Book Review | Sadie by Courtney Summers

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“And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.”

So where do I begin?

Agonizing, devastating, and important.

Sadie by Courtney Summers is dire in a way that makes me want to run up to the highest mountain and scream my lungs out to release the emotions and the knowledge that bad things happen in this world that we have no control over.

This story is told in alternating chapters – Sadie, on a mission to find her younger sister’s murderer while confronting her own taunting demons, and West McCray a radio personality following the trail of Sadie, who has gone missing, no one knowing why.

I listened to the audio book first before purchasing the book and I highly recommend it to be listened to. It’s narrated by a cast and the radio show has a podcast feel that will appeal to anyone who likes listening to mystery or crime podcasts. My heart was achingly racing while listening to it. The narrator for Sadie brought to life the loss she felt at no longer having her younger sister around and the survivor’s guilt she carries around with her. West McCray’s performance gets more and more desperate as he hopelessly talks to people who have crossed paths with Sadie in an attempt to find her and bring her home.

I won’t give much because you need to experience it, but it’s a  hauntingly realistic portrayal of what happens everyday – children get killed and people go missing and our system very often fails at protecting innocent lives. Sadie points out many times in her narrative how the powerful protect the powerful, while the weak are left to defend themselves in the only way they know how. West McCray also points this out when interviewing the witnesses when they all mention how unhinged Sadie seemed – “Maybe she was protecting herself?” West McCray and very few people actually see Sadie for what she is, a girl who has been hurt in the most despicable way and is searching for justice.

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Sadie’s mother, Claire also brings up a very valid point that I can’t stress enough:

West McCray: “I often think about what Claire said to me in the apple orchard in Cold Creek. How when she asked me why I was looking for Sadie, I told her I had a daughter of my own because it felt like the most noble thing I could offer her at the time. Claire got mad at me, rightfully, for using my daughter as a reason to see the pain and suffering in her world, and as an excuse for my fumbling attempt to fix it.”

So many times, we only pay attention to the struggles that directly affect us. During this scene in the book, Claire points out what a bullshit excuse “I have a daughter, sister, mother and that’s why I care” is. We should care because there is an injustice and we are human. You don’t need to have kinship with the person in pain to try to understand their struggle. You learn and you empathize and you act.

I have a lump in my throat thinking about this book. My stomach turns and roils with the desolate situation Sadie finds herself in, time and time again. I so wanted a happy ending. I wanted good to triumph over evil. But as Sadie says:

“It was a terrible thing, sure, but we live in a world that has no shortage of terrible things. You can’t stop for all of them.”

Sadie, hopeless as she feels, knows that sometimes nothing can be done. I know, books as these are not always people’s cup of tea. Books are a form of escapism, even for me. But you have to, you have to listen to this. You have to get your head out of the clouds sometimes, and realize that there are very real people going through very real things and they need you. They just need you to know that you see them. That they exist. Their pain is valid.

“I always forget fear is a conquerable thing but I learn it over and over again and that, I guess, is better than never learning it.”

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