Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Release date: March 26th, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Series: No
Source: won from Judith at Paperiot
Rating: Harrowing, touching, and gorgeously written.


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.

The story: If You Find Me is the type of book that must be read when you're in the right move. It's harsh and lyrical and gritty and beautiful all at the same time.If you're in the mood for something light, this isn't the right book for. If you want to read about the horrible effects of neglect and abuse and the strength it takes to hope and change, then I recommend checking out If You Find Me.

Fifteen-year-old Carey lives in a trailer in the woods with her six-year-old sister and her mentally ill and drug-addicted mother. Carey's whole life is the woods and her sister, Nessa. She lives in a shelter of neglect, entirely cut-off from the outside world and not really aware of how horribly mistreated she is. One day, a social worker and her long-lost father arrive. Just like that, Carey is whisked away from the only home she knows and plopped down in a culture that's foreign to her and living with a strange man she doesn't trust.

This book is beautiful and gut-wrenching. My heart would break over the tiniest things, particularly when Carey's ignorance would come through. Her father offer to take her and Jenessa out for hamburgers. Carey answers that she doesn't think they've ever eaten "handburgers", but she's sure they'd really like them. She finds it a near-miracle to actually own a coat that doesn't reek of cat pee. She's never encountered a whole room for your clothes before. Much of Carey's thoughts are formed in a wood dialect, but not the sort that bothers me, and she makes a conscious effort to "clean" her language so she won't be mocked.

Carey's journey is difficult and lovely to read. She knows, objectively, that she was mistreated in the woods, and yet she misses it anyway. She describes it in such visual, poetic terms, and she missed the "woods-brave" girl she was there, where she knew what to expect and how to handle things. Watching her adjust to this new, loud, confusing world was really heartbreaking. She misses the days  when her little sister, who doesn't speak, depended on her entirely. She doesn't feel like she fits in her father's home or in the real world, despite the fact that her father and stepmother were both lovely people who tried to help (that was nice to read about). 

One of the few aspects of this book that didn't work for me was the romance. Carey has been horribly abused in just about every way, and while it was sweet that Ryan was so... well, sweet, I just didn't really buy it. It was a bit quick and easy, and while I'm so glad that Carey has found someone she can trust, I felt it should have been a little more difficult for both of them. Carey had been through so much, and I'm not sure Ryan, who'd also been through a lot, really grasped that.

My other problem was with Delaney. She's Carey and Jenessa's stepsister, and is initially extremely resentful and hostile to Carey once Carey comes to live with them. While I understand Delaney's resentment-- she's used to being the only child, all of her parent's attention is being diverted to Carey and Jenessa, etc-- I felt Delaney was unrealistically vicious. She had a right to some of her anger, but the way she took it out on Carey just seemed impossibly cruel. Here is a fourteen-year-old girl who has lived in a trailer in the woods for ten years. The only adults she's seen in that time are her meth-addicted mother and sexually abusive strangers. She lived without electricity, raised her six-year-old sister, and doesn't know a single pop culture reference or even how to use a washing machine. She doesn't know what hamburgers or milkshakes are. Carey has led an absolutely horrendous life.

Not even the most spoiled of American teenagers would react with vitriol and mockery to such a situation. Delaney's complete and total mean-girl-ness just seemed over the top to me. I don't think a character who abandons an abused girl on her first day of high school in a world she is entirely unfamiliar with is redeemable. The story did a good job of making me sort of understand her, but it also wanted me to forgive her actions, which I could not. They were too much for me.

Despite those two issues, If You Find Me is a very powerful read with some stunning pieces of writing. This book has soul, if that makes sense; it really managed to connect to something inside me and make me think and feel.


  1. I loved this book so much! Seriously, it was beautiful and sad and heart wrenching. That last bit at the end, like seriously the last couple pages was just so pretty and gritty and perfect that it had me bawling! Great review!

  2. I absolutely loved this book. By the end of it, I was reduced to a sobbing,hyperventilating mess.

  3. Oh, this book. Really quite happy you liked it, Gillian! It's such a powerful, intense REAL story. One that I couldn't look away from for long, but agreed, you really do need to be in the right frame of mind to read it because it resonates like nothing else.

    I liked the subtle romance to Ryan and Carey. I felt like they were a beginning more than a be-all/end-all, and left sort of open - neither of them rushing into anything. But totally agreed on Delaney. She was such a witch! I didn't really ever feel for her, because she was so awful.

  4. This sounds a bit like Doller's new release Where the Stars Still Shine, at least in the fact that it's about another girl who had an abusive living situation with her mother and then finds herself hoisted into a world she doesn't understand. What sounds really appealing about this one, however, is that it sounds as though it focuses quite a bit on the relationship between the protagonist and her little sister. I love books that do focus on sibling relationships, and the general plot ensures that this relationship is going to be an interesting one. Those two qualms you pointed out both sound like things that would bother me as well, but it also sounds as though the good elements outweigh the bad. I hope I reach the same conclusion that you do about that. Great review!

  5. Awesome review sweetie. <3 Sigh. I loved this book so much. It was perfect. And so heartbreaking and sad and awful. Hih, I actually loved the romance :) But ohh, how I hated Delaney. Did not end up liking her. Sigh. Thank you for sharing <3

  6. Great review!
    I'll probably be reading this book since it sounds like a very different take from the usual contemporary themes!

  7. Ryan just came too easily. And it's like OF COURSE her best friend as a child is now the most-wanted guy in school and OF COURSE Carey is the hottest girl in the entire universe. I mean, whatever, fine. But just too easy, you know?

    Hmmm, I actually liked Delaney's role, though I think she could have used a better back story. Still, EVERYONE ELSE IN THE STORY was just way too idyllic in their reactions to Carey. It would have been better if it hadn't been packed all into Delaney, but better than everyone thinking she's the best and no one being uncomfortable.


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