Description (from Goodreads):
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.
Based on the cover, I expected this book to be a little bit creepy. It isn’t; instead, I found a book that deals with some very tough subjects in an intelligent way, and creates characters you can’t help but root for. At the center of the story are two girls who have had a rough life: teenager Carey and her kid sister Jenessa. Together, they live in a broken down camper in the middle of the woods, fending for themselves by rationing canned beans and eating whatever small animals Carey can shoot. Their drug-addled mother leaves them alone for weeks, sometimes months, at a time with very little to keep them warm and no protection. Carey believes it’s necessary for them to hide in the woods, because otherwise their abusive father might find them.
Within the first chapter, though, Carey’s father does find them. He brings a social worker with him. Carey and Jenessa are told they are going to live with the man Carey was taught to fear and hate. She keeps expecting him to lash out at her, but is treated only with kindness. Slowly, she comes to understand that he’s not the monster her mother always told her he was, and Carey begins to see how much her mother has stolen from her life and development.
Because Carey and Jenessa have grown up in the backwoods, they’re dirty, have hardly any clothes, and speak in a very folksy style. At least Carey does. Jenessa doesn’t talk because of a trauma we aren’t told about until the end of the book. The relationship between the two sisters was very touching, as was that of Carey’s new stepmother and her father. Of course, beside having the challenge of learning about modern conveniences like hot showers and how to use a television remote, Carey also has to deal with an aggressively jealous stepsister. All this, plus the knowledge of a horrible secret Carey is keeping inside, motivated me to want to keep reading.
Although it wasn’t what I thought it would be, I thought If You Find Me was a pleasant surprise of a book. I appreciated the serious and sensitive way that Murdoch presented the girls’ lives and challenges, and felt it was refreshing to read YA a book with such strong, supportive, present parents. Even though it dealt with depressing subject matter, I enjoyed If You Find Me very much.