I shared a picture of this book on social media when it arrived a few months ago and, at the time, a couple of overseas book blogging colleagues commented on how much they enjoyed it.
I’d not heard of Courtney Summers before though know (now) she has a few books to her name, but after being drawn into this addictive novel I’ll be searching out more of her work.
by Courtney Summers
Published by Wednesday Books
on March 26th 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1250105714, 9781250236135
A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she's left behind. And an ending you won't be able to stop talking about.
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.
It’s a little hard to explain why this is so beguiling. Perhaps it’s Sadie herself. We’re in her head for much of the novel. Or perhaps it’s the clever way the rest of it unfolds via a podcast; as no additional background into the investigation is included, just West McCray’s interviews and narration.
Of course this story starts long before Sadie disappears. It even starts before her younger sister, 13yr old Mattie is murdered. It starts at the beginning. With their mother Claire, her teenage pregnancy and the death of her own mother just before Sadie is born.
Although, it actually starts even before then. When Claire gets pregnant she’s already an addict, though we don’t know when or how it started. And Summers doesn’t go there. Perhaps we don’t need to know the why. Perhaps it’s enough knowing this story started a long time before we join in, but had repercussions that wouldn’t have been fathomable twenty years earlier.
The novel opens with Sadie’s surrogate grandmother (May Beth) contacting West about Sadie’s disappearance. Coincidentally West had heard about Mattie’s death, which had taken place just over a year before. She’d been passing through a nearby town at the time and locals were gossiping salaciously about the murder. West notes however, that the grisly details of Mattie’s death will not be part of the podcast.
When May Beth contacts West and his work on the podcast commences it’s been four months since Sadie disappeared and three months since her truck was found abandoned.
But we also meet up with Sadie, on the day she leaves the trailer park she’s lived in her whole life. Although their stories unfold simultaneously Summers doesn’t really reveal Sadie’s timeline (in terms of days, weeks – which kinda offers a sense of urgency) as she attempts to track down a man she tells people is her father. He isn’t and we learn that pretty early on, but she’s not after reconnection.
We also learn pretty quickly the type of man he was, so in some ways we know where the story’s going. Through Sadie’s search we get some backstory, and West similarly uncovers the story of the girls’ life, just differently and mostly by following Sadie’s trail.
Their story is a sad one. And it’s hard not to feel anger. But Summers doesn’t dwell on that. She touches a lot on guilt, on secrets, on not revealing the truth and there’s a strong sense of ‘if only’. There are many MANY turning points at which things might have ended differently for Mattie and Sadie.
We don’t get a really clear sense of West until the end and I guess we’re not supposed to as we’re only privy to the public / on air persona. But Sadie is very real. And her story quite devastating – not just because of her upbringing, her mother’s antipathy towards her and what’s happening now – but the fact that she seem to have no sense of self or worth, other than through parenting her sister (5-6yrs her junior). Mattie is Sadie’s life.
It’s understandable then that she’s spectacularly driven when it comes to seeking justice (well, revenge) for her sister’s death.
I enjoyed Summers’ writing and the story she shares. I also enjoyed the way she occasionally ended a scene without telling you what happened – revisiting it later. The first time it happened I thought I’d missed something but we’re never without closure. In that respect anyway.
This is a bittersweet novel. It’s full of hope and sadness at the same time. It’s a reminder that there’s bravery in vulnerability and that it’s okay to ask for help sometimes. There are lessons about guilt, blame and redemption and a reminder we’re often easily fooled when it comes to good vs bad and can sometimes get it soooo wrong.
Sadie by Courtney Summers was published in Australia by PanMacmillan and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.