By Mahpharah Khan
Courtney Summers’ “Sadie” is a young adult thriller that discusses revenge that is triggered by murder, pedophilia, sexual abuse and drug addiction.
“And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.”
“Sadie” switches between two perspectives — the fictional podcast called “The Girls” that is led by West McCray and by Sadie herself as she tries to find her sister’s killer — so she can kill them.
Sadie lives with her sister Mattie and her grandmother, May Beth. Sadie is basically half-mother, half-sister to Mattie because their mother is a drug addict. Their mother cares little for her children and more about herself, where she is going to get her next hit, and what man she is going to be with next.
Sadie represses her feelings and is always in service to her sister, even though it is in detriment to herself. So when Mattie is murdered and her body is found next to a schoolhouse, Sadie feels deeply obligated to find who killed her sister. But she also takes it a step further — she wants to kill them.
“She’s dead is the reason I’m going to kill a man. How many people live with that kind of knowledge inside them? Waking her up in the morning, making her meals, walking her to the school bus, waiting for her at its stop when the day was over, grinding my bones to dust just to keep us holding on, and when I lay it out like that, I don’t know how I did it. I’d do it all again and again for eternity if I had to.”
Summers emphasizes the sisterly bond between Sadie and Mattie. Sadie shows her love by taking care of Matie, and being wanted makes her feel like she has a purpose even though her life may not be the best.
“I just wanted to matter to someone.”
This means that when Mattie is murdered, Sadie is deprived of the one thing that made her feel like she could live for another day: loving and taking care of Mattie.
Sadie and Mattie’s mother is reckless with how she handles herself; she is not conscious of how actions affect others.
She starts to date a man named Keith and eventually introduces him to Sadie when she is 11, and Mattie when she is 5. Their grandmother, May Beth, reveals the most about Keith through the podcast part of the novel.
She describes him as the best boyfriend their mother had, and that he was God-fearing and a family man. Mattie loved him but Sadie loathed him because according to May Beth, he tried to create a structured life for them but Sadie felt like that was her responsibility.
We hear a lot about Keith through the podcast, which detaches us even further from knowing what his deal was. We come to learn that he is not who May Beth paints him to be, and that he is actually more sinister than we first believe.
The fact is that he was a pedophile and sexually abused Sadie. Summers details the extent of how disturbed he was and doesn’t shy away from the reality of pedophilic behavior. Sadie eventually locates Keith and rummages through his personal belongings.
“I’m staring at IDs and jagged strips of material. They’re drivers licenses. They look real enough, excellent fakes. He’s known so many different names. Greg, Connor, Adam… Toby, Don… Keith.”
His real name was Jack. He was invested in Sadie’s life because he wanted to be close to her. And she does not only find his fake IDs claiming names of fictitious people, he keeps “souvenirs.” He keeps shirt collars that are scribed with the names of the girls he abused. It is sickening to know that these people do exist and are able to live life undisturbed considering the amount of trauma they inflict upon others. Sadie has an extreme stutter, and it’s hard to believe that it’s just a coincidence.
And although their mother was physically and emotionally absent for most of their lives, she did realize something was off with him. She is eventually a guest on the podcast and says that she didn’t like how he looked at the girls, and she also mentioned that he was too interested in them. So she kicked him out.
Pedophiles don’t deserve to live life as free individuals; they deserve to rot in jail. The sexualization and objectification of children is something that the world has to constantly deal with and it’s getting exhausting. This is especially seen in Hollywood and among the elite. Names like Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, and Jeffrey Epstein come to mind.
Their behavior comes to light but they are rarely held responsible for it. In Larry Nassar’s case, he was sentenced 40-175 years in prison. This case is representative of how pedophiles should be dealt with. It’s also important to note that more than 150 women came forward and that the judge was a woman herself. This is an example of how women should support one another and believe one another. Even if only one stepped forward, that would have been enough because pedophiles shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt.
However, this is only one case. There are several more where men do not receive any repercussions for their disgusting behavior. It’s really getting exhausting watching women come forward with sexual assault stories (whether it is reported in the media or not) and watching the “justice system” ignore them. It shows what the government’s priorities are — and that’s protecting rich white men simply because they have money.
Why do we constantly have to explain that we should care about other people?
Sadie manages to track Jack down and finds out that he’s wormed his way into another family. He resumed his role as a “family man.”
Novels, even thrillers, reflect reality and reality is not always tied up with a nice bow. The ending is able to evoke sympathy from us without giving us answers, and while it can be frustrating, it’s the mark of a good novel.