Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
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.
There are really only two words I need to describe this book: gritty and stunning. When I requested this book last year on NetGalley (yes, I know, I’m horrible at time management when it comes to ARCs), I knew it would be good, but I didn’t know it would be that good. Out of all the debuts I’ve read this year, If You Find Me is probably one of my favorites. It’s also probably one of the most unique books I’ve read this year as well.
For me, the only reasons this book didn’t make five stars is because of certain plausibility issues and because I wish Carey’s music had been a bigger part of the book. I found it hard to believe Carey would speak the way she did when she and her sister both managed to skip a grade in school, though of course someone’s dialect isn’t an indication of their intelligence. I liked Carey’s voice because it was edgy and different, but for some reason I doubted it a few times along the way.
Other than those two things, If You Find Me was amazing. Murdoch makes Carey and Janessa’s lives in the woods so vivid and painful to read and does the same with their new lives with their father. Carey’s journey is both frightening and beautiful, and the strength she shows throughout the story is truly inspiring. Murdoch does a great job portraying Carey’s courage and vulnerability, even if it’s sometimes uncomfortable to watch.
In short, If You Find Me is both heartbreaking and uplifting, and definitely marks Emily Murdoch as an author to watch.