Sadie by Courtney Summers

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“You aren’t supposed to answer violence with more violence but sometimes I think violence is the only answer.”

😭😭😭 It’s been a bit over a week since I finished Sadie and I am still struggling to find the words to adequately review it. Friends this book took me completely by surprise in the best (and worst?) kind of way. Sadie by Courtney Summers was my first read of 2019 and I devoured it in one sitting. This is a powerful, unique, and sad story that tackles tough topics but provides some amazing representation. This book is definitely worth all of the hype it’s received and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

The book is told through alternating perspectives: a true crime podcast in the same vein as Serial and in Sadie’s perspective told months apart. Sadie is a nineteen year old girl that went missing after her younger sister was brutally murdered and West McCray essentially following Sadie’s trail for the podcast to try and find her. This narrative absolutely gripped me as I read, reading furiously to find the place where the perspectives would merge and all the pieces would fall into place.

Even before Mattie was murdered, Sadie experienced more than her fair share of heartbreak. Major content and trigger warnings for pedophilia, child abuse, drug addiction, and abandonment. She grew up in a trailer park with a drug addict mother that didn’t seem to want her, and all she had was her younger sister Mattie who she all but raised. All Sadie wants is to be loved and that yearning for affection and belonging tugged at my heartstrings deeply.

“How do you forgive the people who are supposed to protect you?” 

One thing I do want to mention is that Sadie has a severe stutter which was refreshing to see represented in media, especially as it isn’t used in a way to demean or ridicule her. It is just a part of her and everyone she meets seems to take it in stride, which was just beautiful to read. While speaking about representation, the poverty representation is also really well done. I feel like stories like these – both fiction and the real missing girls that get media attention – tend to be of affluent white girls, and it is important to show that girls go missing all the time and from all sorts of backgrounds.

“People don’t change. They just get better at hiding who they really are.” 

In talking with Taylor after I finished reading the book, I learned a bit more about Courtney Summers and her speaking for and protecting female victims. One thing that instantly spoke to me at the beginning of the podcast was West McCray saying that he wasn’t going to outline the gruesome details of Mattie’s murder and touching on how problematic it is to have such a “fascination” with the macabre details of female trauma. Sadie definitely proves that you can have a good story that haunts you without the gritty and gory details of a character’s demise.  

“And what compels us to those stories? I think it’s the puzzle of them. Not only of the crimes themselves, the whodunit component, but the whydunit—what drives people to commit these crimes in the first place? And is it something that lurks inside us all? It’s hard to resist those kinds of questions and the pursuit of their answers.”

Interview with Courtney Summers

Summers also does a really good job of highlighting the fact that not all people who do bad things are monsters wearing black hats. Often times the pillars in the community can be hiding a horrible side and doing terrible things. All the good acts that they do in the community doesn’t erase what they have done, and I think it is really important to have bad guys that mirror reality. It’s a small step to showing that victims can be believed instead of not speaking out for fear of not being believed. This story feels hauntingly true in both plot and execution.

The last fifty pages or so built in tension and I was on pins and needles waiting to see how it would end. I really loved the unique storytelling format and mixing the narrative in this way so Sadie’s perspective is also known to the reader. She was more than just a statistic or missing girl, she is a girl alive on the page and I felt her pain and anger like I feel my own. Summers really nailed the the podcast aspects, they read just like a true crime podcast sounds like. I did read along with the audiobook after being recommended the fullcast audio, which I thoroughly enjoyed… especially for the podcast chapters, it added to and enhanced my reading experience.

Overall I am absolutely haunted by Sadie and this is an incredible book. It is heartbreaking and sad and so dark, but it is an important story and one that needs to be told. I shed many tears while reading this story and have thought about the book a lot in the past week, and I look forward to reading more of Courtney Summers’ work. I highly recommend reading this book if you enjoy true crime, podcasts, and stories that challenge victim blaming mentality. Please be sure you are in the right headspace to read a dark story when you pick it up, though.

REPRESENTATION: queer rep (Sadie is bi), poverty rep, stutter rep
CONTENT WARNINGS: abandonment, drug addiction, loss of a loved one, murder, pedophilia, sexual abuse


You can find information about my rating criteria here.

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.

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


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Hi! I’m Kaleena: book lover, runner, wanderer, and philanthropist. Life is an adventurous gift: through the outdoors and books. I run Reader Voracious Blog, where I post spoiler-free book reviews of science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and mystery & thriller.

51 thoughts on “Sadie by Courtney Summers

  1. I listened to this on audiobook but I definitely need to reread a physical copy for deeper analysis. Sadie was so hard to review. I still don’t think my review did it justice. I really liked reading your thoughts. I’m still thinking about Sadie after all these months!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Such a good review! It’s probably my most recommended book of last year. I’m telling everyone about it. I’m going to listen to the audio book… but I think I have to wait a little longer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome review! I was trying to read this by the end of the year, but just couldn’t squeeze it in. Hopefully I can read it soon, because it sounds like this is a must read😁

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m on the waiting list at my library for the audiobook, and as soon as I get it, I’m dropping everything and listening to it. I seriously cannot wait to experience this book. Awesome review!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, you did such a good job on the review!! I totally appreciated the decision for the author to refrain from the gruesome elements, news and stories nowadays have numbed us and encouraged the schadenfreude part of us too much.

    It makes me glad that you enjoyed this book, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thank you so much for the compliment, that means a lot to me! I really never thought about the media’s obsession with female trauma until now and it made me think. I actually was just watching the deeper dive episode on the Black Dahlia case right now from Buzzfeed Unsolved and found myself wondering if the gruesome details would have been so sensationalized if the victim were a man. Probably not. And I kind of think that’s a problem now that I am thinking about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, it’s specifically about female trauma? Looks like I missed the memo 😛 And you watch Buzzfeed Unsolved?! My sis was a fan some time ago and I’ve watched quite a few of their episodes. I’m not sure if I’ve watched the Black Dahlia case, I’ll have to check it out. This has reminded me of something on a similar tangent, namely that I find that the female body is way too sexualized, at least more than men.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I never really thought about it before but it does seem like there is a fascination with female trauma that just isn’t talked about in the same detail with male victims. At least in the US! Now that I am thinking about it, I will probably see it everywhere. I do watch Buzzfeed Unsolved, I really enjoy the true crime series, the supernatural one not as much.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. * heart-eyes *
    Such an amazing review!
    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it so much, and i can’t wait to read it as well. Already got the audio, but wanna do a readalong, cuz otherwise i’m worried i’ll forget stuff, or miss out, fall asleep… 😀 (it happened on other audio books)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. awww yay, thank you so much, Norrie! I hear you on the falling asleep (or just letting my mind wander or start browsing twitter), reading along is the best way for me to focus. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did and can’t wait to hear your thoughts!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such an amazing review Kaleena. I have this arc since a long time and have heard nothing but amazing things about this but somehow I wasn’t able to read it. I don’t know, I don’t want to be haunted these days, considering I have a child on the way 🙈
    But surely hoping to pick it this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I LOVED this book and I’m so glad to see that you did, too! You raised so many great points in support of it. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart… it made me extremely emotional. But it was an absolutely amazing book. Courtney Summers is a magnificent author. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! I’ve read three total I think, so I can only recommend the other two, but they are Some Girls Are and Cracked Up To Be. I don’t know if it’s still available but I actually got both books for the price of one on the Kindle store!

        Liked by 1 person

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