I received this book for free from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 26th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
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A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.
Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
A deep and emotional journey into the lives of two very special girls, If You Find Me is a wonderfully inspiring story that brings us past the unimaginable horror it inhibits and makes it about hope instead, about second chances.
We meet Carey and Jenessa who are living–or surviving–in their mama’s old camper in the woods. This immediately captured both my heart and rapt interest, seeing two very young girls having to fend for themselves in such cruel ways. I could see from the start how much Carey had matured way beyond her years, caring for her sister more than any mother for her child. This brought me so very close to her. She quickly wedged herself right into my sympathizing heart. Easily, I could feel the deep bond these two girls shared. A sisterly bond that is so powerfully vivid I could feel the love through these pages, almost palpable. Love — a sparse guest in their grim home. But, it is their home, for better or worse, and it’s all they know of this harsh world.
When Carey and Jenessa are introduced to society, I felt as elated at the prospect of their discoveries, as I felt the longing for their woods, their home. Baffling, yes, but no matter how terrible, it was the only life they knew; being just the two of them for such a long time. It’s an unfathomable situation that Murdoch brings into play in this novel. We learn bit by bit just how terrible the girls had it in the woods, some of it is truly horrifying, leading up to the event that caused her sister to stop talking altogether. The book as a whole, though, is not about the horror, but instead it’s filled with an incredible amount of inspiration and joy. Joy for their new-found happiness. Joy for their potential. Joy for finally getting what they both deserve; a home, a family, love, not to mention food and clean clothes. What’s most inspiring isn’t the story itself, but the characters inhabiting it. Carey is old enough to realize the true horror of their time in the woods, yet she remains strong and brave for her sister. This doesn’t mean she’s not damaged and dealing with the psychological consequences of such a childhood, but how she goes about it is admirable. She faces it head on, faking it until she makes it! Anything for Jenessa. While there exists an aura of mystery, this is not a novel filled with action or suspense; it’s a gorgeously written story about these two girls who are learning to move on from a cruel, remorseless past into a life that is deliciously normal. Crushes, school, friends, parties; a world stolen from them, slowly being patched up and returned.
Yes there are crushes, there are parties, friends, school, burgers and fries, heck, even toilets! Little things in life we often take for granted. And in this book, it all has heart. From the obvious emotional distresses, to the light moments and little things, to each perfectly flawed character–even the step-sister who’s acting like spoiled bitch–every single part of this book is meticulously crafted with purpose, and brought to life with the most flawless of touches. Pixie, the quirky friend, for example, is an absolute light at the end of the tunnel for Carey. She radiates with such kindness; her parts in the book are aglow! Then we have a particularly sweet boy with whom Carey becomes fond of, soon discovering things about him that make him a much bigger part of the story. Still, the romance is kept light, almost non existent, but however small, it’s not without substance and purpose.
Tragic and heartbreaking, If You Find Me is a magnificently told story about a young girl and her sister against the world, finding life and love where they never knew they had any. This is one I could see winning awards, even becoming a classic, for its beautiful prose and stunning storytelling. I will be recommending this gem for years to come!
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