Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

40820097Verdict: My heart hurts.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: YA Thriller

Published by MacMillan Audio, October 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. And an ending you won’t be able to stop talking about.

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.

This book broke my heart. I listened to the ending of this walking to the garage to pick up my car. And I had to wait around a corner from it to gather my feelings and stop crying. Now, I am famously easy to cry but I don’t usually do it outside, so this really does speak to how hard this book hit me.

This book follows two perspectives, that of Sadie whose sister has been killed and who is single-minded in her pursuit of the murderer, and that of the podcast The Girls, where West McCray is trying to figure out what exactly happened to Sadie after she went missing. These dual perspectives are the book biggest strength and listening to the audio version of this is something I highly, highly recommend. It is produced with a full-cast and impeccably done so. As a result, for me the podcast element worked exceedingly well and I always wanted to follow this part of the narrative. Sadie’s narration is brittle and broken and full of spiteful strength, which I appreciated but also made for a stressful listening experience (and I don’t always deal well with stressful). Her life is on a collision course with something awful, you can just tell, and the loss of her sister is only the newest of a whole string of horrible events.

I haven’t read very many young adult novels this year but this one I can wholeheartedly recommend. It is compulsively readable, incredibly heartbreaking, and important. Courtney Summers manages to tell a great story while also keeping her eyes on the climate that makes these crimes against girls possible. She shows great restraint in never letting the political core overshadow the storytelling, but the core makes her book all that more impressive.

Review: The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

38206879Verdict: Fast-paced, fun, but slightly lacklustre.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller

Published by Random House, Ebury Publishing, July 12th, 2018

Find it on Goodreads.

Have you ever played two truths and a lie?

Emma has. Her first summer away from home, she learned how to play the game. And she learned how to lie.

Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned . . .

Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime.

Because Emma’s innocence might be the biggest lie of all…

I had a lot of fun reading this, and fun was really what I needed. I read around 250 pages in one sitting (something I rarely do); I also went to bed way too late because I just needed to know how this one ends. But, this book really does not hold up to scrutiny and there were a couple of things that did not work for me.

When Emma was 13-years old and spending her summer at a camp for rich kids, her three roommates disappear. Now, 15 years later, Emma is a painter who has been painting and then painting over her friends for years, when she is invited back to the newly re-opened camp. Hoping for closure she accepts the invitation, but things might not be as idyllic as they seem.

I highly enjoyed the dual timelines (this is something I often adore) and thought Riley Sager brilliantly used this to develop his story. I did however grow increasingly annoyed at the way Emma withholds information from the reader. This is difficult to achieve in first person narration and here it did not work for me. Another thing that annoyed me about the narrative voice is the way in which people, especially women, are described. Emma is 28 and talks about herself and other women in the story as both old and spent, which, you know, grated. Especially when contrasted with the way the only significant male figure in the story is described: because obviously he just got hotter. While I understand why Emma might project her self-loathing onto her looks, I don’t buy that she would think this way about other women. Speaking of self-loathing – I also thought Emma’s guilt was maybe a bit over the top because, I mean, she was 13 when everything happened. The way people kept holding her behaviour as a kid over her head did feel a bit unneccessary.

In general I thought some of the characterization worked a lot better in the past than in the present. I thought Emma’s relationship to Vivian (one of the girls who disappeared in the past) was done excedingly well. I had a very similar friendship as a teenager: my best friend was both the best and the worst person possible for me. When she wanted, spending time with her felt radiant, she was funny and brilliant and unbelievably charismatic (I used to half-joke that I have never met a boy who didn’t fall in love with her – something that wasn’t as funny when she set her eyes on somebody I quite fancied – this happened more than once), we had so much fun. But, and here she is similar to Vivian, she could also be cold and uncaring. Riley Sager captured this part of (some) teenage friendships so unbelievably well that in contrast the weird mirroring with the girls in the present really did not work for me at all.

The book was well-written in a way that I just flew through. I could picture the camp perfectly and got a great sense of place and mood. I also enjoyed the mystery side to the story, for the most part. I did think that a couple of developments were a bit too convenient but overall, I did enjoyed my time with the book.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Ebury Publishing in exchange for an honest review.