Synopsis from Courtney Summers’ website:
“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 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.”
When I first finished this book some time last week, I didn’t plan to write a review. Why? Simply because I literally have nothing negative to say about Sadie. This is the sixth book by Summers that I’ve read, and for me, each of her books has been very close to perfect. Summers is like no other writer in YA; her voice is raw and authentic, and she pulls no punches. Each of her books is dark, full of twists and turns, and above all, heart breaking in its’ realism. What perhaps makes Summers most unique, however, is her penchant for open endings. If you need your novels to end with a happily-ever-after, then I’d recommend staying well away from Summers’ books. However, if you like a realistic ending that feels true to the story, then Summers is your girl. Personally, I’m quite bored with happy endings; they’re predictable and in series’, often feel like fan service. For example, as much as I love Sarah J Maas, she’s saved too many characters from the brink of death that I don’t feel like there’s much suspense in her books anymore; the main characters may often be in mortal peril, but Maas is too gentle with her fans to actually kill them off. Summers avoids the safe route entirely and is quite happy to end a stand alone novel with a cliff hanger. I say this not to spoil the endings of Sadie and Summers’ other novels, but to explain why the sense of suspense is so much greater in her novels than that of other authors.
Anyway, as I said initially, I didn’t plan to review Sadie. Surely my 5 star rating speaks for itself? Clearly, this is a book I thought to be perfect. And would anyone really want to read a 500 word rant made up entirely of me fangirling over Summers and her flawless writing? Maybe not. But ultimately, I really wanted to share my love for Sadie and encourage others to pick up a copy of this stunning book. Like if this review prompted even one person to mark Sadie as “want to read” on Goodreads, I’d be happy. As I’ve already mentioned, my first reason for adoring Summers is that I feel her voice is one of the most unique in YA. Unlike many other authors, Summers doesn’t limit herself by strictly adhering to any particular genre. While Sadie could be described as a contemporary, it’s quite different to most contemporary YA. It’s completely devoid of romance for one thing, and for another it’s far darker than most other books of the genre. Sadie could also be described as a crime novel / thriller, but it doesn’t quite fit there either. Yes, the West McCray chapters of the book focus largely on solving Mattie’s murder and finding Sadie, but Sadie’s chapters are different. They’re more personal somehow; focusing on themes of familial love, redemption, and revenge.
Another of Summers’ unique qualities is that she’s able to create well rounded characters who are both admirable and deeply flawed. Take for instance our heroine, Sadie. We empathise with her immediately as she’s such an underdog; she was abandoned by her mother at a young age, had to drop out of high school to provide for her younger sister, and she also has a severe stutter that makes it difficult for her to form relationships with others. However, Sadie literally spends the entire book plotting a to murder a guy with his own switchblade. She’s a heroine we can root for, yet she’s full of so much darkness and guilt. And it’s not only the primary characters who are complex, even minor characters who only feature in a few chapters show both good and bad sides. Even the book’s villain, Keith, who is an undoubtedly terrible human being, engages in multiple good deeds; saving a man’s life and helping a gamer friend to find a job. Ultimately, Summers writes great characters, none are simplistic or reduced to a stereotype. Each is capable of both great and terrible things. This multifaceted nature of her characters is another element that makes the book so unpredictable. Whilst reading, we must wonder, will Sadie, who has dedicated her entire life to helping others actually be able to give into her darkness and commit murder?
While I adored Sadie, I must also warn that it may not be for everyone. It’s marketed as YA, but it’s heroine is 19, and I feel it may not be appropriate for some younger readers. Paedophilia is quite a central theme of the book, and it also contains swearing and a scene involving an attempted sexual assault. Basically, Sadie is quite a dark book and it may be triggering to some readers. However, if these aren’t topics you’re particularly sensitive too, I would definitely recommend Sadie… and all of Summers’ other stunning novels. It’s a tragic and emotional read which may quite possibly lead to tears and gasps of surprise (at least it did for me) and it will definitely make you think. Ultimately, I consider Summers to be one of the most exciting and unique writers in YA and I can’t wait to read whatever she comes up with next.