My Thoughts On: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch + GIVEAWAY!

Posted March 24, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 32 Comments

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: March 26, 2013
256 Pages
Source: Publisher 

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.
-(from Goodreads) 

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch 

My Thoughts: Sometimes I read a book and it captures me so very much that the only thing I know how to do once I’m finished with it is close my eyes and take a few deep breaths, a few moments of silence for something so brilliant and well-crafted and incredible. This is one of those books.

The first thing you need to know is this:
Carey and Jenessa have lived in a camper deep in the woods…

Carey is sure they have been brought there by their mother in an effort to keep them safe from their father because that’s what her mom has told her. She knows they must stay hidden from everyone so he can’t find them. While their mother disappears for days and often months at a time, Carey acts as a mother to Jenessa – raising her from infancy. Now 15-years-old to Jenessa’s 6, the two have made a life for themselves deep in the Hundred Acre Wood somewhere in Tennessee. Life is hard, but as long as they have each other, Carey knows they’ll be okay. 

Carey is somehow able to keep Jenessa fed, either with the dwindling cans of food their mother occasionally brings or by hunting small animals to prepare for them. She’s taught her sister things, too – kept up with their educations. She’s made sure Jenessa can tell time and do basic arithmetic and even read a few things. 

One day some people show up – a man and a woman. The woman claims to have a letter written from her mother in which she turns the girls over to the state because she cannot care for them any longer. The man is their father. After growing up afraid of their father, the girls are reluctant to leave with the lady. They’re told that their choices are to either 1) go live with this man and remain together or 2) live in different foster homes, but separately since none of the available foster homes can care for two children at this time. Determined to keep Jenessa close to her, Carey resolves that no matter what awful life awaits them with their father, she can keep her sister safe – after all, she’s been doing it for all of these years in that camper deep in the woods. 

The second thing you need to know is this:
Life with their father is NOT what Carey expected it to be.    
Carey had no idea her father had a nice farm with a nice, roomy house on it. She had no idea that her father was remarried and had another daughter – a stepdaughter. Melissa, her new stepmother, is loving and kind – making the girls feel welcome from the start. She cooks for them, shows them affection, and gets them the things that they need like clothes and toiletries. She makes their new bedrooms lovely. She makes them feel welcome. Delaney, their new stepsister, is more difficult – she is a bit jealous of Carey from the start and it takes Carey a while to understand why. Delaney takes to Jenessa quite well, of course, because Jenessa is so lovable. And their father, this man that they have always been told not to trust? He doesn’t seem at all like the man they’ve always been afraid of, the man that their mother warned them about. How is it possible that he could be the same man? 

Over time, little truths begin to come out. Carey learns some startlings facts: their life in the woods for all of those years isn’t exactly what she thought it was. While they were in the woods, there was a whole lot going on out here in the real world, and a lot of it had lots to do with her and Jenessa and her mother. Carey feels lost and confused and isn’t sure who to believe. 

The third thing you need to know is this:

It’s such a big adjustment from the past life to the new life. 
Carey also has some pretty big secrets. 
When Carey and Jenessa are first brought out of the woods, they have to be taught how to brush their teeth. When they are given breakfast, they have to be educated on what each food is – french toast sticks, bacon, things like that. They eat so much that they make themselves sick over and over. They have to learn to pace themselves with the food. They have to be taught about modern conveniences like televisions and dishwashers. They have never seen a dog before. When they make it to school, Carey is horribly embarrassed not to know what a locker is. 

There are also other shocking adjustments – Carey finds herself missing the smell of smoke in her sister’s hair and in their old clothes from the campfire that she kept going in the woods. She misses the feel of the trees surrounding her. She misses the leaves and the sounds of the forest in general. She is homesick for that place, even though her new home is more luxurious than she could have ever imagined. 

Throughout the book, Carey has some guilt and lingering shame – so heavy – about some thing that happened while she was out in the woods. These are hidden horrors that she wishes more than anything that she could make go away – one thing in particular. As this information is released slowly, over the course of the book, you realize how much more remarkable Carey is as a character – how much more strong and resilient and amazing she is to have made it through what she didn’t even realize was an ordeal, and to have come out as well as she did. 


The Truth:  If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch deserves a standing ovation. 

This is one of the best debut books I’ve ever read. The story had me in its grips from the beginning and it didn’t let me go until I was finished. I have thought about the book and these characters almost nonstop since I finished it, and I find myself wondering what Carey and Jenessa are up to and how they’re still adjusting to life now that they’re out of the woods. 

Carey is a great character, full of depth and emotion and heartbreaking stuff. She’s spent her entire life filling in for her mother while her mother was either not present, high, or mentally incapable of taking care of the much-younger Jenessa. Because of all of these struggles and having to “grow up” earlier than normal, Carey has a bond with Jenessa that runs much deeper than what I consider a regular sister-sister bond to be. The two have shared things, seen things, experienced things that most of us have thankfully never had to endure. Carey is stronger for it, but she’s also more vulnerable. After being rescued by her father, she isn’t sure who she can trust and she feels inferior to pretty much everyone. 

Younger sister Jenessa is such a sweet child, so innocent it seems – but there is so much behind her eyes. She’s witnessed things that a child that age should never know about and her way of coping with these horrors is by selective mutism. After one particularly horrifying incidence in the woods, Jenessa rarely speaks – in fact, the only person she speaks to at all is Carey, and when she does it is only a very soft whisper. 

Jenessa is quickest to adapt once they arrive at their father’s new home. She first falls in love with the dog, and forms a deep bond with him. Then she fells head-over-heels for stepmother Melissa, and that feeling is mutual. The whole family adores Jenessa, and Jenessa seems to love being there. Carey has a more difficult time because she finds herself homesick for the woods and her old life sometimes, and she is also feeling tons of guilt about various things from the past. She feels like she is betraying her mother for enjoying her new life, for enjoying this time with her father, for actually allowing herself to trust him. She feels like she’s betraying her mother because she doesn’t find her father to be the same person that her mother described. Could her mother have been lying to her for all of those years? And if she was lying, were there other things she was lying about too? As Carey struggles with these feelings surrounding her mother and this betrayal she feels, her father and Melissa give her plenty of space and time to grieve, to adjust, to exhale. As these new people show her love, Carey begins to learn several truths that she has never known before. 

This story is amazing. It’s raw and gripping and emotional and heartbreaking, but for all of that – for all of that heaviness – there is so much HOPE and GOOD and even JOY in these pages. This is the story of two girls that are put into a horrific situation and how they thankfully are rescued, and how they cope with everything in the months afterward. The characters are well-written and developed and believable – they each made my heart and break and swell. The story is emotional and is sure to leave an impression on readers after the last page is turned. By the end of the book, I was fighting back tears. 

I recommend If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch to fans of YA Contemporary with Issues and also to fans of survival stories. I’d like to warn readers that there may be triggers associated with abuse and some forms of violence. This story is absolutely incredible – an amazing debut – and I am SO GLAD that I read it. I’ll be re-reading this one for sure, and I’ll be watching to see what else Emily Murdoch puts out for us to read. 


If You Find Me will appeal to fans of:

YA Contemporary with Issues
Issues: Abuse, Violence
Survival Stories
Strong Family (within the story)
Debut Author!

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

is available for purchase March 26, 2013.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you St. Martin’s Griffin! 

*Warning: Readers may experience triggers associated with
abuse and some forms of violence.

Is IF YOU FIND ME on your wish-list?

It is amazing. 


And now for the Giveaway!

St. Martin’s Griffin and Emily Murdoch 
have generously provided 
for this giveaway.
Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!  

(US/Canada Only) * (Ends 3/29)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck! 
(International Readers, watch for another giveaway
coming in the next few days!)


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


32 responses to “My Thoughts On: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch + GIVEAWAY!

  1. OMG, I absolutely adored this book. It completely captivated me and tore me apart. I was so emotionally drained afterwards. But I just loved it. SO glad you did too!! I'll be reading this author in the future for sure.

  2. Okay, seriously, I was excited to read this book months ago, just based on the premise. Yet every single review and guest post I've read (I've been following the tour, so a LOT of them) makes me yearn to have this book in my hands. Carey sounds like such a strong, wonderful character and I can't wait to meet her! Just knowing how much you loved this makes me that much more anxious to read it. Great review, Asheley!

    • This is definitely one to be excited for if you like YA contemps with issues. This one is so good that it's hard to believe it is a debut. It makes me so excited for what else Emily Murdoch writes for us later! 🙂

  3. Oh my gravy! This book looks amazing! I like books with secrets, and questions, and intrigue! I also really enjoy books that linger with you long after you have closed the cover! Thanks for the opportunity to win! 🙂

    • I'm thrilled to offer the opportunity give this one away because it is one of the best debuts I've read in such a long time. It's so well-written and there are SO MANY questions in it. It can be a tough one to read it people don't like issues-books, but it is so worth it. SO GOOD.

  4. When I read the blurb I didn't know if this book would be for me but after reading your review I'm adding it to my list! Now I'm really looking forward to it. Thanks for a great review and the giveaway! 🙂

    • Oh I hope you enjoy it, Wrighty! I read a guest post on another blog by the author in which she talked about putting some of her own self into the book (not exactly, but subtley) and that made me love it even more. It's really a spectacular story.

  5. I had previously heard very good things about this book and your comments only help to reinforce those impressions. What a wonderfully strong debut, possibly one of the best books of the year. Thanks.

    • Hi Carl! I had also heard good things about this one but I didn't realize HOW GOOD it actually was until I was completely captivated by the story and didn't want to put it down even for two seconds. It IS a very strong debut and I hope a lot of people read it and love it.

  6. Ems

    I'm still debating on this one. You know how I feel about ISSUE books. I'd hate to go into it knowing that I'd probably have my own issues with it. BUT, after reading your thoughts, I feel like I'm more open to giving it a shot. We shall see. 🙂

    • Hi EMS! Yes, this is definitely an Issues book, and the issues are kind of heavy. So I understand you debating long and hard on it. Because they kind of hit you in the face a time or two. However, the payoff is there if you can hang with it. It is heartbreaking, but it is rewarding. There is pain, but there is also hope and joy. I totally support whatever decision you make about it!

      I read a guest post on another blog about how the author realized that she included some of herself in the story (not exactly, but in subtle ways) and that made me love it even more. It is definitely a strong debut.

    • I can understand the fear and also the curiosity! It's heartbreaking but it is so worth it if you can make it through the book. There is absolutely hope, and the hope begins at the beginning and is interspersed throughout, so it isn't like you don't have any until the end. And yes, the MC has faced dire situations, but thankfully they are in the past (because the beginning is her rescue) but she relives them and they are tough. But, yes, this story is amazing. Brilliant debut.

  7. Thanks for the great review! I've been wanting to read this one and I love reading that it's as good as I was hoping it would be! I will definitely be reading it now : )

    • YES, it's a super solid debut. It's a great issues book but it starts out hopeful, which is kind of different – and the issues are told in flashbacks and memories. It's really remarkable. I was sold on it right away.

  8. Dear Lord, Asheley! I can't even describe to you how captivated I was by this review. This one wasn't even on my radar…I'd seen the cover around, but I don't think I'd even read the synopsis, and it certainly wasn't on my TBR. In truth, I was so sucked in by these girls' story that I almost wanted your review to go on longer, before reminding myself that I can just pick up the book. I may not be a huge contemp reader, but the one thing I'm a hard sucker for is survival stories. I love them so so much, particularly the culture shock. I can't wait to read this now!

    • This book is SO, SO GOOD. It's so good, I can't even tell you. Since you know there is hope from the very beginning, I think it is much easier to take, but it is still heartbreaking. STILL, I was captivated by the culture shock as well, and I just couldn't get enough of how sheltered these girls were even though they weren't really that far away from civilization. The cover of the book – that picture of the girl's face – is SO REPRESENTATIVE of that main character. I just SO HIGHLY recommend this one, Heidi. I do. And I'd love to see what it sounds like on audiobook eventually, because Carey has issues with wanting to make sure she speaks well, but since she's been out in the woods for so long, she OF COURSE speaks differently – doing things like dropping the g's off the ends of her words and incorrect usage, etc. I can imagine it would be a great audiobook if they choose a great reader.

  9. I don't usually like issues books, but this one is calling to me! I'm glad to hear that it's as fabulous as I was hoping, and I can't wait to get my hands on it 😀

    • Kirsten, this book is so fantastic! Issues books can sometimes be hard – and I did attach a warning to this one – but it does start out with the girls being found in the woods so you know that it begins on a hopeful note. Hopefully that will help with the issues part of the book. It's SO GOOD.

  10. This is a fantastic review! I keep hearing such amazing things about this book, but your review has me even MORE excited to pick this one up. I cannot even imagine living life like these girls and then having to assimilate back into society. All the simple things they have to deal with and learn. I'm glad this is a hopeful book, because it sounds like it is tough along the way. Hope I can read this so we can discuss!

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