Published: March 26th, 2013
If You Find Me
By: Emily Murdoch
St. Martin's Griffin
There are some things you can’t leave behind…
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.
Carey and her sister Jenessa have been living with their Mother for as long as they can remember, in a camper deep in the woods of a National Park. They have been neglected and abused, with Carey taking care of Jenessa mostly by herself. Than one day after their Mother has been gone for longer than ever before, a social worker and Carey's long lost Father come to get them. Carey and Jenessa are taken home with Carey's Dad and brought back into a confusing, new world full of things they don't understand. Both girls are forced to adjust to public school and normal life with their new Dad, Stepmom Melissa and jealous, angry stepsister Delany. But they are holding onto a secret that is causing them both pain and suffering, and has made Jenessa completely silent with it's harshness. Can they trust someone enough to let go of their old life and tell their heartbreaking secret?
This book absolutely broke my heart to pieces. Carey is only fifteen but has spent the last ten years living with her volatile, mentally unstable Mother and caring for her younger sister pretty much like her own child. The girls are both malnourished, socially ignorant and Carey has viewed her years of abuse as something that's just a fact of life. Watching Carey and Jenessa, who refuses to speak, try to understand and become part of the world around them is devastating. They have to get used to normal food after a unrelenting diet of beans, a family after only having each other and Carey especially has to face up to how the abuse of her Mom and a stream of others has changed her in unavoidable ways. My main complaint would be the ugly behavior of their new stepsister Delaney, who takes to Jenessa but immediately hates Carey and does everything she can to make her life difficult. Another thing that bothered me was the switch from friendship with Ryan, to romance. I felt like it didn't really fit with the story and was awkward for me as a reader (especially the scene where they interact at Carey's first-ever party). Just felt out of place in a story where the main focus is abuse, neglect, and trying to get past it. I loved Carey's friend Pixie, who has skipped a (couple) grades and feels out place. She has such a gigantic personality and becomes a person for Carey to hang onto when things get confusing or a little rough.
Carey's dialect was well-represented in the writing and I loved the fact that she eventually picked up her violin again, not letting all the bad things take away something beautiful from her for good. The constant way everyone is always telling Carey how 'beautiful' she is had me rolling my eyes and sighing. Why was that in any way necessary? Yeah, she's such a special person and has done some extraordinary things in the name of survival. So why the focus on her looks? That did irk me more than a little bit. But the transitions that Carey and Jenessa went through while trying to adjust were very realistic and well written. I didn't quite entirely guess what the big secret was but I had an idea and I wasn't really that far off. It didn't make it any less horrifying, but it wasn't as shocking as it could have been. I felt like the clues throughout the novel were definitely less than subtle. I liked the ending and overall it was a beautiful and haunting book that I'd recommend without hesitation!
VERDICT: 4.5/5 Stars
*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published March 26th, 2013.*