At my house, Thursday nights were reserved for another episode of Law & Order: SVU. Fridays, there was Dateline. Countless others played across my television screen over the years, but those two have always stuck out for me. The former, because I remember when I stopped watching it. I was just entering high school and every time I watched it, I started to feel uncomfortable. I began to realize how easily I could be one of the women in those stories. Dateline remains memorable because I still occasionally watch it, often relaying the shocking details in conversations later on, discussing all the terrible and horrific things that happened in the episode. Usually, these terrible and horrific things happen to women.
I've been wanting to read Sadie since before it had a title. I remember reading the rights announcement years ago and immediately texted my best friend about it. When I had the opportunity to read an early copy, thanks to a generous friend of mine, I jumped at the chance. I had waited all these years and I didn't want to wait a single moment longer.
Sadie isn't Dateline.
There are a number of reasons that Sadie doesn't fall into the same category as Dateline. But, one of the main difference, for me at least, was that in all my years of watching Dateline, it never once made me question my consumption of violence.
Sadie did that on page seven.
Sadie opens with West McCray on his podcast "The Girls" and we're introduced to Sadie's story, and that of her late sister Mattie's. As he is setting the scene of Mattie's death, West states that the "gruesome details...will not be a part of this show." I remember reaching that moment and pausing, thinking to myself "wait...they won't?" I had been bracing myself to read them, part of me anticipating just how horrible it was going to be. He continues, explaining that "its violence and brutality do not exist for your entertainment." It was like a slap in the face. Because wasn't that what I was just doing? Waiting for the violent death of a girl to be part of my entertainment. Anticipating its brutality in some sort of grim excitement?
It's hard to admit that you've been part of, and perpetuated, a system that uses violence against women as entertainment.
I thought I knew better.
Sadie made me question my role in this commodification of violence in just one. single. line. That's the power of a novel like this. I don't know what it says about me that it took a fictional portrayal of violence for me to truly question my role in this commodification. Maybe it's because I've always been able to see myself, see the world, more clearly in books. Maybe it's because I looked externally at how others viewed violence as entertainment, and didn't turn the lens on myself. Maybe it's because I never really had to think about it. In the end, it doesn't matter. In the end, this book reminded me of how insidious our society's obsession with dead girls, with violence can be. Even though I have talked openly and repeatedly about this obsession, I can still be a part of the system that perpetuates it. It was a sobering reminder that my learning is never done.
After I read Sadie, it took me a full week to talk to anyone about it. It wasn't because of this internal revelation, but rather, because I felt my words were not enough. I still don't think they are. I feel lucky yo have been able to read Courtney Summers books for so many years. To grow with them as a reader and a person. To have had them there for me to learn from.
I want to say Sadie is one of the best books I've ever read (and it is) but it's more than that. Sadie is compelling. It is devastating. It is unforgettable. It is unforgettable.
Sade is in stores September 4th, and you can pre-order it at any of the fine retailers below. I hope you do.
I grew up watching crime shows. I still watch them. But, I'll look at them through a new lens now. And I have Sadie, and Courtney Summers, to thank for that.
- Ciara (at Midnight)
Don't forget to check out the podcast "The Girls: Find Sadie" wherever you listen to podcasts!
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