Sadie Hunter is nineteen and missing. She left the Sparkling River Estates trailer park in Cold Creek, Colorado and the only clue is an abandoned car found in Fairfield. Where is she? On a revenge trip, hunting for the person who killed her thirteen-year-old sister, Mattie.
When podcast producer West McCray and his boss learn of Sadie’s disappearance, they know they have a story to tell and create a serial podcast called “The Girls.” While McCray conducts interviews and follows leads, Sadie follows her own leads, desperate to catch up and kill the man responsible.
Sadie alternates between a script of McCray’s podcast and Sadie’s personal narrative of her search for justice. In telling, she reveals painful details about her alcoholic and drug-addicted mother, Claire, who hooks up with a string of move-in boyfriends. She ignores Sadie, who develops a paralyzing stutter, and favors little Mattie. When Claire abandons her daughters, young Mattie is nearly crushed, and Sadie steps in. Determined to give Mattie a decent upbringing, Sadie drops out of high school to be around for her little sister. The sisters are close because, besides May Beth Foster, their surrogate grandmother and manager of the trailer park, they’re all they have. But by the time Mattie is thirteen, she’s resentful and rebellious, sure she can handle herself.
Sadie had done her best, but she was just a girl too. Now she wonders what more she could have done to protect her sister.
In her search, Sadie makes risky connections, but she’s ready for anything, with a switchblade in her pocket, vowing to carve her name into the killer’s soul. She’s not afraid and reasons,
…here’s the thing I tell myself to dull the sharp edges of everything that’s surely left to come: The worst has already happened.
She meets and befriends others, seeking information, but also getting a taste of the privileged life in Montgomery, Colorado. Sadie has only known hardship and neglect and at one point when she connects with a boy her age, she wonders,
why can’t I let myself be worth a moment’s tenderness?
Sadie’s narrative and the podcast reveal details about the sisters and advance at a similar pace, but from different angles, until they nearly intersect in Fairfield. By this point, the reader has the full dark story of the sisters’ childhood and Mattie’s death.
I enjoyed reading this fast-paced mystery. At times I wanted to pull Sadie out of the story and give her a good home and at other times I was right there with her, chasing after her sister’s killer. Sadie’s story is dark and heavy, but full of tender and raw feelings. Readers will be surprised and maybe unhappy with the story’s finish, best left alone in reviews. I was a little disappointed, yet I find myself thinking about Sadie days after I’ve finished, always a good sign of a book.
Sadie is the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult, which honors the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television.
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