Sadie: Crime, mystery, love and family

the front cover of the novel

Courtney Summers

The front cover of the book

Jessica Liu, Intern Reporter

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

This book hit me hard. “Sadie” by Courtney Summers is a cross between a thriller and a mystery but has sweet notes of familial bond, heartbreaking memories, and a strong yet vulnerable protagonist. 

The book is told in a really interesting formatalternating points of view from Sadie, our main character, and a crime podcast. Sadie brings us along with her as she goes on a trip to find the man she believes killed her sister Mattie. The podcast traces her footsteps as a journalist follows the crumbs and tracks left behind. 

I was reading this book in the USU the other day, and a student holding a box from Sbarro’s walked over and told me that she really enjoyed “Sadie” when she read it a little while back. Though I wasn’t even to the halfway mark, her remark only served as further confirmation and encouragement that the book I was holding in my hands would be a delight.

We learn about Sadie and Mattie’s childhood together and look into the mind of an older sister who wanted to protect her younger sister from the monsters that first hurt her. A beautiful tale of trauma, sisterhood, and what people do for their loved ones, I thought “Sadie” was a hauntingly stunning read. 

Before diving into this book, you should know a few content warnings. Topics that were not easy to read about were present in this story, including sexual abuse, child abuse, and drug abuse. However, I think Summers approached these topics with sensitivity and purpose, illustrating a realistic image that is both tactful and painfully raw. 

The novel’s theme is telling one’s narrative, especially one who doesn’t have a voice to speak for themselves. “Girls go missing all the time,” was a line said by the podcaster. That is true, but each one has a story to tell. Will we listen?

The cover art for the book is a faceless girl. One of many in a sea of missing girls, whose stories so often don’t get to be heard. An interesting aspect to our character is that she has a stutter. One that is present in every line she speaks, appearing in the dialogue with dashes and repeated letters. It’s heartbreaking when we see Sadie unable to get the words out, not being able to say what she wanted to say when frustrated or sad, but throughout the novel, her voice was unwavering in resolve. 

I loved how her relationship with her younger sister was depicted. It was real, with imperfections, mistakes, good intentions, frustration, and love. It reminded me of my own relationship with my older brother. He left for college a few weeks ago, packing his life into a brand new suitcase and moving into a college dorm that was a three-hour drive from home. It was bittersweet, and when we made the drive back without him, I reflected on all the fond memories and cherished times I shared with him growing up, while also mourning the way we’d drifted apart despite caring deeply for each other. 

Initially, when I picked up this book, I thought it would be a classic mystery, like a whodunit kind of thing. But it was more than that. Sadie’s road trip alone to track down her sister’s killer was a time when she came to terms with her own trauma and other spoilers I don’t want to give away (read the book if you want to find out). Lastly, the prose was really gorgeous. I highlighted so many beautiful lines and quotes from the book, all of which provoked emotion and thought.

Definitely pick this book up if you’re interested in a gripping plot, meaningful themes, and the poignant journey of a girl armed with nothing but a switchblade and her beating heart.