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Book review by
Rachel Sarah, Common Sense Media
Sadie Book Poster Image
Raw thriller about a brutal crime and teen seeking justice.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teens will learn a great deal about growing up in poverty with a parent who's an addict. Readers can talk about Sadie's stutter. She struggles to talk to people, but she's very determined and more than capable of getting her point across.


Positive Messages

This is a story of survival. Messages about the power of sisterhood, digging for answers, standing up for those you love.  "... love is complicated, it's messy. It can inspire selflessness, selfishness, our greatest accomplishments and our hardest mistakes."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sadie is a model of unconditional love for her little sister and a strong-willed young woman in pursuit of justice.


The murder of Sadie's sister is described, along with scenes of attempted rape. References to flashbacks of sexual assault, childhood sex abuse, pedophilia.


Mentions of prostitution.


Strong language includes "f--k" and variations, "s--t," "bitch," "c--ksucker."


Brands mentioned include: Macmillan Publishers, Mountain Dew, Coke, Mercedes, Chevy, Ken doll.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking, drugs, addiction are major part of story. Mentions of smoking, underage drinking. Claire, Sadie's mother, is an addict. "She started drinking when she was twelve. At fifteen, she was into pot, cocaine. By eighteen, heroin."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sadie, by Courtney Summers, is a harrowing, intense, and sometimes difficult read about a teen girl seeking revenge for her sister's murder. It includes mature themes of rape, pedophilia, drug abuse, and sexual assault. There's frequent strong language (including "f--k" and its variations). Parents should be prepared to discuss child sexual abuse and drug addiction.

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What's the story?

This story follows SADIE, the 19-year-old daughter of a single mom and addict, whose 13-year-old sister, Mattie, has been found dead. Sadie practically raised her sister in the tiny town of Cold Creek, Colorado (population 800), and now she's determined to get revenge by finding the killer. The story alternates between Sadie's point of view and that of West McCray, a radio journalist who's working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America. He overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, and in his true-crime podcast series, he tracks his efforts to learn what happened to Sadie, even if she doesn't want to be found.

Is it any good?

This is not an easy read, but a very compelling one. In the era of the #MeToo movement, Sadie seems important, and reading it might open the door talk about sexual assault and abuse.

The format of the book takes some time to get used to, as it switches back and forth between Sadie's first-person narration and the podcast script, a journalistic account of the search for Sadie. But in the end, Sadie is a raw, gritty page-turner that tackles violence, abandonment, and addiction.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how sexual abuse is portrayed and dealt with in Sadie. Why is it important to read stories about sexual abuse, even if it's difficult at times?

  • What do you think about Sadie's devotion to her sister? How can revenge grow out of love? 

  • How does this book compare to other books you've read and movies you've seen that deal with addiction? Does it seem realistic?

Book details

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