Wednesday, March 13, 2013

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
Pages: 256 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website


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.


I don't remember what it was, but something about If You Find Me screamed my name from the moment I heard about it. That was all the way back when its title was The Patron Saint of Beans. You know what? Maybe it was the title. Whatever the case, getting my hands on this was like eating a a bag full of candy, in a way: oh so sweet and unregrettable.

Carey's voice is gripping and pitch-perfect considering her upbringing. The first half of the novel has very little going on because she's learning to settle into her new life with her father Charlie, stepmother Melissa, and stepsister Delaney, so all the pressure to keep the story moving is on her. She does it with ease, narrating in poetic prose that doesn't distract from her character or seem too unrealistic. There are a few occasions where her words/phrases seem a little off for her character and of COURSE this girl who has been living in the forest for ten years is OMFG beautiful, but there's a lot more good than bad when it comes to Carey.

The relationships Carey has with her younger sister Jenessa, along with the one she works to build with her dad and Melissa, are a level of perfection I don't see often. Writing child characters can be difficult because they're more often living motivations or plot devices, but Nessa is better than that. It's like she's a main focus, but she's not at the same time, if that makes sense. She's just so much of Carey's life that she's got a spotlight on her just as much as Carey does as our protagonist. The patience of the parents in helping the girls adjust and find a place in their new home make them anything but the awkward, nonexistent parents common in YA.

The relationships with a few minor characters are some of the novel's weaker points. Carey and Ryan's friendship/possible future romance comes together too easily despite the explanation we get for it close to the end of the book. There's also Delaney, who seems to hate her new stepsister Carey and is generally a terrible person toward her. The explanation we get for that doesn't ring true either. It's just too... neat. Delaney is just too nasty for it to be resolved that easily.

Whatever other novels Murdoch publishes in the future, I'm on board for them. I feel like I'm saying this about every author lately because I've been on a streak of good ones, but she can write. My personal opinion is that about a fifth of writers who get published and whose books I read can't write, but this author is on the good side of that equation: the side where the great writers are.

3.5 stars!

What am I reading next?: Smokeless Fire by Samantha Young