Published on September 4, 2018
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.
I was a little nervous about reading this book as I read reviews that mentioned how much it dealt with sexual abuse as I have a really low threshold for being able to read things like that. Details about those experiences really undo me.
Anyway, after my Q&A with Courtney Summers in which she talked about her reasons for writing this book, I wanted to try to read it anyway, and I’m honestly glad I did.
I feel like I’ve said this before, but I have so much respect for Summers and her commitment to be a voice for young women who are often forgotten. Lots of times stories like this, about missing girls, sensationalize the details of the disappearance. I’ve read books where I felt like the author almost revels in constructing the details of torture and graphic abuse.
You won’t find those gory details in Sadie. And you might think that would steal some of the horror or power of the story, but honestly, it doesn’t. Instead, it keeps the story focused on what matters: the humanity of the characters, the fact that they are so much more than abuse victims.
And that humanity coupled with the raw, high-intensity emotional responses of the characters punched straight into me as I read the darkest parts of the story. I felt horror at what happened to Sadie and the other victims of abuse. But I didn’t have to endure the details of what happened to them in order to feel that horror. Sharing in Sadie’s brokenness and horror were powerful enough, especially in the hands of a writer like Courtney Summers. Y’all, she is a force.
Sadie is probably not for everyone. It’s got some rough language, and it’s definitely a dark story. But it does remind us that these things happen to girls way too often. And that way too often we forget them once the glow of the news headlines dims. I’ll remember this one for a long time.
Major characters are white or not physically described. Sadie has a stutter and deals with a lot of judgment about it.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used regularly throughout the book.
Brief kissing between two girls. References to sex. References to sexual abuse, including sex with children. None of those things are described in detail, though in one scene, a man stands in the bathroom watching a girl crouched naked in a tub. At another point, a character finds pictures depicting child sex abuse. The photos aren’t described, but they’re clearly horrifying to the characters who see them.
References to sexual abuse and prostitution. A girl’s body is found in an orchard. We know she died from blunt force trauma to the head. Sadie leaves on a journey to find and kill a man she believes killed her sister. In another scene, a man attacks a girl, slamming her head into the steering wheel of her car and smashing her face on a concrete driveway. During one scene, a girl accidentally cuts her arm on window glass. At another point, a girl realizes she’s been hit in the back of the head and collapses. Several people find themselves threatened at knifepoint. One man is stabbed.
Sadie’s mom is an alcoholic and drug addict. She meets other addicts through the story. At one point, she and some teens order drinks at a bar. At least one of the teens drives home drunk.