Release: 2nd May 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Crossover, Fiction, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
"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 the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the "normal" life of school, clothes and boys.
Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away 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."
If You Find Me was a book that pulled me in straight away and had me emotionally invested. The book is told in first person from Carey who has such a strong presence and distinctive voice as our narrator. The writing and imagery was beautiful and I quickly became immersed in Carey’s story.
This book deals with many issues such as child abuse, neglect, survival, poverty, mental illness, and drug addiction making this a difficult book to read at times but there is always an underlining message of hope that stops this from being a tragic and depressing read. The book mainly deals with the after effects of the situation. You know Carey and Jenessa are safe now and getting the love and support they need which makes their story slightly easier to digest.
One of the things I loved about this book was the special bond between Carey and Jenessa. Carey is the eldest of the two and would do anything to protect her little sister. She has practically raised Nessa with their drug addict, mentally unstable, mother leaving them alone for weeks on end in a camper van in the middle of the woods. The girls have been through some truly horrific things and I wanted so badly to wrap them up in cotton wool and protect them! Early on in the book the sisters are found and custody is given to Carey’s father whom Carey was stolen from at a young age by her mother and that’s where the story really begins as we watch the girls experience and adjust to everyday life for the first time.
The loving family that Carey and Jenessa are introduced to was one of my favourite things about the book and what made it so interesting to read. Carey’s dad has a wife and step-daughter and the adjustment is a big one for everybody involved. For Carey and Jenessa modern living is one big discovery as they’re introduced to television for the first time, eat food that’s not from a tin, and attend school. Perhaps the biggest challenge they face is letting other people into their bubble and Carey handing the mothering role over to Melissa. For Carey’s father and his wife Melissa there is the horror of learning what the girls went through and helping them adjust to a new environment and supporting them. I wanted to kill their stepsister Delaney at times but then I’d remember that she’s a young girl going through a big change also and I’d feel bad about my original thought.
The characters were all so well developed and I fell in love with all of them even the family dog Shorty whose relationship with Jenessa brought a tear to my eye! Carey really shone as a heroine she’s so brave, selfless and inspiring to read about. Although Jenessa doesn’t talk, her lovely personality would shine through her actions. Both girls completely captured my heart and I felt fiercely protective of them.
I did have an inkling as to what might have happened regarding the ending. I could see it coming and was absolutely dreading it! I still wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact it had on me though and there was an added twist that left me completely shocked.
Overall If You Find Me is a powerful debut novel that brought out a range of emotions in me from despair to hope, from love to rage. It’s one of my favourite debuts of the year and is guaranteed to hold a special place in the hearts of those who read it.