Rating: ALL THE STARS IN THE WHOLE WORLD
Good Lord, Summers is a masterful storyteller. She doesn't do happy endings that the readers want for these characters we grow to love so fiercely, she does reality. I hate it, but have nothing but love for an author who makes me feel SO DEEPLY.
Sadie was my first book by Summers and I was wrecked for DAYS. If you have been with me for any amount of time, you might remember that sometimes a book hits me so hard, I need to decompress before I review it.
The problem here was that once I read Sadie last June, I proceeded to devour every other Courtney Summers' book and waited not-so-patiently for The Project to come out (which it did in February of this year), and I have to also recover from that. I think I have, mostly.
I at least managed to review This is Not a Test and Please Remain Calm, which are zombie apocalypse books and something I would not normally read, but Courtney Summers is so fucking good that I will read everything she ever writes until the day I die.
Sadie tells the story of a young woman's quest to seek revenge for the murder of her younger sister. The story is told in both narrative form from Sadie's own perspective, and that of radio producer West McCray who learns of Sadie's story and tracks her journey in the hopes of figuring out what happened to her since she has gone missing. McCray starts a true-crime podcast with mild disinterest because, as he states at the beginning,
"And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl."
Yet McCray's own obsession with the story starts to grow. He is singularly focused on following the clues Sadie left behind after Mattie's murder in the hopes of finding her. This becomes personal for him and he seeks out everyone he can possibly find in order to tell the stories of two sisters who were completely failed in every single way by a society who would not protect them. McCray is as desperate as the reader, hoping her can find her before it is too late. The reader must keep in mind, however, that McCray is months behind Sadie. This thought never left my head the entire time I was reading the book.
We read about Sadie's life, how she and Mattie were abandoned by their drug addict mother who didn't know how to be a mom, or care much to learn. At the time Sadie was fifteen and Mattie only nine. The age gap between the girls already had Sadie eagerly becoming Mattie's caregiver, so when Claire does actually walk out on them, Sadie has already had years of practice. The girls remain in their trailer and survive the best they can, with help from a grandmotherly neighbor who does her best to help the girls as well.
After Mattie is murdered, Sadie's only thought is of finding the killer and exacting revenge. Her whole world has completely shattered and Sadie's purpose for living is gone. As is sadly typical when the situation involves poor young girls who need the most help and protection but get nothing, a joke of a police investigation is carried out and Sadie knows she must do the work herself.
Sadie has been missing for a few months when McCray stumbles onto the story. As I was reading, there was this constant nagging feeling that Sadie is already long gone as McCray follows the same path she did in her quest. I really liked the contrast of Sadie's journey and McCray's. We know things about Sadie that he does not, and we find out information from him that Sadie did not know.
Sadie believes that Mattie's killer is a former boyfriend of their mother's named Keith, who had sexually abused Sadie as a child. She begins her journey by purchasing a car cheap car off Craiglist and dying her hair. She starts at a place she knows Keith once frequented, a diner, where she gets some information and moves on to the next place to find the next person who will point her to the next, and the next, and the next, until she finally finds Keith.
My heart constantly broke for Sadie and all that she had endured up to that point. Summers is fantastically on point with her portrayals of teenage girls and all that they are capable of. Sadie was pushed to her very limits when Mattie was killed and after that, nothing else mattered. All the rage and trauma and grief and pain came roaring to a head and Sadie could not attempt to find relief or begin to heal until she found the man who murdered her sister, and took his life.
I won't spend time on the ending because, as with any Summers' novel, it needs to be experienced for itself - as harrowing and raw and heartbreaking as it may or not be, given Summers' love for repeated shock-and-awe. I will, however, leave you with the final line that McCray speaks as he relates his own purpose for this search, one that EVERYONE should be able to relate to.
"I can't take another dead girl."
Highly, highly recommended.