Author: Emily Murdoch
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Pages: 256 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected March 26 2013
Source: publishers for review
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.
Wow. Impressive. Rich. Emotional. Heartbreaking. These are only some of the words that come to mind after finishing this short but powerful novel. Emily Murdoch writes with the authority, care, and subtlety of a much more experienced storyteller. If You Find Me is a strong, sad and quietly impressive debut from a very talented new author; one that promises more good things to come in the future from such a writer. Beautifully written, with an amazingly strong, compelling survivor for a narrator, this is one novel that I won't be forgetting anytime. Read in one day, in under three and a half novels, I can easily say that If You Find Me grabs the reader from page one and won't let go. It definitely will leave a lasting impression, from the well-drawn characters to the unique and wonderful writing.
If You Find Me is quiet and subtle, a novel that doesn't lay all the answers or reasons out for the reader. You have to work to understand what has happened to Carey and her sister Jenessa. And, even before the end, it's worth the effort. The kind of lives these two intelligent but abused children have had to lead, hidden from the world in the backwoods of Tennessee, is compelling and wholly heartbreaking . The bond between Carey and her selectively mute sister provides the emotional heart of the novel. Carey is the only real mom her sister has ever known; one who provides for her and protects her from the evil of the world their addicted mother has brought them into.
Emily Murdoch is an author that can get under your skin. An unflinching look at child abuse, and to a lesser degree, the impact of drug addiction on children, her debut novel is by turns heartbreaking, charming, and hopeful. With the kind of suspense that slowly builds as the book progresses, the final reveal of what happened on the worst night of Carey's young life is shocking, and yet, given the few flashbacks, not wholly surprising. Murdoch manages to take a revelation that could have felt predictable and still make it a moving, harrowing event. I won't say much more for fear of spoilers, but even if you called how it all plays out before the end, Murdoch will still manage to tug on your heartstrings with skill.
I'm impressed. I'm eager to see what else this author will produce, because this was one of the best debuts I've had the pleasure to come across in a long, long time. With hard subjects, great characters and an unrelenting look at both the good and bad sides of human nature, Murdoch isn't afraid to go dark places with her story. And what's more, is that while it may not always be fun to go there with her, her novel is rich and rewarding and worth all the feelings it will arouse in its readers.