I don’t often come across a book like Sadie, where I’m annoyed to have to step away from it to, say, go to the bathroom. Or sleep. Or eat dinner.
I could not put this book down. I was immediately drawn into the story by the unusual narrative style, where chapters rotate between the script of a true crime podcast and a first-person narrative about a teenage girl named Sadie. The podcast is about the search for Sadie, who went missing shortly after her 13-year-old sister, Maddie, was found murdered in the outskirts of their small town. One of the things I absolutely loved about this story was the way it humanized the rural poor. Sadie and Maddie grew up in a trailer park surrounded by the jobless, drug-addicted, uneducated, dirt poor people that seem to be treated as fair game for open contempt by the rest of America. I love the unexpected ways that author Courtney Summers defied stereotyping her characters. One character, in particular, who remained fairly minor throughout most of the book and only appeared in person late in the novel, was treated particularly thoughtfully, in my opinion. She turned out to be far more complex than I would have given her credit for early on.
So we know almost from the start that Sadie left deliberately. She wasn’t taken, and didn’t run away, exactly, but set out on a mission for revenge. Only gradually does the reason for her vengeance become clear, and although the reason was fairly predictable, that doesn’t make the story any less compelling. Sadie isn’t some whip-smart prodigy sprung up from the ashes of her going-nowhere town. She feels like a very real character. She can be impulsive and does things that don’t quite square up with the fact that she’s trying to stay under the radar, but she’s just a kid, and immaturity trips her up sometimes. At one point she is reflecting on her journey, and wonders why this one thing can’t just be easy. With how hard everything else has been, doesn’t she deserve to pass this one hurdle without fanfare? It seemed so honest and desperate and real that I had to read the passage over and over again.
At first, I loved the inclusion of the podcast, which was a lot like one of those true crime serialized stories I would be instantly drawn to in real life. But by the end, I felt like parts of the podcast scripts just didn’t ring true. I’ve listened to enough of the real life ones reported in this style that I’m pretty sure the pacing of this particular podcast, and the attitude of the host, would have been off-putting for listeners. I didn’t think enough happened in each episode to give the story momentum, keeping in mind that listeners wouldn’t have access to Sadie’s first person narrative, which is what really drove the action and interest. I felt like the podcast was included to feel fresh and of-the-moment, and as a way to include the first-person accounts of some of the people amongst whom Sadie and Maddie lived.
I loved the ending. Not everyone will, but I did. It was unexpected, and it felt right. Not neat and tidy, but appropriate.
Sadie by Courtney Summers