My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I’d heard about “If You Find Me” well before it was published, and for some reason I never thought to add it to my TBR pile. A couple choice sound bites–an acquaintance review of the ARC, a letter from the author posted to a blog post I read, and a New York Times review (I think)–talked me into giving the story a shot. And how freaking glad am I that I did?
“If You Find Me” was not one of those books that I expected to fall in love with, or blow through in a day(ish) because the protagonist’s voice was so unique. And yet, Emily Murdoch’s review made me do both.
I thought the premise of the novel was pretty niche. While there are an increasing number of YA contemporaries being written about kidnappings, very few of the ones I’ve read have addressed the aftermaths. None have dealt with the added burden that parental kidnapping causes.
Carey and her younger sister Nessa have lived in a camper in a section of Tennessee wilderness for most of Carey’s life. Their meth-addicted mother comes and goes, and when the story opens she has been gone for an unprecedented amount of time. After a letter reaches Carey’s father regarding their location, the girls end up trying to go back to modern life–a difficulty because of Nessa’s silence and Carey’s secrets.
One of the things I usually make no secret about is the fact that I hate novels written in dialect. Most of them make me squirm at worst, or force me to fill in unaccented speech at best. It’s a testament to Murdoch’s writing ability that Carey’s voice rings authentic, that I never felt as though I had to correct her speech patterns or cringed at some of her turns of phrase.
The family dynamics were especially strong, between Carey and her sister, and the two girls and their new family. Carey’s efforts toward overcoming her mistrust of her father and stepsister while growing to understand and love them rang so true. And as an animal lover, I practically melted anytime Nessa’s attachment to the family dog appeared on the page.
Though I had a pretty good guess regarding Carey’s secret and why Nessa doesn’t speak, Murdoch actually managed to prove me at least partially wrong. In some cases the events that drive Carey’s reactions to strangers would’ve felt overdone or melodramatic, but here I thought they worked perfectly.
Having enjoyed this novel so much, I’ll be waiting somewhat patiently for Emily Murdoch’s next book.