If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch
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.
Review: It took me a long time to write this review because I have mixed feelings about this book. I think I wanted to like it more than I actually did.
Carey and her younger sister have spent ten years living in the woods with their drug-addicted mother. After their mother disappears, they are sent to live with their father. Carey must then deal with a new family, high school, and all the lies that her mother told her over the past ten years.
I don’t think a book has ever hooked me so quickly. Within a few pages, I was totally invested in the story. The main characters and their lifestyle are so interesting that I flew through the beginning of the book. The writing is stunning (despite a few clunky metaphors), and the narrator, Carey, has a very strong and unique voice. I can feel her passion when she describes the woods that she loves.
Family is a big element of this story. Carey’s stepmother is my favorite character. She’s very patient, loving, and understanding. All children deserve a parent like her, and I’m glad that she has such a big part in the book. A lot of YA books lack a good adult role model, so I was happy to find one in this story.
My issue with the book is that it’s predictable and not very believable. Carey has a secret that is hinted at through the entire novel. As soon as she mentioned that she had a secret, I guessed what it was. When the big reveal happened at the end, my reaction was, “Meh, I knew that 200 pages ago.” It was a little disappointing.
I also had a hard time believing the story. Carey moves to the woods when she is five years old and spends ten years of her life there. She has a few books, a violin, and very little contact with the outside world. Her mother is rarely around. But, somehow I’m expected to believe that Carey is super-model beautiful, a violin prodigy, and two grade-levels ahead of other kids her age. How did she teach herself without help or good resources? How did a five-year-old survive alone in the woods without doing any permanent damage to her body?
The plot works out a little too conveniently for my tastes. I think this book would have benefited from being longer so that the relationships could have been explored in more depth. For example: Carey’s little sister adjusts to family life pretty much immediately; the most popular boy in school falls in insta-love with Carey; and the issues between Carey and her stepsister are resolved with one conversation. I just didn’t believe everything could happen so easily.
If you’re looking for a beautifully written feel-good story, then this book is definitely for you, but you have to be willing to overlook a few believability issues.