And it begins, as so many stories do, with a dead girl.
Holy hell, this book hit me hard.
I've been reading Summers' books for seven years now and she is both consistently good and continually getting better. I remember thinking that Some Girls Are was one of the most powerful and vicious books I'd ever read back in 2011. Then All the Rage came along and destroyed me some more.
Whether Summers is writing a contemporary high school novel, a mystery, or a zombie apocalypse, she crawls right inside the deepest, darkest parts of teen girl minds. She explores their grief, their love, their hopes, fears and passions, and she does it in such a way that her characters become unforgettable, feeling at once completely unique AND universal.
And this book This book made me cry. I felt so deeply for Sadie as she goes in search of the man who hurt her sister. Her sister, Mattie, who was her whole world. And yeah, yeah, we've read the "doing it for my sister/brother" a million times in YA but here it's so different. Sadie played the role of mother to Mattie when their own mother disappeared. Their relationship is special; complicated.
"She's dead," I whisper and I don't know why this is the thing I choose to say out loud because it hurts to say it, to feel the truth of those words pass my lips, to have them be real in this world. But She's dead is the reason I'm still alive.
She's dead is the reason I'm going to kill a man.
Sadie goes on a journey from place to place, fighting against her severe stutter along the way, all to find one man. And West McCray's investigation leads him along the same trail, the before and after racing each other to the end.
I think the framing of this story was PERFECT. The author splits the narrative between a radio presenter, West McCray, as he investigates Sadie's disappearance, and the first person perspective of Sadie herself, as she hunts down her sister's killer.
The juxtaposition of McCray's detached radio voice with the passion and determination in Sadie's account works really well. You can just imagine it - Sadie's story becoming the latest True Crime special - and it honestly hurts to read. You want McCray to just move faster, work harder, care more about this poor girl from a disadvantaged background.
Please save her was running through my mind the whole time. I felt a little panicked while reading, especially as Sadie becomes ever more reckless. It's heartbreaking to see this girl who believes she has lost everything important in her world.
It could be likened to any book with a badass female character on a mission, from The Female of the Species to True Grit, but really, it stands on its own. In the end, it feels like a book about all the ways Sadie is let down by the people who should have helped and protected her; all the ways poor young girls are let down by the people who should have helped and protected them.
And still, despite it all, this is a Courtney Summers book, so even at her lowest, weakest moments, Sadie still has claws. The sad thing is that she ever had to use them.
TW: Pedophilia; sexual abuse; drug abuse.
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