Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Pub info: St. Martin's / Griffin, 2013; 256 pp
Genre / Audience: contemporary / YA
Caveats for Younger Readers: contains sexual abuse & harsh language
This book first grabbed my attention as the debut novel of a fellow Lucky 13 author. Somehow I missed reading it as an ARC, but when I saw it in the bookstore, I snapped it up. Universally well reviewed and shortlisted for all kinds of awards, it intrigued me.
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 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.Status: finished 8/27/14
First of all, let me say that I'm not typically drawn to issue books. If the book has a big hook, like "Comatose girl's family fights for the right to keep her alive," I tend to stay away. Why? Because these issues are tough to write about well without getting melodramatic and clicheed. Every once in awhile, an author nails it with unique characters who know how to tell their own story, not just the story grabbed from the latest headlines. R.J. Palacio pulled it off with Wonder. And Emily Murdoch does a fantastic job with If You Find Me. It's all due to Carey's first-person POV. Sure, Carey's a strong, gutsy young woman--she survived in the woods for weeks on end, caring for her sister--but she's also a musician, a lover of poetry, a girl who longs to be loved and still holds people at arm's length. I love the touches that make Carey so believable, the fierceness with which she guards her secrets. This story unfolds with clarity, heart, and marvelous storytelling. Frankly, I picked it up and thought, Do I really want to read this right now? I skimmed a couple of pages and was hooked. It's fantastic!
When she's not reading or writing, you'll find Emily caring for her horses, dogs, and family on a ranch in rural Arizona, where the desert's tranquil beauty and rich wildlife often enter into her poetry and writing. If You Find Me, shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2014, is a YALSA BFYA selection of 2014 and earned starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. It was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice for June 2013 as well as garnering several other honors. Currently Emily is working on a second novel, Forget Me Knots, due out from Indigo in summer 2015.
You can read Emily's poetry as well as news and events at her website here. She's also on Twitter, here. If You Find Me has a reader's guide with discussion questions that you can access here.
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To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.