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If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Thursday, March 21, 2013

SYNOPSIS: 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.
REVIEW: I never expected to read a book like If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. The story of two girls who raised themselves in the woods thanks to their drug addict mother until they are rescued by Carey’s father and his family, If You Find Me is shocking, disturbing, and yet highly uplifting.
Through Carey’s point of view, we learn about the life in the woods—the endless beans, the disappearing mother, the wanting men—and the life at the Benskins—the endless food, the loving family, the comfortable beds. Carey’s narration is nothing but honest, even though she keeps a secret, a secret that explains why Jenessa doesn’t speak, with her until the very end.
Just as she does to every character in the novel, Jenessa captured my heart. She is quiet, sweet, and innocent. She loves reading Winnie the Pooh books, marvels at the children’s shows she watches on television, and absolutely loves princesses and the color pink. She has this adorable way of listening in on adult conversations when she appears to be completely distracted. She cares for the Benskin’s dog, Shorty, so much that she even saves his life.
The reactions the different characters have to Carey and Jenessa’s move were highly realistic. Carey, a full eight years older than Jenessa, has grown accustomed to life in the woods. It might never have been an ideal life, but she was able to find the good in it. So when her stars and smells and privacy are replaced by her own bedroom, a closet full of new clothes, and high school, Carey has some difficulty handling the changes. Jenessa, on the other hand, is immediately happy at the Benskin’s. The food, the comfort, the love—these things win her over.
The Benskins also have realistic reactions to the changes in their lives. Carey’s father is happy to finally have his daughter back, and he welcomes Jenessa like his own, even though he is not her biological father. Melissa loves Carey and Jenessa with all her heart; she is the kind of mother they always should have had. On the other hand, Delaney, Melissa’s daughter, is angry with Carey and Jenessa for taking her parents’ attention away from her. She allows this anger to control how she treats Carey at school, with nothing short of cruelty.
Thankfully, Carey’s school life is not controlled entirely by Delaney. The inclusion of two minor characters—one boy and one girl, one with a history and one entirely new face—gives Carey the friends she needs to survive in her new world.
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch does exactly what a book should do: it makes you take a step back and look at your life. And I strongly encourage you to read it.
Reviewed by: Stephanie
Rating: 4/5 DIAMONDS
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