By Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
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.
I read more books about kidnappings and Stockholm Syndrome from the end of 2012 and into the very beginning of 2013 than I think I have in the previous ten years combined, so I was particularly interested in this when I saw it. Most of what I read has featured older teens with some kind of ongoing contact with their kidnappers, none who were family. If You Find Me was about younger kids and began with parental abduction and I have to say, it blew every other story right out of the water. This was such a gripping journey for these girls that it’s one I won’t forget for a long time.
For all intents and purposes, all teenage Carey has known is barely scratching out a life in a disgusting box of a trailer in the middle of the woods with her mother and little sister Jenessa. There’s no school, barely ever any contact with other people and barely any food that she doesn’t forage for but she’s so inured to the situation, Carey doesn’t expect she’ll ever have anything else. Then after her mother disappears for months, a strange man and woman appear, claiming the girls have been abandoned, he’s their father and he’s taking them home.
I read this a bit ago but it’s been a hard review for me to write. As a mom, Carey and Nessa’s story had me twisted in knots – it was painful for me to let the characters tell their story and not feel like there was something I should or could have done. My parental instinct to do something was sitting up and yelling at me and that almost never happens when I read. I can hardly believe this is Murdoch’s first book.
For the obvious reasons, Carey and Nessa initially have a lot of trouble fitting in at their new home. They have a big house and hundreds of things to learn to fit in with people. Fortunately, their dad married a wonderful woman who pre-loved them before they even came home and was willing to help, especially initially with sweet Nessa.
I can’t say enough about how much I loved Carey. She was so incredibly strong, mostly for all of the saddest reasons. No fifteen year-old girl should have to do the things she did or be a mother to her little sister. She had the most beautiful bond with Nessa, it brought tears to my eyes more than once. Many times it looked like Nessa had run to Carey for comfort, but the sisters were obviously getting it from each other as they always had. When Nessa developed a bond with Melissa, Carey could have been jealous, but she was happy that her sister was finally becoming “normal.”
Murdoch added a step sister for the girls that I thought about dinging my grade for, but ultimately she didn’t weigh that much against the rest of the book. I expected any step sister suddenly dealing with the sudden return of two beloved girls who had been missing would feel some jealousy and anger, but Delaney was a classic over the top mean girl. Sure, she provided conflict, but in such a unique and well-crafted story, she felt completely out of place. I didn’t like her sudden change later in the story either. I had no idea why it happened, so I didn’t believe it. She was just a character that I could have done without.
The ending is shocking and I love Murdoch for going there with it. It suited the tone of the rest of the book – the desolation, pain, hope and fear – and while I saw it coming, my heart still lurched when Carey told her story. If You Find Me was such a revelation, Murdoch has gone on my must-buy list.
My Rating: A