Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #34: If You Find Me

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #34: If You Find MeIf You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on March 26, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-stars

There are some things you can’t leave behind…

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.

Recommended by: Judith (Paper Riot) and Jenni (Alluring Reads). Thanks, ladies!

Though I read a lot of books, it doesn’t happen too often that I read quite similar ones right after one another. Sometimes it happens, however, as is the case with Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller and If You Find Me. Both stories deal with girls kidnapped by messed-up mothers, finally found after many years missing, and returned to normal life with their fathers. Thankfully, I highly enjoyed both books, but it’s an odd series of events reading them back to back.

If You Find Me goes onto the short list of books written in dialect that do not make me want to claw my eyes out. Dialect isn’t my favorite narrative technique, but, every so often, a writer does it very well, and it can actually make a story stronger. The dialect effectively conveys Carey’s lack of worldliness, but does not hide her intelligence. There are some beautifully simplistic comments on life in here.

Carey and her sister Jenessa have spent almost the entirety of their lives living in a camper in the middle of the woods, which they term the Hundred Acre Woods, from A. A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh. Often left alone by their mother, Carey had to take a more parental role; even when their mother was there, she was generally so high on meth or drunk on moonshine, so she wasn’t much help. Barely surviving on a diet of beans and game that Carey hunted, the two sisters didn’t have much to do but study what books they have.

Though Carey resents her mother for abandoning them and for all the terrible things she made Carey do, Carey doesn’t want to leave her or live without her. That parental connection is hard to sever; kids naturally cleave to parents, and, even when horribly abused, can have trouble letting go. Carey’s new step-mother explains this perfectly:

“‘Your dad couldn’t understand how you girls could ever be homesick, especially after the way you were living. But I could. We make attachments to what’s familiar. We find the beauty,, even in the lack. That’s human. We make the best of what we’re given.'”

Carey’s father gives both girls as much space as they need, but is waiting quietly and lovingly for them when they’re ready. His wife, Melissa, is sweet, supportive, and never grudging of these two lost girls who land in her family. Melissa’s daughter, Delaney, is the only one to resent the intrusion of these two new family members. This helped keep the family from feeling TOO supportive and overly idyllic. Oh, also, they have the sweetest 3-legged dog named Shorty.

The way that Murdoch weaved the stories that Carey grew up reading through the novel was perfection. Carey’s essentially memorized all of those books by heart, which makes sense, as she would have read them over and over, their selection quite limited. These books are essentially her entire connection to the outside world, and, once rescued and living with her father and his new family, Carey turns to the books she’s read to help her process her new situation.

However, much as I loved that, I did have trouble accepting how far ahead in their schooling Jenessa and Carey are. While I do believe that they’re bright, I’m just not convinced their mom would have had the foresight to get them the right books that they could both test to two years ahead of their grade level. Yes, they’re both devoted studiers because they’re naturally bright and had nothing else to do, but they didn’t pick out the book collection. It’s much more likely they would have a random mish mash of books from a Goodwill or something similar. Maybe their mother was more lucid early on and thought to purchase primers up through high school, but I’m skeptical.

My other minor concern is how easy high school was for Carey, and elementary school for Jenessa. Only one person recognizes Carey, even though she was a very high profile missing persons case in the area. The only person who’s ever mean to her is her step-sister. One of the cutest boys rescues her as she’s standing confused in the school hallways on that first morning, abandoned by Delaney. Similarly, every kid in Jenessa’s class takes to her immediately, even though she doesn’t speak. Based on my experiences in elementary and middle school, kids are not this nice. Is it really just because they’re both incredibly pretty? I have a lot of trouble believing that two girls, no matter how lovely, wouldn’t have any trouble at school considering their lack of socialization.

Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me is both a quiet and harrowing tale. The way that Carey’s mind has been warped by her mother’s treatment is saddening and maddening. This is an excellent contemporary novel for readers who enjoy delving in dark, emotional subject matter.

Favorite Quote:

“‘What do you mean you got nothin’? You have these books, for one. Books are like whole new worlds,’ I say, my voice reverent.
‘So?’
‘So, that means you have the world. And you better take care of it,’ I say, handin’ the book back to her.”


Up Next:

Margot - Jillian Cantor

Next week, I’ll be reviewing Jillian Cantor’s Margot, as requested by Shae (Shae Has Left the Room). I’ve been hearing great things, so I’m really looking forward to this historical fiction that imagines Anne Frank’s sister arrived.

To recommend a book to me, fill out the following form!

22 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #34: If You Find Me”

  1. Danielle says:

    I’ve heard so much about this one and despite minor faults it’s gotten overwhelmingly positive response. I need to get on the bandwagon! Great review Christina!
    Danielle recently posted…The Weekend Edition #29My Profile

  2. I really liked that their father was so supportive and loving, and their step-mum wanted them to feel as comfortable as they could. It’s a nice change from all the cliches.

    I do admit I was a little put-off by how frequently it was mentioned that Carey was pretty. Adjusting so well in school is unusual, I might have believed it more if it was just one of them but both is a little unbelievable. But this was an amazing book and there was a lot of emotion inside the book. Glad you liked it 😀
    Charlotte @ Gypsy Reviews recently posted…Review: The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot (#83)My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      It is a nice change, but it’s funny because that’s exactly how it played out in Where the Stars Still Shine too. I mean, I know neither of them probably read the other’s book until after, but it’s odd.

      Normally, I don’t much mind, but being pretty alone isn’t going to make you popular. Plenty of pretty girls end up being outcasts. It was just odd and felt shoe-horned in.

  3. Judith says:

    I’m so happy you liked this! SO HAPPY! I just have so much love for this book, mostly because of Emily’s writing. I’m not usually a fan of dialect in books either, but it worked in this one. Also, I NEED TO BREAK MY BOOK BUYING BAN TO BUY WTSTS! I neeeed it.
    Judith recently posted…Review: Wild CardsMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m really impressed when an author can do dialect that doesn’t make me want to claw my brains out. It generally helps if some of the characters aren’t dialecty, as is the case here, or if it’s just the characters and the rest is in third person without it. Blood Red Road was just magic.

      WTSSS is great, though oddly similar to this one, not that I think Trish Doller was copying or anything. I think it’s a total coincidence. STRANGE.

  4. Jenni says:

    Yes! So happy to continue my run of awesome recommendations in Sadie Hawkins. I can totally understand the few complaints that you did have with this one, I remember thinking that the romance was a bit convenient as well, but overall the story just gutted me. That entire last part was possibly the hardest thing I have ever read.
    Jenni recently posted…Stacking the Shelves (64)My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Way to go, Jenni! Though I’m pretty sure you also put in one you sort of hope I will dislike so you’re not alone anymore. Haha.

      The romance was a bit forced, yeah. I mean, it was cute, but not really necessary, I think. I’d have been just as happy if they could have just been friends, though I think she did want that scene where Carey pushes it too far too fast because that’s all she knows.

  5. So glad you enjoyed that one. I thought it was near perfect but I do understand your concerns about parts in the book. The last part of the book pretty much gutted me and it took me awhile to calm my butt down.
    Alexia @ Adventures in Reading recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #12My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      The ending was definitely emotional and heartrending. I hadn’t connected enough to be truly ripped apart by it, but it was still hard to read. Unbelievable that parents do such things to their kids. And, poor Carey feeling so guilty about what she did.

  6. Molli says:

    YAY! I seriously would have pouted if you’d hated this one. It touched me in so many ways. I agree that the fact the girls were THAT ahead in their education was a bit off – it’s nice to think about, but the way their mother was, you wonder if such a thing would really happen. And Carey’s transition to “real life” was…easier than I thought it would be, but still felt mostly realistic to me.

    Nice review, girl!
    Molli recently posted…Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila SalesMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m glad you do not have to pout. Honestly, I might have had a more feelsy reactions if I hadn’t come to it straight from Where the Stars Still Shine (MY FEELS), but I was still impressed, despite the issues I noticed.

      It does seem a bit odd that Carey would have an easier time in high school than I would from the first moment.

      • Molli says:

        Oh right, sometimes even a great book has a lesser impact on the heels of one that really resonated with you.

        It was sorta odd, yeah. I loved what EM did with Carey and Ryan, and her friend (whose name I’ve forgotten, noooo), but I think a bit more transition there would have been good.
        Molli recently posted…Review: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren MyracleMy Profile

        • Christina Franke says:

          Yup. Sad but true.

          Oh really? Her friend’s name is….hmmm. I almost know it. Man, my memory sucks. It was a nickname and a sort of bouncy one. I mean, I liked them, and their connections made sense, but the fact that the only person who was ever mean to her was Delaney felt false to me. No one picked at her accent or anything. It just seemed weird.

  7. I liked this book, especially the descriptions of nature in Carey’s voice, but like you I thought the adjustment was easier for Carey and her sister than it really would have been. Even though it was sad, it actually read a bit like a fairy tale to me. I also really wish the romance had just been a friendship, but I understand why the author/agent/editor/whoever decided there needed to be a romance wanted it there.
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  8. Ahhh, wait, I don’t think you wrote who requested you read this! I am mostly curious because I remember reading about the story behind it on The Midnight Garden and am now wondering if Wendy recc’d it?

    I’ve also seen this one everywhere and everyone really seems to like it.You too now. “Thankfully, I highly enjoyed both books, but it’s an odd series of events reading them back to back.” <– True. And honestly, when I do read books with similar topics back to back, I'm always comparing to see what one did better than the other and I think I become harsher because of that o.o.

    Dialect. Oh, dialect and the shaky relationship with it. Probably why I still haven't read Blood Red Road – dialect is just scary, even if you say it's well done o.o and doesn't make you want to claw your eyes out.

    Beans and game. Woah. I can't even imagine. Carey sounds like quite the resourceful protagonist. I'm not usually a fan of the overprotective sister type unless it's established well, but it sounds like this one truly is.

    “‘Your dad couldn’t understand how you girls could ever be homesick, especially after the way you were living. But I could. We make attachments to what’s familiar. We find the beauty,, even in the lack. That’s human. We make the best of what we’re given.’” <— Very, very true. And a very beautiful quote. You sure do a good job of picking 'em :).

    "Melissa’s daughter, Delaney, is the only one to resent the intrusion of these two new family members. This helped keep the family from feeling TOO supportive and overly idyllic." <– I could see this happening, but I hope Delaney was given some depth. I hate hate hate the girl hate that often goes on – that one character in the background you have to show as disliking the protag. to add some realism but who often just reads as a stereotype.

    "These books are essentially her entire connection to the outside world, and, once rescued and living with her father and his new family, Carey turns to the books she’s read to help her process her new situation." <– I really love it when stories show the power of reading; stories within stories. Sometimes it happens too often, or like authors might be catering to the bookish crowd or what they were like when they were younger, but it sounds like this makes for a truly authentic situation.

    "While I do believe that they’re bright, I’m just not convinced their mom would have had the foresight to get them the right books that they could both test to two years ahead of their grade level. " <– Very true, especially if she was all drugged out on meth… Also what you said about school being easy for the girls and not being recognized.

    "Based on my experiences in elementary and middle school, kids are not this nice. Is it really just because they’re both incredibly pretty?" <– No. I have a hard time believing that too. Honestly? You know how you read about characters who are super charismatic and take to everyone? I don't think I've ever met someone who comes and introduced another person to the crowd like that. (Maybe I don't know the right people lol).

    Ahh, that dialect isn't so bad. I picturing far worse… if I had a less packed schedule, I really would read this. Especially after reading so many glowing reviews… but alas I am not as fast a reader as some other awesome Christinas are ;).
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    • Christina Franke says:

      Ooops, yeah, I forgot. Still getting used to being in WP and that slipped through the cracks. Not Wendy, though. I don’t think she’s recced me anything.

      Yup. It’s not intentional and not the book’s fault, but it’s definitely a factor on enjoyment; it’s always the case, but not usually so starkly. Though at least I can put a finger on exactly what bothered me rather than having a niggling sense of deja vu if it’s something I read a while back.

      Sometimes it helps me to read dialect out loud for a bit. Even if I don’t love it, I can tell if it’s well done by how it flows when said aloud.

      There’s a reason she’s so protective. She’s basically raised her little sister from a baby, because their mother is useful, which is why I question her thinking to get them enough text books for them to be two years ahead in school.

      Delaney does get a bit of depth, but more would have been good. They do finally have a heart to heart, but it really remains a sort of Marcia Marcia Marcia thing.

      Well, I do believe there are people who are that charismatic. Not everyone will take to them, but I have some friends who are almost generally adored from moment one, and whom everyone wants to be close to. It does happen. I think of them as social hubs. Anyway, Carey’s totally never going to be this girl. Which is fine, but it doesn’t make her fairly easy settling in all that logical.

      This dialect is fairly light, yes. I’m reading about as fast as I can right now, because of the BEA books. Soon I’ll be able to slacken my pace a little and it will be wonderful.

  9. Liz says:

    I agree with you that this one was a lot like WTSSS, but personally I preferred WTSSS. While I enjoyed reading this one, it didn’t become a new favorite for me.
    Liz recently posted…Stack of Five 3: ARCs I Have AroundMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Me too. WTSSS was the one that really got me right in the feels. Perhaps I’d feel differently if the order had been different, but that one made more emotional sense to me. While I do understand some of the criticisms I’ve seen of it, it just worked for me, and some elements of this one did not.

  10. Gillian says:

    Clearly we are brain twins because I just read and reviewed this because of Judith also. *kicks Christina out of my head*

    I LOVED the writing and the use of dialect. It wasn’t overwhelmingly dialect-y like Huck Finn, or anything, but subtle and beautiful. This book was amazingly well-written. Wasn’t crazy about the romance (TOO EASY) or Delaney, honestly. I liked that Delaney was a source of conflict, but she was SO MEAN. Nobody would be THAT mean to a girl who’d had SUCH a shitty life, you know? I mean, someone who knew about it. The rest of the girls at school being mean made sense, even thought she made friends with Pixie so fast. Which was… a little unrealistic.

    But I like that Carey herself had such a hard time fitting in, and that she actually missed the woods. I thought that was all so well done.
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