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Book Review- “Sadie by Courtney Summers

SadieI don’t know why I continue to underestimate YA fiction, especially of the crime genre. I mean one of my favorite shows of all time, “Veronica Mars”, is about a teenage P.I. and it’s pretty noir. I guess I just have this weird pre-conceived notion that Young Adult prose novel’s featuring younger protagonists don’t make for hard hitting crime stories. Kristi Belcamino proved me wrong with her fantastic YA debut, “City of Angels.” And Courtney Summers once again proves me wrong with her new YA novel “Sadie.” I just finished reading it. It’s a powerful, fantastically paced, poignant, original crime novel that reads like a mash up of Andrew Vachss, the Jonathan Lethem novel “Motherless Brooklyn” and 

 

the movie “Winter’s Bone.” Yes, it’s that good.

In “Sadie,” Summers is telling a mystery story on two fronts and two formats. The first is told via the transcripts of a podcast called “The Girls” and in it we follow the exploits of host, West McCray, who is reluctantly dragged into the hunt for a missing girl. Her name is Sadie Hunters. She’s 19 years old and she up and vanished one day several months after her younger sister Mattie was murdered. McCray is called in after Sadie’s abandoned car turns up.

The second mystery is told from Sadie’s point of view. We go with her on her cross-country journey away from home and on a mysterious and very personal quest that unfolds over the course of the story. That set up, and the contrast between the two narratives makes “Sadie” an exciting novel to read. Summers used the different view points to feed into the two narratives perfectly. We’d get a chapter that cliff hangered from Sadie’s point of view and then we’d go with West McCray as he investigated the aftermath and tried to make sense of things.

Sadie” also works because the title characters is fascinating. She’s haunted by theCourtney Summers death of the one person who meant the world to her, her younger sister. She’s also tragically someone who never got to be a kid because of her family situation and some other things we discover as the novel unfolds. Making Sadie even more fascinating is the fact that she has a stutter. Since her portions of the novel are told from her perspective we get to hear how she feels about that, and how she’s affected by the way people treat her because of it. It’s something that you don’t often see in a book and it made an already empathetic character even more relatable.

West McCray is also an interesting character. At the beginning I admired him because he served as the dogged detective, but in the second half of the book you learn more personal details about him that makes his quest to find Sadie even more emotionally resonant.

Summers also populates “Sadie” with a whole host of fascinating and very realistic characters that we meet in both McCray’s and Sadie’s journeys. My favorites included Javi, a kind teenage boy Sadie encounters; Cat, a hitchhiker she picks up; and May Beth, a sort of surrogate mother to Sadie who runs the trailer park she lived in. There are also some very sinister figures who hang over the story in “Sadie.” I don’t want to say much about them because they’re involved in some of the most powerful and poignant reveals in the story.

Those sinister figures and their actions infuse “Sadie” with a compelling tone of creeping dread. As the story unfolds you want to learn more about the mysteries of the novel, but there’s a sense that those truths will be haunting and unsettling.

The book is also very moving too. It’s kind of an epic look at the power of familial love; how it can fuel us, keep us on our feet after enduring physical and emotional punishment, and consume us.

So, with “Sadie” Courtney Summers proves to me once again that YA crime fiction can be just as moving, powerful and haunting as crime stories intended for an adult audience. It’s a hell of a read.

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