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 meagre 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.
TW: murder, rape, sexual assault, pedophilia, child abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, death.
And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.
This is a book I went into knowing I was probably going to love it and give it five stars, which as you can see, ended up happening, but I still managed to underestimate how much I loved Sadie.
I listened to the audiobook, and it is without a doubt, my favourite ever audiobook. There are so many voices, and the podcast formats just lends itself so well to audio. Every performance was superb, and just took the emotion to a whole new level. If you can get your hands on the audiobook, I’d definitely grab it!
Sadie is a very dark and twisted book, full of twisted, dangerous, horrific people, and those they hurt. The book deals with the worst of humanity and the lowest we can reach, from extreme poverty to domestic abuse, to drug abuse, to rape, to child abuse. It’s a lot to stomach at times, so much so that I had to put the book down often. But every time I put it down, as soon as I picked it up again, I was straight back into the story.
The format is very cool, as the chapters alternate between Sadie’s narration of events, and the restricted view from West McCray’s podcast, which is written in script format. I loved that we as the reader knew more than he did and therefore watching him follow the crumbs was both entertaining and frustrating – but through him we also got to see the aftermath of Sadie’s disappearance and Mattie’s murder. The podcast introduces more perspectives and stories from those Sadie touched in her life, which was heartbreaking when running alongside Sadie’s own independent story.
That brings me onto characters nicely, because I don’t feel there was one character in the entire book that felt too underdeveloped, which is a lot considering the book is only short. What I loved about it is that though the story isn’t told in a linear fashion, you can follow even each side character’s personal journeys weaved throughout the chapters both told from Sadie, and their own sections of the podcast. I just think it’s such a feat of storytelling and takes the book to a new level.
Something else I really loved is that the characters aren’t cut-and-dried either. And I don’t mean that in a ‘the bad guy is given a sad backstory and is good deep down’, because he is a horrific human being who doesn’t deserve redemption. What I mean is that for each opinion on a character, given either by Sadie, or West McCray’s impression, or the opinions of the others he interviews, there is a deeper exploration that gets down into the bones of that person. For example, there are times when May Beth will tell McCray one version of events, which Sadie will then completely contradict. Going any further will lend itself to spoilers, but I’ll just say that there are different sides to the story that we have the privilege of seeing, and it is done so effectively.
You owe it to yourself to dig a little deeper. Don’t decide what you don’t have before you know what you do.
No one in the book is perfect and it’s their realness that totally makes the book. Sadie’s raw desperation, vulnerability, and determination, as well as the intense love for her sister, is what defines her as a character, which breaks my heart. She is without a doubt the most gripping character I’ve ever read about and I was just mesmerised by her story and her strength. She’s the kind of character you just want to lift from the page and give the world.
Is it for you?
- Want to read about poor characters in a less economically privileged setting.
- Hate the obsession with dead girls being used as puzzles for men to fix, and want to see it subverted.
- Want writing that will give you chills.
- Want a compelling yet sombre thriller that focuses more on internal struggles.
- Want to pick up a full-cast, immersive audiobook.
- Love deeply layered characters.
- Want a story that will haunt you.
Then, Sadie is for you!
But, if you:
- Are sensitive to any of the trigger warnings.
- Don’t want to read anything too dark (I don’t blame you. Look at the world, man.)
Then, tread carefully and take care of yourselves.
I can pretty confidently say that this is the thriller with the biggest punch I’ve ever read, and not because of the tension and twists – though it definitely had both – but because of its heart. Because of the brutal reality of it, and because it wasn’t about gratuitous violence or jump-scares, but about a girl’s final journey to avenge the most precious person in her life.
A top 5 favourite, for sure.
Have you read Sadie? Let me know and we can chat!