Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Released: 26th March 2013
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Carey and Jenessa are living in a camper in the woods, surviving on beans and whatever else they can find for food. Used to their mother coming and going, often disappearing for long periods of time, they don't think anything different of this time - until she doesn't come back. Instead, two strangers find them and take them back to the world outside. If You Find Me is a story of two sisters adapting to a new life, facing the painful truth of their past and confronting their mother's behaviour, but also rediscovering what it's like to be loved and cared for.
This book was, in a word, heartbreaking. Emily Murdoch has an incredibly subtle writing style which has the power to draw quite a lot of emotion from you. Her tale crosses the emotional spectrum: it is one of sadness, loss, abandonment...hope, happiness and, ultimately, love. It broke my heart to see the kind of life Carey and Janessa were leading; to see how, until they were effectively rescued, they could rely on no-one but each other - indeed, it fell on Carey's shoulders to look after both herself and her sister. It broke my heart to see these two girls grow used to a life they should have had from the very start, and never had to give up. And even seeing the love they got from their father and his wife, Melissa, was its own kind of heartbreak. But Murdoch managed to balance the sadder elements with the more hopeful, and it was amazing to watch Carey and Jenessa realise that this was their new life and then really come to embrace it.
Looking back on it now, it strikes me that there is an awful lot of love in this book. That it addresses different types of love. Perhaps one of the most obvious is the romantic kind - and there is a romantic angle in here, although to be honest, it didn't really work for me. I felt it could have taken some more time to develop, especially in the knowledge of the full story behind that romance. But there was also friendship, a new thing for both Carey and Janessa. Even the bond that Janessa formed with Shorty, the farm dog. There was the familial love that came from the sisters living with their father and Melissa. When Melissa made her first appearance, I think I thought that she'd probably end up being the evil stepmother-type figure. But I couldn't be further from the truth, and it was incredible to just see her accept the sisters and, more than that, really love them. Which brings me, finally, to what is arguably the most powerful, most moving bond in this story: that between Carey and Janessa. I was astounded by how close they were. How Carey never once resented Jenessa for being younger and for depending on her for everything. How Jenessa sacrificed talking to protect Carey. This relationship between the sisters was truly brilliant, and brilliantly written.
If You Find Me carries its own distinct voice that rises above the clamour of so many other young adult titles. Its pages are a journey of two girls, finding their place in the world and, inevitably, your heart.