If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: March 26th 2013
Synopsis: 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.
If You Find Me is a real gem. It’s honest and in-depth look on family, forgiveness, abuse, and healing is a stunning. And the haunting yet beautiful view the novel has of the world is full of unmistakable hope and impact. Emily Murdoch has touched my heart with her beautifully-made debut.
Carey can only remember the woods as her home. And she can only remember Janessa, her baby sister, and her mother as her family, her father is only a reason, the reason why she currently lives in the woods. Carey’s mother leaves the woods more frequently and longer, leaving Carey the only thing to help Janessa and herself survive. But one day Carey’s mother leaves and doesn’t come back. Instead, two unknown people visit the camper Carey resides in. What follows is a honest story about dealing with past abuse, forgiving, family, and finding out where your real home is.
The obvious care and love Murdoch put into this novel resulted in a heartfelt, hopeful story that is full of piercing emotion. Every event that Carey experiences during her new life is never unnecessary and packs a punch. Every interaction between characters, especially her new family, is natural and always has emotion in it. The looks into Carey’s life in the woods are often sad and heartwrenching, but sometimes have a beauty in them. The author’s depiction of emotion is top-notch.
An aspect of If You Find Me that really caught my eye was the unique prose. Murdoch captures the essence of the woods with her writing, while capturing the beauty of the feelings between the characters, the characters themselves, and the contemporary world with perfection. It’s delicate and fragile and genuine and powerful at the same time.
Carey is a character that, while being a bit of a Mary Sue, is unforgettable. Her strength and perseverance, caring for for and protecting her sister Nessa who is selectively mute, how she strongly lived her life in the woods and with a bipolar mother, and how she dealt with being thrown in a new life. And the way she looks at the world with wonder… She’s a downright admirable character that will really stay with you.
Delaney, Nessa, Melissa, Charlie, Pixie, Ryan and the other supporting characters fit right in with the story and beside Carey. They contribute much to the story as a whole and enhance it. Delaney first seems like a nasty person, but after further development, she becomes sympathetic and I felt that I understood her. Nessa is all sweetness, and Melissa and Charlie, Carey’s father, are caring, understanding parents that help Carey along on her journey. Pixie is a fun-loving, quirky new friend of Carey’s that I couldn’t help but love. And Ryan is absolutely adorable and holds a very important role in Carey’s life. Murdoch did fantastic with her supporting characters and I do love good supporting characters.
There are some triggering and dark themes featured in If You Find Me. Abandoning one’s children, abduction, abuse, among other thing. I believe that they were handled with great care and only make the novel even more thought provoking.
But despite all my gushing, If You Find Me isn’t a flawless debut, though it nearly is. The flashbacks could have been woven more tightly into the narrative, as they sometimes seemed out of place and disrupted the flow of things. But that is my only complaint in the sea of all the things I am gushing about.
If You Find Me is a novel with a really good heart at its core. Its honesty and meaning will stay with me, inside my heart. This story of a young girl’s journey is precious and deserves to be read and remembered by people, and I am glad that I got to be one of those people who did.