Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Summary: “A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.
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 meager 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” (Goodreads).
It took me a bit to realize what exactly rubbed me the wrong way about Sadie, but I certainly wasn’t enjoying it the way the rest of the Internet did. Part of it was my lack of connection to Sadie, to any of the characters, not out of lack of empathy, but out of distance in the writing. Part of it was my love of crime fiction, and for a crime novel, this is just subpar. But the part that bothered me the most, especially when I put the book down, was that it fails to acknowledge the amount of missing people, especially women, in the US. It fails to advocate for women that have been murdered and haven’t been found. It advocates for Sadie and Mattie and acts as though that is enough.
Sadie and Mattie have a terrible story and my heart aches with everything in me for them. Courtney Summers tells this well. We see Sadie’s trauma so clearly on page. We see the trauma of the other girls affected by “Keith.” When I flipped the last page, I wanted more, I wanted to see Sadie safe and sound. But Summers portrayed the reality of missing people: they are rarely ever found. However, she doesn’t say this. She doesn’t tell us in an author’s note about the research she did into missing people and victims of pedophilia and sexual abuse. (In fact there’s not an author’s note at all when I fully expected one.) She doesn’t tell us how this isn’t just Sadie and Mattie’s story, but the story of so many girls across the United States (and the world.) She doesn’t tell us that 92% of the reported missing persons in 2018 were runaways.
This is an important story. It’s a very good story. But it could have done so much more. And I wanted it to do so much more. With the reach this book has gotten, with the amount of publicity and reads and reviews, why am I not seeing a single one mentioning the amount of girls in the same place as Sadie and Mattie? Perhaps, that is because Summers doesn’t mention it either.
I’m not really that angry about this book, I just wish it did more than it did. It was a decently done novel. The writing’s a little clunky, but the story is there, and the inclusion of the true-crime podcast is very compelling. (Although, again, the true-crime podcast didn’t even mention OTHER girls like Sadie and Mattie.) I was hooked throughout the whole book. I begged for more when it was done. Summers did a good job of writing this book, but she did not do enough.
I can see why so many love it, why so many “enjoyed” it (if that word can really describe such a reading experience). I think it’s best for readers who haven’t read a lot of crime fiction because as a crime novel, it isn’t all that different from the rest of the ones out there.
This is definitely upper YA, but I wish it were new adult (or normal adult). I wish Summers hadn’t shied away from some of the topics. Yes, they are discussed (although more toward the end than the beginning), but the impact of the book would have been stronger if she hadn’t written it like her readers were too young for the truth.
Anyway, good book, but it didn’t pack the punch it could have. With the readership it has, I wish it would have sent the message about missing people that would incite some sort of action. But people are just going to read this and not realize how large the real-life problem is.