Wednesday, November 6, 2013

REVIEW: IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch

Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Reviewed by: Books4Tomorrow
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5/5


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.


As a parent of a fourteen-year-old and five-year-old, almost the same ages as the two sisters in this book, this was a very difficult and heart-wrenching story for me to read. I was shocked at the cruelty and abuse Carey and Jenessa’s mother heaped on them. While reading, and right at the end again, I cried for so many reasons; one of it being about all the years father and daughter could’ve had together, lost because of the selfish actions of a so-called mother. This story – as far as it is removed from the reality I know – touched me on so many levels, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

This is honestly not a book for sensitive readers. The author doesn’t sugarcoat anything and themes such as drug abuse, child abuse, and sexual abuse are explored openly, but sensitively. Fifteen-year-old Carey and six-year-old Nessa are used to life in the woods, living with their meth addict mother – who would sometimes leave for weeks at a time – in a camper with the barest of necessities. It is not an easy life, as Carey more and more often has to fulfill the role of parent to Nessa when their mother isn’t around. Then one day out of the blue, Carey’s father and a social worker discovers the two girls out in the middle of nowhere, and takes them back to civilization to live with Carey’s father. Having lived in a camper in an eight-and-a-half-thousand-acre forest for so many years, adapting to life in a safe and stable environment proves difficult for Carey, especially with her new stepsister constantly making life unbearable for her. On top of all that, Carey and Nessa are suddenly also introduced to the things we take for granted, but which they only read about in books.

“I think of Saint Joseph and thank him for all of it—plentiful amounts of food, the miracle of electricity, inside flush toilets, clean, running water, bubbles for Jenessa, heat and blankets and the thick, plush towel that wraps around my body nearly twice, hanging down to my bony ankles.”

Cary also falls in love for the first time, and because I’m not a huge fan of romance, I appreciated that the author didn’t make it the main focus of Carey’s new life. The romance between Ryan and Carey is subtle, sweet, and there’s more of a purpose to it in the story line than it being a simple YA romance only. What stood out for me the most is how the author takes her time to tell us Carey and Jenessa’s story of their life in the woods through snippets and back flashes as Carey’s memories resurface. She also eases the reader alongside these two phenomenal characters into their new lives and explores their development and adjustment in their new home and school from every angle. The big twist at the end about “the white-star night” I saw coming a mile away, and it was easy to guess what the big reveal was going to be, but, it didn’t make it any less heartbreaking or shocking.

If You Find Me is a story about what happened to two vulnerable, defenseless girls while growing up, and how they were saved by a parent who never gave up and who never stopped hoping, or searching for his daughter. I have no doubt in my mind that somewhere in this world, such cruel child abuse and neglect are happening as I write this. Emily Murdoch has taken this sad and appalling reality and used sympathetic, but brutally honest prose to weave it into a tale that refuses to let go of the reader before getting to the last page. It feels as though I made this journey at Carey’s side, and it has opened my eyes to so many things no child should suffer, but which unfortunately remains a reality. I gave both my kids an extra hug after I finished this book. I highly recommend If You Find Me to anyone looking for a good-cry read. Trust me, this book is definitely worth your time.   


If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch has 974 reviews on Goodreads. Read it here.



Emily is a writer, a poet, and a lover of books. There's never a time she's without a book. Her debut novel, IF YOU FIND ME, Released in 2013 through St. Martin's Griffin and Orion/Indigo UK.

IF YOU FIND ME has earned starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus and School Library Journal, was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice for June 2013, has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards, Best Books of 2013 in the Best Debut and Best Young Adult Fiction categories, and is an official nominee for YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Readers list of 2013.

IF YOU FIND ME is also available in Dutch, German, Spanish, simple Chinese, Italian and Korean.

Look for Emily's next book, FORGET ME KNOTS, also through St. Martin's Press, in 2014/2015!

When she's not reading or writing, you'll find her caring for her horses, dogs and family on a ranch in rural Arizona, where the desert's tranquil beauty and rich wildlife often enter into her poetry and writing. 

Emily's other passion is saving equines from slaughter. She uses her writing to raise awareness of this inhumane practice, with the goal of ending the slaughter of America's equines through transport to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. She offers sanctuary to abused and slaughter-bound equines who dazzle her every day with their forgiving nature and gratitude in exchange for security, consistency, food and love. 

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Emily hopes her penchant for writing will do just that.

All-in-all, she's a lefty in a right-handed world, writing her way through life and smearing ink wherever she writes.


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1 comment:

Unknown said...

This sounds like it would be an incredibly emotional read.