Monday, March 25, 2013

ARC Book Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Rating: 5/5

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. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Sex between teenagers
Violence: Child Abuse (physical, emotional and sexual), Neglect, Kidnapping, Rape, Gunplay.
Inappropriate Language: Ass, Shit. Bitch
Substance Use/Abuse: Meth use, Underage Drinking, Smoking


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