Book Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

15793231Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Genre: YA Contemporary
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Goodreads, Amazon

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.

If you want me to tell you one characteristic of If You Find Me, then it’s this. It’s EMOTIONAL. This book is so freaking sad I practically cried from start to end. And it’s beautiful too. Sad and beautiful, and sad again.

Carey grew up in a broken-down camper in the middle of the woods, with her Mom and younger sister Jenessa. It’s clear from the start Carey’s Mom was mentally ill, or at least some of the time, and the girls struggled to survive, sometimes left alone for weeks on end. Their Mom disappears again, and this time around, longer than ever before. Carey grows worried something bad might’ve happened to her Mom. When she begins to suspect her Mom might never return, two strangers arrive at the spot, and even though they’re friendly, Carey doesn’t trust them. They take them away from the only home they’ve ever known. They go to live with their Dad and his new family, and they have to begin from scratch. They’ve never been to school, and are behind on nearly all subjects. Then there’s all those people, fancy restaurants, and all those things Carey and Jenessa aren’t used to. And most of all, they have to deal with the past and what happened the night Jenessa stopped talking.

This book was haunting. Beautiful. Amazing. I have trouble describing it because it was so darn good. Then why only four stars? Because whereas the drama was complex and interesting, it kind of lost its touch halfway through, and then picked it up again toward the end. Also, at the beginning when Carey and Jenessa first meet their Dad, the pace is slow and the dialogue a bit repetitive. The flashbacks weren’t always clear either, and sometimes made me lose the connection with the story. I struggled to keep reading halfway through, but then the emotions of Carey and Jenessa’s journey sucked me back in. However, this lowered the rating from a five stars to a solid four stars.

The best part about the book was Jenessa and Carey’s relationship, which is beautiful. I also liked how their Dad tried to make them feel at home, and his new wife did everything she could for them as well. Not all stepmoms are like that, but they aren’t all wicked either. I liked to see a nice stepmom for a change, especially since Jenessa and Carey hadn’t had much luck with their own Mom. I also liked how the flashbacks explained what happened before they disappeared, and how they showed more about Carey’s past. While I liked Carey, and her journey for self-discovery as she adapted to this new world, I liked Jenessa even more. Everything about what she went through broke my heart. And even though so, she was still a happy, lovely child.

I liked the writing. Emily Murdoch has a natural-sounding but lyrical writing voice, which is an odd combination, but works wonders. The pace was decent most of the time although, like I mentioned, it dragged in the middle part. This book conjured all sorts of emotions within me, and I even cried at some point. That shows the book’s strength. It’s a debut novel, and there may be some small flaws, but it’s a strong, splendid, emotional read. I recommend this to everyone who wants to read a darker, rawer YA contemporary novel.


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