Sadie by Courtney Summers
Published by Wednesday Books, 2018
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Sadie is that rare look at trauma, and the dark side of humanity, that manages to be unflinching without ever feeling salacious. The story is told in two parallel narratives. The first follows our title character, hellbent on tracking down and killing the man that murdered her younger sister. The second is the transcript of a podcast, produced by a journalist investigating the case who is attempting to catch up with Sadie.
The duality of the plot’s structure and style is very effective. It taps into our morbid fascination with true crime, lending everything an unsettling air of realism, and allowing the author to relay facts at the right moment without it ever feeling like a convenient info-dump. On the other hand, Sadie’s first-person sections ensure that everything stays grounded in visceral human emotion.
The characters are handled with real skill, being far more complex than first impressions would imply. Sadie, for example, is an enormously sympathetic and empowering character, yes, but she is also realistically flawed, viewing her drug addict mother with an understandable but limited sense of villainy, and harbouring deep-rooted guilt and trauma of her own. As the true depth and motivation behind her vendetta becomes increasingly clear, the story takes on a whole other layer of poignancy and impact.
It’s worth noting that Sadie lives with a severe stutter, and though the stigma she faces is reflected consistently and convincingly, her disability is never the focus of the story, nor is it used as a device to further the plot or tick diversity boxes. This feels like genuine, reflective representation.
The pace is also handled well, as there’s a strong sense of tension building towards a final showdown, but I did think the book lacked a certain punch when it came to the climax itself. That said, I really appreciate that Summers chose not to wrap everything up too neatly in a bow. She provides enough closure to satisfy the reader’s investment in Sadie’s journey, whilst leaving enough open to invite further contemplation, crafting a conclusion that feels appropriately bittersweet. This sense of there being more to uncover reflects the lack of answers often present in real life cases of murder and missing people. As much as we may want everything to work itself out perfectly, life is rarely that kind.
Stradling the line between YA and adult fiction with ease, I think this would work for lovers of both. To explore the uncomfortably dark issues of abuse, paedophilia, grief, addiction, class divides, and revenge with the reverence they warrant, whilst completely avoiding gratuity, is not easy. Summers pulls is off here, telling a story that lends a voice to the victims too often forced to stay silent.
If you’d like to give Sadie a go, you can pick up a copy from Book Depository by clicking here. If you’ve already read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!