If You Find Me: review

March 15, 2013 2013, 4.5 star books, emily murdoch, mature themes, realistic fiction, Wendy 56

Title: If You Find Me
Emily Murdoch
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date: March 26, 2013
St. Martins Griffin
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC provided by the publisher

My sister don’t talk much. When she does, it’s only to me, in moth-winged whispers, and only when we’re alone.

There are few things more contrary to nature than abandoning your children. Basic instinct assures that most animals protect their young, so the idea of thinking, reasoning human parents neglecting or abusing their children is a violently offensive one.

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch is a stunning debut that explores the consequences of child  neglect. 15-year-old Carey’s mother is mentally ill, and a drug user who comes and goes without any accountability. She’s hidden Carey and her younger sister away in a national forest in Tennessee for over ten years, and the girls know nothing of the outside world until she finally disappears for good. Carey and Jenessa then have to adjust to a new life when they go to live with their father, a man they don’t remember at all and can’t help but fear.

Reading about the instability of the girls’ life in the woods is a wrenching experience, even though it’s related mostly in retrospect as Carey recalls her past. It’s hard to read about children who survive on a dwindling supply of canned beans, and whose want for simple warmth and shelter and companionship is something they don’t even miss or comprehend, because it’s the only way of life they’ve known.

What hits home the most, however, is that there is a great deal of beauty in the way Carey sees the world in spite of her upbringing. She misses the woodsmoke that clung to her clothes and hair, she knows her sister needs her pathetic, dirty books and toys to make their father’s house feel like a home; and the woods still call to her, even as she marvels over the simple joys of owning a coat that doesn’t smell of pee, having real food to eat, or being blessedly clean. That longing for what’s familiar in spite of what logic might dictate is such a painfully human truth, and it’s one of many honest revelations that felt gut-wrenchingly real.

I do think that a few things could have been more polished to make this story stronger: restructuring and streamlining of some of the plot, particularly in the use of flashbacks and sudden info-dumping; less reliance on quotes as a jumping point for discussion, particularly later in the book; and a closer eye kept on some repetitive words and phrases.

But the heart of this book is beautiful. There is poetic soul beneath the rough edges of backwoods dialect and unpolished story, and the honesty in the book’s emotional journey shines through even when Carey is angry or scared. And while the ending may have felt a little too neat in some ways, there is redemptive and truthful quality to this girl’s story that I respond to strongly. After all those years of living in awful circumstances, Carey’s physical well-being is finally assured–but the truth is, none of us are whole until our hearts are mended.

If You Find Me is a story full of heartbreak and hope, as well as brutal and beautiful feeling. It’s a testament to both the fragility and overwhelming power of hope–and to how some things, even horrific, dehumanizing things–can be soothed by nothing more than simple human kindness.

This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

Warning: triggers for violent and abusive behavior. Recommended for adults and mature YA readers only, particularly those who might’ve been drawn to Elizabeth Scott’s Living Dead Girl.

Please join us next week, when the official If You Find Me Blog Tour begins!

We have a fantastic line-up of exclusive interviews, excerpts, and guest posts for you hosted by some wonderful bloggers. Each stop will also provide an opportunity for you to win a copy of this beautiful book as well, so be sure to follow along with the tour.

3/18  The Midnight Garden
3/19  Alluring Reads
 3/20  Live to Read
3/21  YA Romantics
3/22  Winterhaven Books 

3/24  Hobbitsies

3/25  ExLibris Kate
3/26  Xpresso Reads
3/27  Bookish
3/28  Great Imaginations
3/29  Good Books and Good Wine

56 Responses to “If You Find Me: review”

  1. Asheley (@BookwormAsheley)

    I absolutely loved this book. Once I began it, I had a hard time putting it down. I loved Carey and her nature, the way she was written. Protective and strong yet vulnerable. Loved child-like and innocent Nessa. I loved Melissa as a great member of the secondary cast. I loved the way that Carey’s eyes were opened up to the world and how she realized that not everything was as she always thought. I won’t say too much more for fear of spoilers, but I will say that I think this is one of the better debuts I’ve read in a really long time, and MAN I’m just so thrilled at the opportunity to read such an excellent piece of work. Particularly now that I know that so much of the author is present beneath the story. Great review! I loved the book too.

  2. starryeyedjen

    After reading that guest post, I had to come see what you really thought about the book. It sounds so gut-wrenchingly beautiful and poignant. As a mother, I’m sure this will be a difficult read, but it’s not one I want to miss, that’s for sure.

  3. Amanda

    Beautiful review! Despite seeing some reviews, I haven’t really thought much about reading this book myself before. Now I’m reconsidering that. Neglected children is a subject matter I haven’t dealt with much in the books I read, fortunately. It is definitely an issue in our society, however, and I’m interested in how Murdoch approaches it in her debut novel The juxtaposition of Carey’s gritty life and the beauty she sees in the world sounds fascinating.

  4. Alexa Y.

    This book sounds incredibly intense. I didn’t want to read it initially, but then I read an interview with this author and something about the way she strung her answers together really spoke to me. I want to experience this story for myself, even if it breaks my heart.

  5. Ash

    Wow, such a powerful story, I’m definitely going to get this. Very intriguing and looks like a book that’ll keep me up all night.

  6. Vivien

    This was SUCH a heartbreaking story. Once I started I just couldn’t stop. I had a knot in my throat the entire time reading it. The format was perfect as well. I’ll be reading this author’s next novel for sure!

    • Wendy Darling

      It was! I felt so anxious for Carey throughout the whole thing. I’m so glad you liked it too, Vivien. And I’m dying to see what her next project is.

  7. erin

    WOW… this sounds powerful and compelling. Thanks for the thoughtful review. Definitely going to have to add this to my wishlist.

  8. Wendy Darling

    I’ve seen nearly all 4s and 5s for this book ratings-wise, Amber, so it seems people are definitely responding to it. And thanks!

  9. Wendy Darling

    “Heavy yet beautiful” is a great way to describe the book. I totally understand about the need to be in the right mood, though. I hope that mood hits you soon!

  10. Sam

    Honestly, when I first came across this book, I had no idea it would so heart-wrenching. It definitely sounds like my sort of emotional/powerful read, though. It’s up for me next, in fact! Great review, Wendy.

  11. Amber Hsu

    i haven’t personally read this book yet, but it seems really realistic and serious. It seems to rated really high in many of the other reviews I’ve read too, so I think I’m going to try reading it~ The review was really good~ :)

  12. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    This sounds like a heavy, yet beautiful story. I actually love these type of books, but I have to be in the right frame of mind to read it. Thank you for a wonderful review!

  13. Christina

    Wow, 4.5 stars from you? This book is raking in the high ratings from everyone. *tries not to get TOO high of expectations*

    • Wendy Darling

      I’ll be honest–it has a lot of unpolished edges and I really would like to have seen some restructuring. But the emotional honesty in this book tipped up my rating big time.

  14. Molli Moran

    Oh Wendy! The whole paragraph about how “this book has heart.” It really, really does. It’s one of those that just touched me SO much, emotionally. (Thank you so so so much for allowing me to be on the tour. I consider it an honor to promote IYFM.)

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

    • Wendy Darling

      It does–this book has so much heart, and I think people will see how much when they read Emily’s guest posts for the tour. Thanks for being part of it!

  15. Kara_Malinczak

    I’m so excited for the tour!! And I’m so glad you loved this book and organized it. And I could not be happier to be a part of it! This is definitely one of my favorite books so far this year.

    • Wendy Darling

      I had been thinking about offering the tour service for awhile now, it just took a book like this to galvanize me into motion. The huge blockbusters are fun, but they aren’t the ones that need help, you know? But bloggers can make a big difference for books like this. Thank you for joining the tour!

  16. Rachel

    I read and really enjoyed this one too, Wendy. I’ll have to come back to read your review once I’ve written mine. I like seeing your high marks though. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      RACHEL! I’m so excited that you liked this. I look forward to reading your review. And yay, you ladies are back from your vaction! I will be stopping by to visit and catch up this week. :) I hope there are tons of photos.

  17. molly @ wrapped up in books

    Fantastic review! I’ve had this ARC for months and have been passing it around to teens at the library, and they have all love it. I haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, but I’m excited to!

    • Wendy Darling

      That’s awesome to hear that your teens have been loving it, Molly! I hope you get to snatch it back to read sometime, hah.

  18. Jasprit

    This is such a gorgeous review Wendy, not that I expect anything less of your brilliance. I can’t believe that I overlooked this book in the fist instance, but the reviews I have been reading over the last few weeks have me convinced that I would enjoy this book too! Especially when I’m in the right mood for it! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Jasprit, I’d love to hear what you think of this book! It’s not for everybody, but I have a feeling it’s one you might connect with. I will be on the lookout to see what you think of it.

  19. Sunny Duvall

    I really must go back and try to read this one again. I stopped it after a few chapters, unable to go on. But your review is lovely and makes me wonder if I stopped it in haste! Love the review!

    Sunny @ Blue Sky Bookshelf

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, I hope you will give it a try again sometime, Sunny. I can see how it might be hard to adjust to the language and style at first, but once you get acclimated, everything really flows. And thank you!

  20. Melliane

    Oh I didn’t know this book, but it sounds intense. These times you have a lot of books I didn’t know about, it’s some nice discoveries. thanks!

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s a pretty intense read, Melliane. And hah, I like visiting your blog for just the same reason! I always find new books that weren’t high on my radar.

  21. Lyn Kaye

    I really loved the prose in this book. The whole book…..I can tell that this is going to be one of my favorites this year.

  22. K.

    Beautiful review, Wendy. I can tell how much this book must’ve affected you. This sounds like it would be an intensely raw read. And would I be right to assume the girls are quite feral? If so, that’d be doubly interesting.

    Also, the dialect. Oh, I love it when language is played with and is as much a reflection of the characters as everything else. Didn’t get approved for this, I don’t think but will definitely check it out :D

    • Wendy Darling

      The girls aren’t…feral, but there are definitely things they have never experienced before that we take for granted. Like hamburgers. Clean jeans. Mittens instead of socks to keep your hands warm. Gahhh.

      The language is SO well one, K. Nothing irritates me more than attempts at “dialect” that don’t go over well, but the way it’s written here is fascinating. And like I said, there’s still beauty in the words despite their roughness.

  23. Livvy

    Sounds like a very heartwrenching journey in this book alone. Poor Carey.

    Fabulous review Wendy and I’m looking forward to the blog tour! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      My heart aches for that girl. :(

      But I’m so glad you’re going to stop by for the blog tour, Livvy. Emily’s first guest post, for us, is going to blow you away.

    • Wendy Darling

      Ah, I’m glad you’re open to giving it a chance, Mel! Definitely a hard thing to read about, but it’s a very hopeful book, too.

  24. Joyous Reads

    Sounds great despite the fact that it will hurt me to read about kids being abandoned by their mother. Bumping this up from my pile. Thanks for the fab insight, as usual, Ms. Wendy.

  25. Jen Ryland/YA Romantics

    Well, you know that I really loved this book. There is something really special about it that is hard to put into words — I’m still tinkering with my review.
    Thanks so much for inviting me to join the tour!

    • Wendy Darling

      There is a quality to this book that’s really hard to define–people just have to read it for themselves!

      I’m so looking forward to your review, Jen, as well as your tour stop. Your questions were amazing.

    • Wendy Darling

      Agreed–it’s interesting to watch to see whether debut authors hone their craft and develop. I like reading self-pubbed books sometimes for this reason too, although that’s definitely more of a hit or miss situation.

  26. Kim (YA Asylum)

    Every time I read a review for this book — which always seems to be positive ones — it just makes me want to read it more and more. I have a special interest in debut authors and I love to buy their books to help them. I need to buy this one soon, very, very soon. Great review!

    • Wendy Darling

      I think it’s so important to support debut authors whenever possible, too–the established and bestsellign authors don’t really need as much help, you know? I can think of quite a few cases where the greenlight on a second book was dependent on how the first one did.

      I look forward to hearing what you think of this, Kim!

  27. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    Fabulous review, Wendy. I think you really captured the story here. It was so weird to me how Carey longed for the woods, as you mentioned, but Murdoch wrote it in a way that I could totally understand why she was longing. It was definitely hard to read (I ugly cried through all of part 3) This is a fast favorite of mine this year!

    Can’t wait for the tour!

    • Wendy Darling

      Weirdly, I completely understood Carey’s longing–and I thought that was such a real and human thing to include. I’m so looking forward to your tour stop, too! It’s going to be great to raise more awareness for this book.

  28. Mary @ BookSwarm

    This sounds really intriguing! It’s not something I normally read (I generally read to escape and prefer the fluff or the action) but I could really get behind this one. Despite the issues you mentioned, the book’s premise still grabs my attention. Those poor girls! I can’t even imagine…

    • Wendy Darling

      I am very wary of realistic fiction too, Mary, especially the ones that are too preachy or don’t feel like they necessarily come from a genuine place. But every once in awhile you find one that hits all the right notes, you know? I’d love to hear what you think if you give it a try. It’s really a very uplifting story, despite the serious subject.