Tuesday, July 10, 2018

SADIE by Courtney Summers

This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shaped or formed my opinions of the novel. Thank you Wednesday Books for the opportunity.

AUTHOR: Courtney Summers -- Website | Twitter
TO BE PUBLISHED: September 4, 2018 by Wednesday Books (St. Martins/MacMillan)
GENRE: Young Adult Contemporary, Thriller
PAGES: 320
Find it on Goodreads

A gripping novel about the depth of a sister's love; poised to be the next book you won't be able to stop talking about.

A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial-like podcast following the clues she's left behind. 

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 small, 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.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

In April, my mom and I had the privilege of going to a Veronica Roth event where we got to hear her speak and then meet her. One of the questions someone had for her was "What are you reading right now?" The first book that came to her mind was Sadie by Courtney Summers. She said she absolutely couldn't put it down. I trust recommendations from authors I love so much. If they recommend something and I love their writing, I figure I'll LOVE their favorites. So naturally, Sadie jumped to the top of my list.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Sadie, which chronicles the story of the titular character as she goes on a road trip to track down who killed her younger sister, Mattie. The book is split between chapters by Sadie, and chapters by West McCray, who is trying to solve the mystery of Sadie and Mattie via a special program meant to capitalize on the success of the "Serial" podcast for a fictional radio station in New York City.

As I've mentioned before, my goal this year is to find and read books that remind me of nothing I've ever read before. Sadie fits the bill -- it's unlike anything I've read and it was easily the fastest I've read a book all year. It took me just a little under 24 hours and every single minute was well spent. I couldn't believe how fast the book was slipping away as I devoured it. I wanted there to be more of it and I both dreaded and equally -- I wanted answers, yet I didn't want the book to end.

This is where things start to enter the spoiler realm, so if you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading here ...

One thing I really admired about Sadie is her bravery in trying to find her sister -- I would never have had the courage to do what she did. I was also wildly impressed by what we knew of Sadie as a child and a teenager, basically raising Mattie on her own. As a 10 year old, I never would've know what to do to raise my brother.

Sadie ALWAYS tried to give Mattie the absolute best and BE her best self for her, even if Mattie didn't appreciate it. But for as much as she did for Mattie, to try to make her feel whole and be her best self, poor Sadie didn't feel like a whole person. That's not an insult to the author or the writing. It's just that Sadie seemed kind of hollow, except for this deep love of her sister and her absolute, dire need to find the man she is SURE killed Mattie.

Sadie takes an enormous amount of risks in this book trying to find the man her mother once dated and who Sadie knew as Keith. Keith, the child abuser, who abused Sadie. As she travels, she learns he goes by more than one name and she even comes in contact with some of his cohorts, one of whom is just as vile as Keith himself.

Throughout the book this ideal is consistently on display: The power of a name and what it can contain. A great example of this is Silas Baker, a friend of Keith's who lives in a picture-perfect, idealistic suburb, Montgomery, where he as held up and revered as one of the great men in the city. He family started a marijuana dispensary that brought them tons of money and Silas reinvested it into the city, buying bars and grocery stores, and donating money to worthy causes. He even coached t-ball. He was looked at as an example of what Montgomery was all about -- that is until Sadie followed him to a secret hideaway where he stashed evidence of himself sexually abusing the little boys he coached. He went on to get arrested and his name, Baker, which used to mean so much to so many people and which basically allowed his family members (especially his teenagers) whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted, went on to mean shame.

Sadie herself doesn't always use her real name on the road either. She often goes by Lera, here middle name. You'd think if police were really motivated to find her, they would've also been searching for her by middle name, because that's a pretty old trick, but as it often goes with missing persons cases in these mostly beat up, small towns, they weren't exactly motivated. Once again, we see a name means power -- it allows her to get by without being easily tracked by using her own name.

One time when she does share her real name with is Cat, the hitchhiker who eventually bails on Sadie when she finds a blood soaked shirt (from a nosebleed Sadie got from Silas Baker) and the switch blade in the car. I wondered why in this case, of all cases, she decided to share her name. But I think that everything she goes through finding not only Silas Baker, but evidence that he is just as twisted as Frank, makes her exhausted. And since she went by Lera while spying on him via a friendship with his kids and their friend Luis, she might've felt she needed a different name in case someone was looking for her. Or maybe she was simply tired of being someone she wasn't.

And sure enough, through all her travels and all the different people she connects with, she finds that Keith has gone by several names, including Darren, and that his real name is Jack. He is basically a low-life who gets by by targeting single moms with young, pre-teen daughters.

When Sadie finds him, he's going by the name Christopher and once again living with another family with a young daughter. She manages to get into his house and once he realizes it, he runs and she chases him. There's an altercation outside.

Then, suddenly, Sadie's chapters stop. She stops narrating. We only get the radio podcast information.

And the question is: Where did she go?

We learn that Keith (AKA Jack, Christopher, Darren) died from a cut -- presumably from the knife that Sadie carried throughout the novel. He didn't go to the hospital, it got infected, caused sepsis, and he died. That's it.

But we never learn specifically what happens to Sadie.

I'm torn between two options ....

The first, but least likely option is that she decided, but once she killed someone, she decided she needed to shed that skin of being Sadie for good and start with a fresh slate. That doesn't explain why she didn't go back for her things and her car though.

And then there's the obvious answer: She died in the altercation. But she DID accomplish what she set out to do -- she set out to kill Keith for killing Sadie, and even though it wasn't instant, he did eventually succumb to the wound and its infection.

Sadie is one of those books that keeps you thinking. Throughout the novel, you're never entirely sure which way Sadie is going to go next or where her trip is going to take her.

The radio play chapters are really interesting because they fill in so much about Sadie and Mattie and their mother, Claire who is in an out of the picture. We learn about how they grow up. And you really start to root for the radio personality, West McCray and hope that he will get there on time. I found myself wishing he would catch onto certain things or dig a little deeper. If he had earlier, maybe, just maybe he would've found Sadie on time. Regardless, I liked learning a little bit more about them from their surrogate grandmother May Beth.

I read a LOT of books every year. I enjoy most of them, but I don't always remember everything. But I have a handful of books that I keep coming back to and keep thinking about -- Sadie will certainly be one of those books. If I could get more than five stars for a review on Goodreads, I would.

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