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 the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the "normal" life of school, clothes and boys. Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away 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 a riveting mix of psychological tension and page-turning mystery that asks profound questions about family, truth and love.
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Even days after finishing IF YOU FIND ME, I find it difficult to figure out how exactly I feel about this novel. It's at once challenging and heartbreaking and an important story for anyone to read.
There are many elements that give this story its heart, but I always find myself gravitating back to the relationship between Carey and her little sister Janessa. Every page, every action both sisters take just reinforces the strength of their bond. These sisters have protected each other and saved each other in so many ways. Their bond is profound and beautiful and simply put, true love.
Then there's Carey's own journey as she navigates an unfamiliar world, struggling to find her place in a new family she doesn't know and a school she doesn't understand. My heart ached for her as she put her sister's needs before her own, even when they're finally safe and protected. Her arc is a powerful one, one where she finally faces a terrible truth and never loses her strength.
Serious issues are dealt with in this novel: kidnapping, rape, abuse, and drugs. I felt that the way the author dealt with these issues was both realistic and insightful.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The one relationship that didn't ring true to me was between Carey and her childhood friend, Ryan. I felt that it jumped too quickly into romantic territory after all the years they spent apart and considering everything that Carey's been through. I felt that their affection for each other was very real, but I needed more time for the relationship to develop (which I'm sure it would have given time after the novel ends).
The Final Verdict:
IF YOU FIND ME is an aching, haunting story about the finding a way to heal and the saving, unbreakable power of love.
I finished reading over an hour ago, and I still don't know how to sum up my thoughts. IF YOU FIND ME is at once heartbreaking, compelling, insightful, and achingly beautiful. The story wrapped around me from the first page and wouldn't let me go, even when I was forced to set the book aside for things like sleep and food. This is one of those rare books that will claim a corner of my heart forever.
I'll start with the most compelling aspect of the story: the narrator Carey. Kidnapped at a young age and raised in the woods by her drug addict mother, Carey is both wise beyond her years and crushingly naive. Her voice is a lyrical combination of backwoods Tennessee mountain and old English poet, courtesy of the textbooks her mother would sometimes pick up from garage sales and bring back to Carey. The prose is lyrical and lovely and sprinkled with unusual metaphors that bring both Carey and the world of the story to life.
The characters that populate the book are all nuanced. There are no cookie cutter characters here. Every interaction had an air of authenticity about it. Family ties, even those that are strained and need time to heal, are both lovingly and realistically depicted. There's a wealth of pain locked inside of Carey and her little sister, and the author wisely offers no easy answers. No sudden solutions that dissolve years of neglect and abuse and turn the girls into "normal" kids overnight. Instead, the road to healing is hard. Sometimes harder than the road they took to become broken. The process hurts not just Carey and Janessa, but the other characters as well. Kudos to the author for approaching mental health, healing, and abuse with careful insight and wisdom.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Absolutely nothing. This book swallowed me whole from the moment I started reading.
I want to be clear that the way this book handles abuse and neglect, and the subsequent struggle to heal, is something I feel every reader could benefit from reading. The lovely prose and compelling storyline make it an enjoyable journey. As a survivor of abuse myself, I want to personally place this book in the hand of every single girl like me. At the same time, I feel it only fair to mention that there are two or three paragraphs (and one scene) that might be triggers for abuse survivors. I found all of it to be handled with care and delicacy, but readers who are especially sensitive may feel otherwise.
With lyrical prose and expert story-telling, IF YOU FIND ME is a hauntingly beautiful look at love, true self identity, and what it takes to heal.
This book is the best I had read in quite a while. It is mindblowing. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph will echo in the reader's head.
Carey... The main character who is the victim with a lot of dark secrets. She is the one narrating the book. Carey gives a little information one bit at a time. It's also as if she is afraid of what the reader might think of her. Carey is a perfectly balanced character. She is light and kind and protective. But she is also dark, shameful, and full of guilt. She balances all the responsibilities her mother gave her. She is badass. (She could fire a shotgun. Badass, for sure.) Carey has a unique view of the world. She believes that a certain of group of people are like that, but they are not. She slowly learns that there are good people in the world. Not everyone is as horrible as she thinks. Carey is slow to trust people because of the time she spent in the woods. Carey's big secret was dark, yet Carey doesn't realize that her secret isn't really dark at all. She is just guilty, but it isn't her fault. Carey, like a lot of women in the world, is slow to forgive things. Carey is such a complex character with a lot of depth like the Pacific Ocean. And she is only fourteen years old. Totally like a huntress.
Jenessa... Carey's sister (biological). Who couldn't fall in love with a girl like Jennessa? She is so adorable. Jenessa is six years old. She seems much more mature than how old she really is. I wish there are more six year olds like her. The world of six years old will suddenly be a whole lot more cuter! Jenessa is selectively mute. The why question? Because of Carey's dark secret.
Del... Carey's other sister (by marriage). And evil stepsister. I love how her attitude change throughout the book. When Carey discovers her sister's dirty secrets, Carey and her stepsister are a little closer to each other. They are friendlier. I love the character change.
The plot was good. The twists and turns can make the reader's jaw drop all the way to the ground. Some of it was just outrageous in a good way, of course. Many of it was shocking. Other twists and turns, you'll have to put the book down just to catch your breath because the twists/turns were...shocking and mindblowing and... Just WOW!
I mentioned that Carey drops a little of her past bit by bit right? Every little word or sentence or even paragraph will echo in the reader's mind until they can process it. Actually, even if the reader can process it, the words will echo for a very long time. The darkest secret was so dark that I shut the book and didn't start reading it again for a long time.
I love all these little references to Winnie the Pooh, Emily Dickinson, and other famous poets. These little references totally helped me understand the story. The little sections of poems and references to Winnie the Pooh somehow made the book a little more realistic.
SPOILERS (Skip this section if you didn't read this book)
1) Carey's darkest secret:
She killed a man. With her shotgun. Because he was a threat to Jenessa and Carey. He wanted money and Carey's mother.
2) Jenessa will start talking again.
3) Del's secret:
She is sleeping with some boy in her school. Del's a Sophomore.
4) Carey and Jenessa attacked.
This book's rating is a five out of five.
I felt in love with the story right away because of Carey's courage and loyalty; I could not put it down. The writing was absolutely gorgeous. The best part of this book is the strong, unbreakable and breathtaking sisterly bond between Carey and Jenessa. I love how there relationship develops and becomes more power with each passing page. This story will make you want to protest Carey and Ness from all the harm and suffering they endured. This book will never leave my heart, I will always remember how strong Carey and Ness were. I am so glad I won this book in the first reads giveaway.Such a uplifting story that makes love and family the most important theme in the story. I wish Murdoch makes a sequel; I want to know what happens to Carey after her secret is revealed. It was a special story with lots of love put into. 5 stars
I love how Murdoch maintained few characters and avoided a circus out of it. It was more believable because of Carey's background. The way each scenes rolled out was well-paced. It built suspense and makes you wanna read faster but at the same time, I felt like I wanna be suspended in time and slowly take it all in. It contributed to the right emotion I felt while I was reading Carey's confession.
The characters were amazingly written. I loved each of them, even Delaney! Among all of them, my favourite would be Melissa. I have read tons of books, fairy tales even, and step-mothers don't have a clean record but Melissa was so nice and motherly. She makes me wanna curl up beside my mother and make her read to me some stories.
Jenessa's vulnerability is heart-wrenching. If this was a movie, I'm pretty sure you'd see it in their eyes how they lost they were. Carey too. She acts tough and fearless for the sake of her sister but underneath it is a girl who's afraid and clueless on what to do next.
This is story will break your heart, but you'll love it.
In a sentence, If You Find Me is about two sisters’ reintegration into society after spending several years living in a camper in the woods. The story is simple. But I’ve oftentimes found that the most simple stories carry the strongest weight. For me, this was a book about relationships. Sibling relationships, parent-child relationships, friendships. One the topic of relationships, I can only say “bravo!”
The book is told in first-person from fourteen-year-old Carey’s perspective. As the elder of the two sisters, Carey has functioned as a parent for her sister Nessa for years. Carey has lived in the woods for over ten years, and with only her meth-addict mother and her junkie friends as a point of contact to the outside world, her perspective is understandably skewed. She views her newfound father with suspicion, her ideas of family and (in particular) sexuality are skewed, and she acts more like a middle-aged parent than a teen girl. Her gradual adjustment to “normal” life was rewarding and heartwarming.
One thing that YA fiction needs to see more of, in my opinion, is nice people. Genuine, caring people who try their best to do the right thing and make other people comfortable. I’d heard that If You Find Me was populated by just such characters, but I didn’t believe it until I was a hundred pages in, ready to strangle-hug every single person in Carey’s life. There were no bad guys in this book, and it was such a wonderful change of pace. From Carey’s new family to the kids at school, everyone was so nice. Even Carey’s stepsister, who started off nasty, ended up showing a soft side. I loved watching all these people interact with each other, find new footing, and resolve the issues of the past. It was so wonderful to watch.
Sadly, as much as I’d like to say If You Find Me was perfect, it wasn’t for me. As much as I adored the characters and the story, it felt like there was something missing. Some touch of emotion, depth to secondary characters, loose threads. I can’t say for sure. I wish I did know. That missing piece, however, did not affect my overall enjoyment of the book at all, and I would hate to drive anyone away from this book because of it—because this book is ultimately very fulfilling.
I’m going to have to thank everyone for pushing this book into a place where I could notice it. Emily Murdoch is a debut author to watch out for, and If You Find Me was absolutely fantastic. I think this is a great book for those in search of issue books that don’t stomp on your heart and smush it to pieces—the emotion is there, but it’s much more joyful and bright than is typical of realistic fiction. I found this book to be authentic and touching.
If You Find Me is about two young girls Carey, and her little sister Janessa who live with their mother in a camper in the woods. But after awhile Joelle their mother abandons them which means the two girls are left to fend for themselves in the woods in the middle of the winter. Luckily though Carey’s dad and a social worker finally finds them and this is where we start off in the book.
When I started the book I was a little confused by what was going on in the beginning but as the book went on it got clearer. We start of seeing these two young girls bond and it was a great thing to see. Most sisters have some type of close bond but these two had the greatest bond I’ve ever seen between two sisters, and yes the reason why they have such a strong bond is unfortunate but it was still beautiful to see.
Carey is a really strong character and I said this many times while reading she is really a character that people should look up to. No matter what was happening she was always thinking about her younger sister first making sure she was okay and safe and I loved that about her. I absolutely loved Janessa’s character she was the sweetest little girl ever! She always made me smile while reading!
One of the only things that I didn’t really like were sometimes in the book Carey would go off into her own little world. Sometimes it’s fun to be inside someone else’s head to see what there thinking but it just seemed like we were in her head way too much sometimes all the thoughts weren’t needed but this did not take away too much for me I still loved the book.
This happens to be this authors debut young adult book and I have to say that I definitely do want to read everything she writes because I fell in love with this book! I kind of wish there was a second book so I could see how the two sisters get along with their new parents and Delaney. In the end it gets a 5 out of 5 stars I definitely recommend this book to anyone it was fantastic!
Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Cover Impressions: The cover is not particularly attractive and I don't feel it will stand out on a shelf. This is unfortunate, because the story that is held within it's pages would never blend in and deserves to be highlighted appropriately.
The Gist: As a child, Carey was spirited away by her meth addicted mother to a camper in the woods. Suffering abuse, mal-nutrition and the ever-aching cold, she manages to carve out an existance for herself and her sister, Jenessa. When two strangers enter the woods and claim that their mother has left them for good, the two girls are brought back to society and must learn a whole new way of life. As the girls attempt to put the past behind them, Carey finds she cannot escape not only what was done to her, but the horrific things that she has done.
In If You Find Me, we are introduced to Carey and Janessa. Carey has spent most of her life attempting to survive in the most awful of circumstances and raising Janessa in the absence of their mother. Carey has one of the most incredible voices that I have encountered in quite a while. As the narrator, Carey's speech patterns are authentic, using colloquialisms and speech patterns, without becoming gimmicky and distracting. Her sister also plays a very important role in the narrative. Neglected and suffering from selective mute-ism, Janessa still manages to steal the hearts of everyone that she encounters - readers included. Though, I must admit, I found it a little hard to believe that a child born and raised in the woods would not find this new world at least a little overwhelming. Rounding out the cast are Carey's father, his wife, Melissa and her daughter, Delaney. The relationships of the entire family are well written and realistic. Carey and Delaney certainly do not get along right away and there are some moments where I wanted to strangle the spoiled princess, but, eventually, we do get a glimpse of the situation through Delaney's eyes and are able to see how Carey's kidnapping has impacted the lives of all of those left behind.
Carey and Janessa's story is a heartbreaking one that is often difficult to read. Having had a child, I find these books hit me much harder now than they ever did before. They also remind me to think about the secret struggles that my own students might be dealing with at home. The book begins with the girls "rescue" and their history is only revealed through references and flashbacks. I found this style very effective as it starkly compares the struggles of Carey's new life (trying to fit it, bullying and homesickness) with those from her old life. I was very glad that the author chose to portray Carey's longing for the woods and her desire to run back there as a result of the human condition to find beauty in almost any situation and the fact that it was the only home Carey had known for such a long period of her life.
If You Find Me is not an easy read, but it is one worth the effort. If you are considering it for a younger audience, please take note below - this novel contains some disturbing descriptions of child abuse and rape and needs to be read with a certain level of maturity.
Age: 16 and up
Sex: Kissing, Sex between teenagers
Violence: Child Abuse (physical, emotional and sexual), Neglect, Kidnapping, Rape, Gunplay.
Inappropriate Language: Yes
Substance Use/Abuse: Meth use, Underage Drinking, Smoking
The book is not perfect by any means. The romance was a bit awkward and just a little too smooth (and perhaps even unnecessary) for my liking but that was a minor issue. Everything else though, was absolutely amazing.
I am always wary of realistic novels because they often deal with difficult subjects that I usually dive into the fiction world to avoid. The themes are dark and pain is a prerequisite. They call it “problem novels” in some circles (usually accompanied by a sneer or an unflattering twist of the lips). What made If You Find Me stand out for me was not just the premise but how completely Murdoch was able to immerse herself in Carey’s voice and world. World building, as my writing professor pointed out, is not just limited to fantasy. It is an essential part of any story whether it be set in a fantastic world or the real one. Carey’s voice never wavers, never slips – it is always Carey with her flaws, hesitations and thousand and one issues.
The other thing that impressed the hell out of me was Murdoch’s use of “dialect” to separate Carey and create her as an outsider in her community. It is so gracefully done without any explicit narrative necessary to paint Carey as different. All she needs to do is think in the way (in the language) that comes naturally to her and the reader will see her as separate and distinct. Very well done.
Another beautiful aspect of this novel was the relationship between the two sisters. It was heart wrenching and heartwarming. Their interactions served to speak volumes about their characters without actually saying anything. Even the resident mean girl has a story and motivation and their relationship is not black and white but rather complex and layered.
Also refreshing is the binary portrayal of parents in this novel. The mother is beyond horrible and there were moments when I was choked by grief or anger or both at the atrocious things Carey’s mother did to them. The way Carey’s father is portrayed is masterful. First the reader approaches him with the same distrust and caution Carey does and then, gradually, as Carey warms to him so do the readers. Kinda like sitting in the dark just before dawn and watching the sun come up and slowly illuminate everything.
I couldn’t understand the purpose of making Carey beautiful. Is there some kind of subtext that I am not getting or is it to say that beautiful things and people emerge from horrible surroundings and people? I am not sure. I could come up with a dozen other explanations but I am just going to let it go without thinking too much about it. The ending is beautiful but it did make me feel a bit anxious because I am not sure what happens to Carey and I need her to have a happy ending. Wendy told me that the paperback copy will have an epilogue that spells things out but that will be a long wait unless the author takes pity on us and release it as an e-copy.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend this title. Grab a box of tissues, a cup of tea and snuggle up. It might make your list of best books of the year. I know it made mine.