If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

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If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: Two sisters go from having nothing but each other, to having a whole lot more, but will they survive the transition from a simple life to a hectic one as they return to civilization after so many years hidden deep in the forest?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: May 2013
Publisher: Indigo
ISBN: 978-1780621524

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Shortlisted for Waterstone's Best Book for Teens 2014

In the middle of the forest, Carey and Jenessa live with their mother in a tatty old camper van. Cut off from civilisation, they scrabble to take care of themselves and each other, in a setting where every day is a fight for physical and mental survival. They just about make it through, but the girls’ mother is a drug addict with a habit of disappearing, and she’s done just that. It’s been more than a month since they saw her. Maybe more than two. Then, one day, summoned by a letter sent by the girls’ mother, strangers appear in the woods, looking for Carey and Jenessa. They have come to take them away from the woods, and back to the real world.

But, Jenessa was born in the woods, and Carey has lived there since she was a young child. The transition to 21st century life is a massive one. They go from a world where dinner was whatever could be scavenged from the forest to a world of hamburgers and pizza and pancakes drenched in butter and syrup. A world that has TV and mobile phones. A world where they have an extended family, not just each other. And a world where they have to go to school and spend time with children their own age, rather than learn from what is around them. It’s a lot for any child to take, but add in the fact that Jenessa doesn’t talk – she stopped using her voice while they still lived in the forest – and for these two it might be just too much to handle.

This is an emotional and thoroughly engaging fish out of water story, told through Carey’s eyes. In all the right ways it’s reminiscent of Room by Emma Donoghue, taking children out of an environment that’s odd to the rest of us but oh so familiar to them, and placing them in the foreign setting that is the real world. While that would almost have been enough, there are other layers too. Carey hints at a past that was unimaginably brutal and something you can’t conceivably believe a mother would put her child through. Jenessa clearly has secrets of her own, and while she’s chosen not speaking as the best way to keep these, will the change in environment encourage her to spill?

I found this book spellbinding and didn’t want to put it down. It’s one of those wonderful YA crossover books that you feel no shame in reading as an adult, one where the cover may be a bit young but the content certainly isn’t. This is a book that makes you appreciate what you have, not in a soppy way, but in a matter of fact one. And it’s also very big on what’s important – Carey’s unease at being away from the woods isn’t surprising, even if she is now living in a place with hot showers and comfy beds.

A lot of the pain in the book is subtle, understated, unemotional, almost because that’s the way Carey has had to deal with it. It’s not a big deal, except of course it is, it’s a huge, massive deal. And yet, because of the low key way she talks about the past, it seems all the more poignant than any woe-is-me misery memoir. This is a book I’ve been thinking about all weekend, and I finished it some days ago. I suspect I’ll be thinking about it for many more days still.

Highly recommended.

Thanks go to the publishers for our preview copy.

Learning to Scream by Beate Teresa Hanika is in the same vein, while Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is a bit different but I think would appeal to the same sort of teen readers as this one.

Buy If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch at Amazon.com.


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