Carey Blackburn and her younger, mute sister Jenessa have spent most of their lives secluded within the “Hundred Acre Woods” of Tennessee. Their mother tried to keep them hidden from society when Carey’s abusive father forced her to take Carey and run. However, the mother is struggling with her own issues with drug abuse and can no longer care for the children. She left her children in the woods, with barely enough to food to survive on for more than a few months. As Carey and Jenessa’s supplies dwindle down, they are met by a woman and man in the woods: a child services agent and Carey’s father. Unfortunately, the only information they have is a letter written by their mother telling Carey’s father to take care of her girls. Carey must struggle to reconcile with the father she grew up fearing and keeping the secret that led Jenessa to stop speaking while juggling the everyday problems of being a teenager.
Emily Murdoch turned her first novel, If You Find Me, into a masterpiece with dynamic and sympathetic characters that will make you want to cry. Starting with Carey, the reader is instantly pulled into her daily routine as she discusses all the ways beans are able to be cooked and the ways in which she takes care of Jenessa — the two main activities in her life. Carey is a girl forced to mature way before she ever should have. Carey must switch from being a mother to her younger sister to being a regular 14-year-old girl under the care of her father and her new stepmother while also battling having a new sibling, who is unexplainably distant and cold towards her. If You Find Me beautifully demonstrates all the effects of child abduction: the struggle of the abducted to fit into society, the influence it held on the lives of those who knew the abducted and the way it changed how the abducted were seen by those around them. Carey’s secret and the reason Jenessa stopped talking is a heartbreaking moment that will melt even the coldest of hearts and make them truly feel for the horrors the sisters have had to live through and the hope needed for their family to make it through.
If you read just one Young Adult novel this year, it should be If You Find Me, which was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice for June 2013 and won a Carnegie Medal and a Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2014. It is capable of transcending past the genre and become a great work of fiction about the importance of self to push through hard times and the support a healthy family can offer. Step aside John Green, Emily Murdoch might just be the new name on every young reader’s lips.