book review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

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SADIE by Courtney Summers
★★★★☆
Wednesday Books, September 4, 2018

I had no idea what to expect from Sadie, but I’d heard it described as dark and chilling so I thought it might be worth one of my occasional forays into YA. And I’m so glad I decided to give it a try. Sadie is an absolute tour de force of a thriller, told in alternating perspectives – one in which Sadie tells her own story of the vigilante road trip she goes on to track down her sister Mattie’s killer, and one from the host of a Serial-inspired radio show which is attempting to track down Sadie’s whereabouts.

This book doesn’t have much of a mystery – the whole thing is pretty much spelled out for you early on – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the ride Courtney Summers takes you on. This book is absolutely harrowing. It deals with some dark themes (notably sexual abuse and pedophilia) as well as others which aren’t quite as viscerally painful to read about, but still important (drug addiction, class and poverty, being belittled for speaking with a stutter). It’s all dealt with thoroughly but none of it is preachy – it’s all navigated with a real authenticity and sensitivity.

And Sadie is a phenomenal protagonist. From the very beginning she’s intriguing and vulnerable, and the chapters from her point of view are consistently the highlight. But what was a pleasant surprise for me was just how brilliant all of the other characters ended up being. Summers would lull me into a sense of complacency where I felt like I had the full measure of a character early on, only for them to be so much more multifaceted than I’d anticipated. Probably the most noticeable case of this was with Claire, Sadie’s drug addict mother who abandoned her two daughters and left them to the care of a family friend. When we finally get Claire’s perspective, her actions are never pardoned, but the story is flavored with even more depth than what we began with.

My only critique – and it really is minor compared to how much I loved the rest of this book – is that Sadie occasionally felt too competent and adroit at social situations which didn’t ring true with the kind of isolated upbringing she’d had. It was made very clear that Sadie was forced to grow up to soon and consequently a lot of her resourcefulness did feel realistic, but when it came to navigating tricky social situations and gaining the upper hand with much older adults, it felt a bit like wish fulfillment that Sadie was so skilled (but I also think this is one of those YA commonalities where you just have to suspend your disbelief a bit – admittedly not my strong suit).

But all things considered, I loved this book. It is on the very mature side of YA, so I’d still highly recommend it to those who mostly read adult lit. Solidly 4.5 stars.

Thank you to Netgalley, Wednesday Books, and Courtney Summers for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

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