Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

If You Find Me by 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.

If You Find Me is gripping story about abandonment and abuse. When Carey and Jenessa are discovered living in squalor in the backwoods of Tennessee, they’re sent to live with Carey’s father, stepmother, and stepsister Delaney.

Carey only has vague memories of the outside world, having been kidnapped by her mother when she was young, and Nessa has never lived anywhere other than the woods. Although there are problems (or there would be no book), they adjust fairly easily to their new life. Children are adaptable so I’m not too surprised that Nessa has an easier time than Carey, but I feel like they should be (and would be) sent to therapy. There are some flashbacks in the book that are abruptly placed. Talking with a counselor would be a more logical and natural way to reveal the information in the flashbacks, and it would give Carey more support, something she desperately needs.

After everything she experienced in the woods, I think Carey would be a little more cautious around people and would have more trouble fitting in. There’s some interference from Delaney, but for the most part it seems like she doesn’t fit in because she doesn’t even try. She doesn’t talk to many people but she’s soon in love with a boy from school. I can’t decide if this is a case of instalove or if Carey’s just latching onto someone who’s being nice to her. Either way, I’m not that interested in the relationship between Carey and Ryan. I do like Carey’s friend Pixie, however. As a twelve-year-old high school sophomore, she knows what it’s like to be different.

I expected and would have liked to see even more conflict between Delaney and Carey than we get. Delaney is bit inconsistent. She obviously doesn’t want a stepsister close to her in age, but she doesn’t actually do much against her. The Mean Girl is usually a little more, well, mean.

The best part of the book is the relationship between Carey and Nessa. Carey has been more a mother to her sister than their actual mother has, and with the move she has to learn to let others take over the parental roles. I’m a little surprised at how easily she lets others take care of Nessa, actually. I expected Carey to be fiercely protective of her sister, which she is, and to find it harder to accept the help of others.

There are a few things about Carey that are too good to be true: she taught herself from textbooks her mother bought at yard sales and tests two grade levels above her age group, she’s a violin prodigy, and she’s extremely beautiful (which is mentioned A LOT). Put together, it’s all a little too much and makes her more Mary-Sueish than I would like.

The beginning of the book is written as Carey speaks:

But when you’re used to livin’ in the woods like Jenessa and me, with Mama gone to town for long stretches of the time, leavin’ you in charge of feedin’ a younger sister — nine years younger — with a stomach rumblin’ like a California earthquake, inventin’ new and interestin’ ways to fix beans becomes very important indeed.

I was afraid that the whole book would be written that way, and with her bad grammar, but it changes once Carey rejoins civilization. In dialogue, Carey sometimes struggles to correct her grammar, but the narration doesn’t reflect it.

I feel like this review is too negative. I really did enjoy this book, but the things I didn’t like about it stand out more than the things I did. Carey is a great character who has had to be strong her entire life. I don’t know if she would have made it if she hadn’t had Nessa as motivation.

3 1/2 stars
addtogoodreads

Comments

  1. After reading your review, I’m not quite sure this is the book for me. Even reading that little bit of odd country grammar has me cringing, even if it is authentic to the book. It really bothers me when characters are constantly told they are beautiful. It gets old very quickly in my opinion.

    I always feel like my reviews are too negative as well! Sometimes, like you, I really enjoyed a book, but the things that bothered me are more vivid than the things that were more positive.
    Arial recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #7My Profile

    • The basic story sounds like Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller. I’ve seen a lot of really good reviews of that one so it will be interesting to compare them when I read it. I was ready to put the book down if the whole thing was written that way, but I peeked ahead and saw that she started talking normally. I don’t like any kind of dialect in books. I used to read a lot of Scottish romances and I was always watching for it in them.
      Jenna recently posted…Something Wicked ReturnsMy Profile

  2. I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I saw it featured on The Midnight Garden. Did you read The Story Behind If You Find Me? Very touching post from the author, and if you thought the book itself was gripping….

    Is it just me or do you think there are a bunch of books about abandonment and abduction as of late? Trish Doller’s, this one, Pretty Girl-13, Lisa McMann’s – those are just the ones that come to the top of my mind from the past year or so.

    Although there are problems (or there would be no book), they adjust fairly easily to their new life. Children are adaptable so I’m not too surprised that Nessa has an easier time than Carey, but I feel like they should be (and would be) sent to therapy.” <– I heard that the kids seemed to have too easy a time at school.

    Lol at your comment on the Mean Girl being meaner. I actually really dislike any inclusion of Mean Girls against the Girl MCs (because then the MG just seems like a flat character – her motivation never moving beyond jealousy or insecurity).

    "The best part of the book is the relationship between Carey and Nessa." <– I heard the same. And that's always appreciated in a YA novel, for me, because how many do you see with that deep of a relationship? People will laud bromances but sister relationships seem fewer in number, no?

    "There are a few things about Carey that are too good to be true: she taught herself from textbooks her mother bought at yard sales and tests two grade levels above her age group, she’s a violin prodigy, and she’s extremely beautiful (which is mentioned A LOT). Put together, it’s all a little too much and makes her more Mary-Sueish than I would like." <– This I did not know. No review I'd seen mentioned her beauty or violin part, though the textbooks (not the grade levels) were mentioned. I must admit, you're making me feel more cautious and like I didn't really get the full story before…

    No! I appreciate the points you mentioned, and honestly I too struggle sometimes with not talking more about the things that I disliked than liked. It's hard because you just want to explain why you didn't like it as much as everyone else.
    Christina @ Christina Reads YA recently posted…Christina Makes the Bookish Rounds 15My Profile

    • Yes, I read the story behind the book. I can’t remember how I got there but I read it after I finished the book. You’re right, there are a lot of books about abduction in the past year. I read Pretty Girl-13 and plan to read Trish Doller’s. I’ve heard that one is very good, so I’m looking forward to reading it, but it’s probably going to be awhile. Right now I’m reading for Halloween and in November I’ll be working on the Clean Out your E-reader Challenge.

      I know what you mean about the Mean Girl. I expected more meanness from her because she’s Carey’s stepsister, about the same age, and she makes it clear that she doesn’t want the intrusion in her family and school lives. And then she doesn’t do much. I think that relationship could have been played up a little more, and it would have contrasted well with Carey and Nessa’s relationship too.

      I found the comments about how beautiful Carey is interesting, because if you look at the cover, I wouldn’t have thought that. I mean, she’s not ugly but she wouldn’t stop traffic either. There is an explanation about why she’s so good at the violin, but I didn’t like the intellegence AND the violin AND the beauty. Like I said, it’s too much.

      Thanks for commenting! Your comments always make me think. 🙂
      Jenna recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: The OneMy Profile

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