Book Club Prep: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Our next book club book will be Sadie by Courtney Summers! Although Summers is already an established Canadian YA author, this latest bestseller has definitely gotten her noticed with a careful blend of podcast transcripts and first person narration depicting a story with no simple answers.

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.

Highlight white text for content warnings: assault, sexual assault, child abuse, murder, kidnapping and abduction, drug and alcohol addiction, ableism, classism

For those of you looking for hosting ideas, here are some easy snacks and beverages you and your book club compatriots can enjoy while discussing Sadie. And for those of you who are looking for something more beyond the book itself, here are some podcasts, articles, and books which either tie into Summers’ novel or expand upon its themes and content.

Snacks & Drinks:

Although Sadie is not a book that easily lends itself to themed food and beverages, I have done my best to give you some ideas that aren’t just “alcohol, and lots of it.”

Recipes from Good And Cheap by Leanne Brown

Leanne Brown’s cookbook is designed for those having to live on extremely tight budgets, including those who live on SNAP, the US food stamp program. The PDF of the cookbook is free to all under Creative Commons, and purchasing a physical copy of the cookbook from Amazon or other vendors will donate another physical copy to a family in need. Some good recipes to check out for book club include: Smoky and Spicy Roasted Cauliflower, Green Chili and Cheddar Quesadillas, Things On Toast, Agua Fresca, and Coconut Chocolate Cookies.

Charitable Alcohols

If you have some cash to spend on your alcohol, consider putting it towards these companies that donate a portion of their profits to charities serving children and other causes.

ONEHOPE: If you like wine, ONEHOPE offers a wide variety of wines, all sortable by the category of cause they support.

Simple Vodka: For each bottle of Simple Vodka, the distillery provides 20 meals to those in need in the US, which comes out to a bit more than 1 meal per drink.

Further Context:

The Doe Network

Every nation has their own missing persons databases and volunteer organizations, and I suggest you try googling for your own country’s if you feel like getting involved after reading this book. Unlike most missing persons organizations, The Doe Network is an international center for unidentified and missing persons, first created in 1999 and run entirely by volunteers. Their goal is to provide exposure to these cases on their website, to increase media exposure for these cases, and to provide credible potential matches between missing and unidentified persons to investigating agencies. Though they are not accepting new volunteers at this time, the hold is temporary.

Serial: Season 1

If you haven’t yet listened to Season 1 of Serial, now would be a good time. Serial stands as a titan amongst the podcast boom of recent years, and it’s for a good reason. Sadie‘s podcast The Girls follows the format that Serial made iconic – so listening to the original story conveyed by Sarah Koenig enables you to see the way in which Courtney Summers uses the Serial format to her advantage in order to tell the story she wants to tell.

Traplines by Eden Robinson

A collection of three short stories and one novella, Traplines is an excellent and somewhat harrowing look at four different teenagers living in the remote reaches of Canada. The book was award-winning Haisla/Heiltsuk author Eden Robinson’s debut in 1995, and she has followed it since with books such as Monkey Beach and Son of a Trickster.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Although I haven’t yet had time to read this book, its summary suggests it might be a good book to read next if you want to stay in a similar headspace. Also, the Goodreads rating is excellent! To quote the official synopsis: Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone. As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Another book I haven’t had time to read, but with a stellar Goodreads rating and a summary that promises further exploration of the ways in which teenagers on the margin of society for whatever reason can slip away and become lost, even when they have people who care about them. To quote the official synopsis: When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. […] Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian–the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

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