Sammy Went, a two-year old girl vanished from her home in Manson, Kentucky. An American accountant who contacts Kim is convinced she was that child, kidnapped just after her birthday. She cannot believe the woman who raised her, a loving social worker who died of cancer four years ago, crossed international lines to steal a toddler.

On April 3rd, 1990, Jack and Molly Went’s daughter Sammy disappeared from the inside their Kentucky home. Already estranged since the girl’s birth, the couple drifted further apart as time passed. Jack did his best to raise and protect his other daughter and son while Molly found solace in her faith. The Church of the Light Within, a Pentecostal fundamentalist group who handle poisonous snakes as part of their worship, provided that faith. Without Sammy, the Wents eventually fell apart.

Now, with proof that she and Sammy are in fact the same person, Kim travels to America to reunite with a family she never knew she had. And to solve the mystery of her abduction—a mystery that will take her deep into the dark heart of religious fanaticism where she must fight for her life against those determined to save her soul…

I realised looking at my 2020 reading stats that although I live in Australia, I read barely any books by Australian authors or ones set there. It’s kind of sad, so consider this my first step in trying to improve that somewhat. From the blurb this seems like an interesting approach to the kidnapping type story so I’m looking forward to getting around to reading it. The Nowhere Child was shortlisted for quite a few Australian literature awards (what gave it away I wonder, could it be ALL THE PRINTED STICKERS??!!) so fingers crossed it’s a good read.


A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder – Holly Jackson

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

I’ve been meaning to buy A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder for a while now so the fact that I finally did isn’t much of a surprise. Unlike the other books on this list, it’s a YA Mystery read. I’ve been burnt by other YA books in this genre before so I’m a little wary but I’ve seen so many great reviews that I’m really hoping for a home run with this one, particularly since there’s another two books in the series after it.


In the Woods – Tana French

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

In one of my recent posts I mentioned wanting to give some of Tana French’s books a try and In the Woods is the first in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. You can read them out of order but I’m a bit of nut when it comes to that sort of thing so the first book it is. She’s a popular author in the genre so I hope I enjoy this because it’ll mean I have plenty of other books from her back catalogue to work my way through.


The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter

Two girls are forced into the woods at gunpoint. One runs for her life. One is left behind.

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy small-town family life was torn apart by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father—Pikeville’s notorious defense attorney—devastated. And it left the family fractured beyond repair, consumed by secrets from that terrible night.

Twenty-eight years later, Charlotte has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer herself—the ideal good daughter. But when violence comes to Pikeville again, and a shocking tragedy leaves the whole town traumatized, Charlotte is plunged into a nightmare. Not only is she the first witness on the scene, but it’s a case that unleashes the terrible memories she’s spent so long trying to suppress–because the shocking truth about the crime that destroyed her family nearly thirty years ago won’t stay buried forever.

Like Tana French, Karin Slaughter is another big crime author with a healthy backlog that I’ve wanted to give a go for some time. Picking where to start with her books was a tough decision but The Good Daughter is one of her highest rated on GR and the blurb for it definitely grabbed me more than for some of her other books. I know that my grandma enjoys her books occasionally so, at the very least, I’ll have someone to chat to about it.


Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life. Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting, nothing is ever quite what it seems…

Let me first say, Agatha Christie is a literary queen and amazing. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t buy this because of how pretty the hardback special edition is. I’m not sure how I missed this but over the last few years Harper Collins has released a couple of Christie’s books with brand new, special foiled covers. They have a chosen quote on the back and nice, patterned end pages. As you might have guessed, I’m now determined to collect them all. I decided to go with Death on the Nile first as I know the new adaptation is releasing soon. While I’ve seen other adaptations before, I’ve never read the book and there’s no time like the present, right?


And that’s that! While I have bought a few other reads recently, they’re from other genres and I’ll probably save those to include as part of my end of month wrap up, as per usual. What books have you recently purchased and are looking forward to reading? Have you read any of these books and if so, what did you think? Or even better, do you have any other good mystery/thriller recommendations for me?

Undeniable Good and the Evil it Falls Prey To: The Project by Courtney Summers

So, let’s not add ‘join a cult’ to our bucket list. But then again, I guess no one really plans to join a cult, do they?

Who, What, Where?

Following the death of her parents in a car wreck, thirteen-year-old Lo Denham was left in the care of her great aunt when her sister, Bea, mysteriously joined The Unity Project, a religious charity organisation working across Upstate New York. Now nineteen and alone, Lo hasn’t heard from her sister in years and spends her days working as an assistant to the head of SVO magazine. One day a stranger recognises her by name shortly before throwing himself in front of a moving train. The man’s father blames The Unity Project for his son’s death. Lo has always believed there’s more to the organisation and its charismatic leader, Lev Warren, than meets the eye and sees this as the perfect opportunity to not only expose the group and find her sister but to make her name as a journalist. To her surprise, Lo is granted permission to write her story and full access to both The Unity Project and Lev himself, the organisation hoping to prove once and for all that they have nothing to hide. Yet, the more Lo begins to investigate, the more she starts to question who to trust and what the truth is. But is the truth really what she’s looking for?

Lo

One of the things Courtney Summers is known for is her unlikeable but complex leading ladies, and Gloria ‘Lo’ Denham definitely fits the mould. I started out somewhat unsure about Lo. She’s acerbic, ambitious, stubborn, and because of the loss, rejection and trauma in her past, it often feels as though she walks around with a giant rain cloud hovering over her head. My connection with Lo is complicated in that while I never grew to “like” her as a person, with time I did come to care about what happened to her and to appreciate her emotional depth. Seeing other characters take advantage of her loneliness, fears and insecurities was difficult to witness and I hoped that she would find some level of peace by the end.

Having A Sister is a Promise

Like Sadie, at its heart The Project is a novel about the bond between sisters. The story is told effectively in dual timelines between Bea in 2012 and Lo five years later. Early on, I found it difficult to invest in Bea and Lo’s relationship as their scenes together are limited and mostly take place either when Lo is a baby or not fully conscious after the car accident. Yet, Summers managed to successfully build the connection over time through the intensity of the girls’ thoughts and actions to create a messy, raw and painful depiction of unconditional love.

There’s a beautiful contrast between the progression of Lo and Bea’s stories that I really enjoyed. Both girls start out with vastly different attitudes towards religion, The Unity Project, and themselves, and it’s interesting to see Bea’s eyes slowly open to the issues around her whilst Lo simultaneously seems to close hers for want of family, safety and belonging.  

Hidden Monsters

The Project is not a twists galore, drama-filled book. It’s a very slow build that takes time to get into, and as I was reading there were several points at which I wondered where it was all going. I later came to understand that this pacing is crucial to the story it’s trying to tell. As an Average Joe, it’s difficult to grasp the psychology behind people who willingly join and remain parts of religious cults. More so, how cult leaders can hold such power and sway over their members. The Project takes the time to illustrate this in a believable way. Through both Bea and Lo’s stories we’re able to see just how much influence a person can wield over those who are isolated, lost and broken by making them feel seen and valued, and giving them hope and purpose. The manipulation, control and gaslighting within The Unity Project is subtle and insidious. By the time the darkness underneath starts to reveal itself, the reader (like Lo) has been led into such a false illusion of peace and comfort that it’s difficult to recognise or process the acts of abuse so casually mentioned.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Something I’ve come to realise about Summers’s books is that while they’re classified as YA and the writing feels like YA, her stories, characters and themes are much more mature and adult in essence. After Sadie, I expected The Project would be dark, especially considering the premise. And dark it was. This is a book which isn’t afraid to delve into the bleaker sides of humanity and religion. It deals with child abuse, suicide, grief, murder, torture, manipulation, PTSD, and intimate partner violence, just to name a few topics. Some of these elements take a while to creep up and rear their ugly heads, but eventually they do. While I enjoy these types of grittier narratives for their gravity and realism, I know a lot of other readers prefer to steer clear. However, I should note that despite its tough subject matters The Project manages to retain a strong underlying sense of hope and goodness in the world that will somehow shine through no matter how dark circumstances may seem.

Mixed Bag Ending

I have mixed thoughts on the ending for this one. There are parts that I liked, but there’s certainly one major component I wasn’t fond of at all, largely because there’s no explanation for it. Over the course of the novel there are several instances of events which characters interpret as being miracles but each of these have alternative real-world explanations. The sequence of events at the end of the book, on the other hand, does not appear to have any sort of non-miracle reasoning. My issue with this is that not only does it make the ending feel too neat but it has caused me to rethink the book’s overall scepticism towards religion as truth, leaving me confused as to how to interpret some of its overarching ideas.


While The Project may not have been as completely immersive and devastating an experience as Sadie, I enjoyed this book and feel as though it mostly succeeded in what Summers was trying to achieve. If you’re looking for a well written, strong and emotionally grounded story, and are willing to be patient for a pay-off, you’ll likely enjoy The Project.

3.5 Stars

Beware Guests Who Never Leave: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

The Family Upstairs is one of those books that I was excited to read the moment I first saw the cover and read the blurb. Mysterious deaths, a creepy house in London, I was like, sign me right up.

Who, What, Where?

The main gist of the story is that back in the 1980s, three people were bizarrely found poisoned to death in a Chelsea mansion. Upon arriving at the scene, police discovered a letter proclaiming a group suicide and a ten-month-old baby girl. The circumstances surrounding the deaths never became entirely clear and the other children said to have been living in the house prior disappeared entirely. Now twenty-five, the baby, Libby, has inherited the house by virtue of her parents’ will. After being made aware of the mystery surrounding her parents’ deaths, Libby begins to look into what happened all those years ago.

A Mystery of Past & Present

The Family Upstairs is told in a mixture of first and third person, focusing on two timelines and three central characters. At first, it’s slightly confusing working out who’s who, what’s going on, and how things connect, but this doesn’t last for very long. In the past we have Henry, the son of the owners of the Chelsea house. He recounts the years leading up to the deaths in which several guests with sinister motives come to stay but never leave, completely altering his family’s lives. In the present, the storylines revolve around Libby (and her investigation into the family with a journalist named Miller) and Lucy, a mother of two living on the streets in France.

Both Henry and Libby’s stories involve a great deal of set up to progress the book’s later events and some readers may find the pacing slow because of it. As the book goes on, the two plotlines increasingly begin to tie into each other and accelerate. Henry reveals certain puzzle pieces in the mystery and Libby discovers others, allowing the reader to gradually construct a timeline. I liked this concept, but I do feel as though it could have been utilised more effectively in terms of Libby’s discoveries contextualising or leading into events in Henry’s timeline.

Too Many POVs

Lucy’s storyline, on the other hand, is something I feel I could have done without. I generally don’t mind books utilising multiple POVs, provided they’re done well and enhance the storytelling. While Lucy’s story is sometimes interesting, when viewed against the main trajectory of the novel, the events of it are largely an unnecessary distraction until close to the end. This time would probably have been better served developing the other characters in the book, especially young Lucy considering her importance to the story.

Missing Charisma

Speaking of characters, there are quite a few in this story. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the problem is that a lot of them don’t feel particularly well fleshed out. This left me feeling somewhat apathetic at big moments, particularly when certain characters from the past showed up in the present. One character which could definitely have used extra attention was David, our villain of sorts who eventually turns the inhabitants of the Chelsea house into a cult. We’re told that David is intelligent and charming and yet, from what I was shown in the novel I still have no idea how he managed to hold such influence over so many people, especially the women. Considering how crucial this was to the novel, it severely damaged the realism of it for me.

Engaging and Ominous

Despite my issues above, I have to say, I found this book highly readable. Lisa Jewell has a very easy-going writing style, which makes getting sucked in simple, and a great sense of place (busy London, a bizarre market, the streets of Nice, the slow decay of the house from glamourous to oppressive). She also excels in instilling ominous and creepy feelings where necessary. Once I got past the early chapters, I was engaged in what was happening and genuinely looked forward to finding out how things would end. The book throws in a couple of twists, some of which utilise an unreliable narrator, and although they’re not particularly surprising, I was generally okay with them.

The End…?

One of the things that really damaged my enjoyment of this one was the ending. With thriller reads, I always go in expecting an exciting and dramatic climax. After all, the author has just spent a lengthy number of pages building tension, laying the groundwork, and you assume there’ll be a payoff for it. However, the climax here ended up feeling…flat. Whether this is because of the writing style or slow build up, I’m not sure. Worse, I’d hoped that the ending would be able to rectify it somewhat but no. Instead, I ended up with something weird, unrealistic, unearned (character wise), and incomplete.


Overall, while there were some things to like about this one it just wasn’t the read for me. I’m in the minority here though, so if you’re a big thriller fan I’d recommend giving The Family Upstairs a go – you might really enjoy it.

2 Stars

Lock Your Doors, Latch Your Windows: The Whisper Man by Alex North

One of my bookish resolutions for 2020 was to read more broadly than my constant marathon of fantasy and YA contemporaries. Cue: The Whisper Man by Alex North, a crime/thriller novel with an intriguing premise, rumoured to be a little bit creepy, and featured on quite a few people’s top ten lists of 2019.

Who, What, Where?

“If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.
If you play outside alone, soon you won’t be going home.
If your window’s left unlatched, you’ll hear him tapping at the glass.
If you’re lonely, sad, and blue, the Whisper Man will come for you.”

The novel is set in the small town of Featherbank in which a young boy named Neil Spencer has recently been abducted after hearing whispers at his bedroom window. The kidnapping is deeply unsettling for police as twenty years ago a serial killer with the same MO named Frank Carter, and known as ‘The Whisper Man’, was arrested. The body of his final victim was never found and at the time, the lead inspector on the case, DI Pete Willis, believed Carter might have an accomplice. Shortly after Neil’s disappearance, Tom Kennedy and his seven-year-old son, Jake, move to town, hoping to find a new start following the death of Jake’s mother, Rebecca. However, to Tom’s dismay, Jake soon begins acting strangely – talking to invisible children, sleepwalking, and spouting information he shouldn’t know. But then Jake, too, begins to hear the whispering.

More Than Your Standard Police Procedural

While TWM is marketed as a fantastic crime novel, and its mystery elements are definitely solid, where this book excels is its focus on themes like parenthood, specifically the relationship between fathers and sons, grief and trauma.  The key relationship here is between Tom and Jake. Several months after Rebecca’s death, Tom and Jake are both grieving in different ways and struggling to understand one another. Tom loves his son and desperately wants to connect with him but at the same time he’s also learning to be a single parent and dealing with the complex emotions associated with his loss. He worries about Jake fitting in and dealing with finding Rebecca’s body but more that he’s doing the right thing by Jake in terms of his parenting. His struggles also inevitably make him think about his problematic relationship with his own father.

Well-Rounded Characters

The characters in TWM are fleshed out and feel like real people, with all the flaws and failings that come with it. As a reader, we genuinely feel and understand Tom’s conflicting emotions of sadness and anger over his wife’s death, Jake’s guilt in being what he feels is a disappointment to his father, Pete’s struggles not to give in to his alcohol addiction, and DI Amanda Beck’s desperate need to do the right thing by Neil Spencer and his family. The book shifts perspectives between each of these characters, and later the killer, in a very fluid and easy to follow way.

Enjoyable but Not Gripping

In terms of the mystery itself, I found it mildly enjoyable but not to the level hype had set my expectations. However, I feel as though this is likely more a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’. As I mentioned above, TWM is about more than just an investigation. In order to facilitate this (and because there are points where the police are low on leads), the pacing is slower for large sections. It’s almost as though the mystery takes a back seat to character development and exploring the book’s overall themes, which is fine but not what I was anticipating.Something I also really enjoy in my thrillers/mysteries are intense moments and big/smart reveals. TWM does have a few creepy and dramatic moments, and the later chapters are certainly fast paced, but the majority of the reveals didn’t really encourage a reaction from me more than, ‘Okay, I’m cool with that. That makes sense’. Overall, I can say I was consistently interested in what was happening but not necessarily glued to the page, on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen.

I See Dead People (Maybe?)

TWM also includes a potential paranormal plotline. Having gone into this book expecting a gritty murder mystery grounded in reality, this was a surprise for me, but one I really enjoyed. This part of the story revolves around Jake and his tendency to see and speak to children which no one else can. Jake also often says things that make Tom wonder where he would have picked up the information. This complication added an extra dimension to Jake and Tom’s relationship and really enriched the sections of the novel from Jake’s perspective. They also tie in nicely to the overall mystery narrative, making certain moments that little bit more emotional and dramatic.      


All things considered; I liked this one. It was well written and I’d probably read another book from the same author in the future.

3.5 Stars

Messy Love, Revenge & Real World Monsters: Sadie by Courtney Summers

5 stars

Sadie

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.

Podcasts

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 Perspective

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.

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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…

5 Stars