Sadie | a new favorite book (and a spoiler-free review)

sadieSadie by Courtney Summers
Published: September 4th 2018 by Wednesday Books
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary (YA)
Rating: 5/5 stars – ★★★★★

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 meagre 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.

my review

I got an ARC copy of Sadie at YALC in July, and I started reading it immediately. It was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, since Courtney Summer’s previous book All the Rage ended up being one of my favorite reads. I’m so glad to say I wasn’t left disappointed. This book is absolutely incredible. Let me tell you why.

Formats

There are two parts to this story.

In one, we follow Sadie as she searches for the man she believes killed her little sister, so she can kill him. She leaves her small little town and the trailer she lives in behind, buys a car and starts her search. She tells no one about her mission.

In the other, we are reading the transcript of (or listening to) a podcast called The Girls. The podcast is somewhat similar to Serial, and it investigates the disappearance of Sadie and the murder of her sister, Mattie. Like I said, you can also listen to the podcast parts of this book because they’re actually producing a podcast called The Girls: Find Sadie!

Trigger warnings? Obsession?

The different formats make for a very interesting read. As Sadie didn’t tell anyone she was leaving, at first the people assume she was kidnapped or just ran away because she couldn’t deal with losing her sister. The podcast aspect also explores the idea that we are weirdly (and somewhat inappropriately) obsessed with true crime and stories of disappearing and dead women.

I feel like there are a lot of trigger warnings for this book: substance abuse, addiction, sexual abuse, and more. However, what Courtney Summers did so well is that these things don’t actually happen on page. You know that they happen(ed) to the characters in the book, and you see their lasting trauma and how it changed them. But you don’t actually witness it. You can still see the impact they left on the people without needing to be confronted with them yourself. They aren’t used as plot twists or to leave you shocked, instead they are just part of the characters’ stories. In my opinion, this is utterly brilliant.

Courtney Summers is not afraid to tackle taboo subjects. The things we don’t like to talk about, or hope will never happen to anyone we know. How the perpetrators are more often than not people we’d never see as harmful. How guilty and disgusted the victims feel, even though they are the victims. My heart broke about 149304203 million times throughout this book.

Sadie

Let’s talk about Sadie. Here’s her mission.

I’m going to kill a man.
I’m going to steal the light from his eyes. I want to watch it go out. You aren’t supposed to answer violence with more violence but sometimes I think violence is the only answer. It’s no less than he did to Mattie, so it’s no less than he deserves.

Sadie is such an incredible character. First of all, we have a main character with a stutter. It sounds awful to say that I love the fact that we have a main character with a speech disorder, but it’s true. When we talk about diversity, we also need to talk about disability and disorders because so many people are living with them. It’s not realistic to never talk about them at all. I really like how it addressed the way people treated Sadie when they realized she has a stutter. They either think she is stupid, or make fun of it, or start giving out useless and uncalled for advice. We need to call people out on this behavior, because it’s demeaning and disgusting.

“Jesus,” Becki says and I know it’s not because of the inherent sadness of what I’ve just told her, it’s because of the broken way it came out of my mouth. She steps back a little because that shit is catching, you know, and if she gets it, there’s a 100 percent chance she’ll pass it on to her fetus.

After realizing Sadie has a stutter, Becki not only stepped back but immediately assumed Sadie was incapable of doing things like driving.

It’s not the first sorry imitation of myself I’ve ever heard, but I still want to pull his tongue out of his mouth and strangle him with it.

Let’s just say that Sadie was an incredibly interesting character. She has taken care of her sister her entire life, and now she has lost the only purpose she had. She takes control -and revenge. To be honest, reading about her life broke my heart.

Family

Another intriguing aspect were the family dynamics. Sadie is utterly devoted to Mattie, but Courtney Summers also explores the different perspectives and sides of their love. How Sadie sometimes got so mad because of the way Mattie acted, and how sick she was at times of taking care of her. How guilty that made her feel. It also doesn’t portray Mattie as this angel who happened to be murdered, but rather as a real girl.

It explores how everyone has a different view of someone based on the lens they are looking through. Our experiences and biases taint how we see others, and that’s explored more in the podcast part of this novel.

I also found it interesting that they addressed that sometimes we do things that we think are good for others, things that will help them, when in fact they don’t help at all. How we impose our opinion on what’s the right thing to do on others, especially if we are older and can take decisions for them.

Final thoughts

I know this book will be on my best books of 2018 list. I know I’ll re-read it at some point to annotate even more than I already have. I was too engrossed in the story at times to take my time and mark pages, so I definitely want to go back to that.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Yes, it will break your heart along the way. But it’s so worth it.

Review: All the Rage

all-the-rageAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published: 28.01.2016 by MacMillan Children’s
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, YA
Rating: 5/5 stars – ★★★★★
Goodreads

Synopsis: Kellan Turner is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. But when she speaks up, she is branded a liar. Telling the truth has cost her everything, because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town.

But when news of Kellan assaulting another girl gets out, the cost of staying silent might be more than Romy can bear. All The Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

review

Thanks to the #Bookentine readathon, I finally picked up this book. I’ve had this book on my shelf since the summer of 2015, when I got an ARC copy after working at Pan Macmillan as an intern for a while. I waited so long to read this! I do know why though. This book deals with such a heavy subject, it’s not a book I can just pick up on a whim. But I’m glad I finally read it. It was so worth it.

All the Rage centers around Romy Grey, a teenager in a small city in the U.S. She used to have a lot. She used to have a best friend she adored. That’s no longer the case now. Romy was raped. By the town’s golden boy. Why would anyone believe a girl who accused such a “nice kid”? They wouldn’t. And so Romy has been dealing with the vicious repercussions of saying she was raped.

This book made me want to set humanity on fire. I hate it. I mean, the book itself was incredible. But the fact that I could recognize so much of our society in it made me want to throw up. Courtney Summers does not pull any punches with this novel. She attacks rape culture, victim blaming, slut shaming and bullying in a confrontational manner -and it just made me want to give that woman a round of applause. We need books like this. We need authors brave enough to address these problems. Instead of all those classics, this should be required reading in high school.

I felt so much for Romy. I was angry, because of how she was being treated. I was furious, because everyone else was so weak. I was disgusted, because of the way she was treated. I felt sympathy for the girl who has been through too much. I was frustrated, because she couldn’t seem to tell anyone. I understood why she couldn’t seem to tell anyone. I was glad that she had a family that loved her so much.

I just… I can’t. I feel like I need to watch so many puppy videos after finishing this book. And I also want to set the patriarchy on fire. I will never in my life understand how an adult can treat a child like that. Can just decide what is the truth and what isn’t, based on your biased beliefs. I felt like throwing up every time the sheriff entered the story -and also felt like kicking him in the nuts.

This book was just so well written. The characters felt so utterly real, I felt like I know Romy so well. The narrative felt broken up at times which may sound like a bad thing but it actually fit with the story. Because the trauma fragments everything. It was raw, and honest. I think there were several reasons Romy’s story felt so real to me:

  • We start the story after she was raped, when everyone has already decided she is lying. But you know what happened to her because of the flashback. I don’t really know how to explain this, but it did feel like a girl’s account of rape happening. It didn’t feel like an author saying: this is what happened to her. It felt like Romy was telling me.
  • The littlest thing could induce a panic attack and/or flashback to her, which I believe would happen with trauma in real life too. A sentence that sounds too familiar. A smell or sound you heard while it was happening.
  • What struck me most were the tiny things Romy did to try and bring control back into her life. She painted her nails and lips red religiously. She panicked if she left the house without them made up. They were layers of protection, so people wouldn’t really see her. There was a process with several meticulous steps to the nailpolish and lipstick. It may seem silly, but to her it’s a way of regaining some control.

All those things made the trauma and story so vivid. I cry for every person who has been through this -or anything traumatic at all. I hope people believed you. I hope someone was there to help you. And if you’re looking for someone to listen to your story, know that I am always here. I may be a stranger to you, that’s true. But it’s sometimes easier to tell a stranger what you’ve been through, than it is to tell a loved one.

So be strong, my people. Fight. Don’t let the patriarchy crush you. Smash it. Set it on fire. Smack rape culture in the face. Help out a person in need. Stand up for those who are not believed, those who are overlooked. And make everyone you know read this book.