Author Courtney Summers
There was an urgency to this story that began on the first page and drove me through to the end of it within a day.
A 13 year old girl is murdered, her older sister 19 year old Sadie, abandons the only home she knows to hunt down her sister’s killer. West McCray, a radio and podcast host receives a call for help from the girls’ foster grandma, the only one who cares that they’re disappearing faster than anyone can save them.
The book alternates between Sadie’s hunt for the man she believes has killed her sister and West’s search for Sadie. May Beth, the foster gran provides insight into the sisters’ childhood with their drug addicted mother, Claire. The girls grow up more at May Beth’s than their own trailer and Claire becomes a spectre hovering in the periphery of their lives until one day she leaves them entirely.
Mattie takes Claire’s disappearance to heart and begins to fade away, Sadie who has always played mother to her younger sibling finds herself battling daily to keep her sister’s heart and body alive. We begin the book with Mattie’s death and the sadness of that discovery only deepens as the story unravels.
Missing young girls are a common enough storylines for thrillers. Where Sadie differs made all the difference to me as a reader. First, almost every single important character is female. There’s no male cop/detective/interested party who has to sweep in an rescue any damsel. West (the radio jockey/podcast host) follows Sadie’s story but that’s all he does, picks up pieces that she and other women give him and relay them. He tells Sadie’s and Claire’s and May Beth’s and Marlee’s and Mattie’s story through his podcast. He doesn’t solve anything and he doesn’t provide any information that Sadie hasn’t left for him (unintentionally).
The second difference is that there was no caped crusader out to get justice for the wider world. This is a story about a young girl who has lost everything that mattered to her and she wants to finish her story by literally ending the person who has taken what was hers from her. Yes, its revenge if we want to simplify this but there are layers to what has happened and as becomes clear at the end, Sadie needs to find and make her own peace.
The layers among the story were carefully peeled away to reveal tangled relationships between the girls, their mother and the people around them. I think three dimensional characters are particularly difficult to convey within thrillers but Sadie did it this incredibly well. Deception is a wonderful thing and the way in which each character was revealed to be different from who they were set up to be was well played.
Read it for the loss and grief of Sadie, it was brutal like a sharp slap across the face each time she gave voice to her memories. Clearer than this is the slim piece of hope and fulfilment both Sadie and the reader receive at the book’s end.