Book Club Questions: Sadie by Courtney Summers

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.

Both of us were pretty blown away by this novel. The way in which the story is told – podcast transcripts alternating with first-person narration – could have been absolutely awkward and clunky in the hands of a lesser author, but Courtney Summers’ subtle hand and complex approach to character results in a novel that is a simple and quiet masterpiece.

Although the book is touted as a thriller in its marketing, I would disagree. It’s certainly a page-turner, as many YA novels are (readability being a thing that YA authors tend to strive for, for some reason), but to me “thriller” connotes a sense of cheapness, of base tricks employed to keep my interest going until the last page. Sadie is remarkable for its respect of its subject matter, and for the way in which it makes us confront our reliance on established narratives to explain away the people who get lost in the margins of our world.

Discussion questions below the cut!

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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.

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