Published by: St. Martin's Press on March 26, 2013
Genre: Abuse, Contemporary
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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.
I assumed that If You Find Me would be emotionally gripping and different—just from the synopsis—and it certainly delivered! The whole idea behind this book is just so sad and crazy, but the most mind blowing part is that it could easily be real.
Carey is so fiercely dedicated to her sister Jenessa, and that is easily the best part of the book. Their relationship is so sweet, so tender, and so necessary; it’s what kept them alive alone in the woods. And Carey is such a realistically strong character. She’s not so strong that nothing bothers her (which I would call “unrealistically strong”); she still has insecurities, doubts, and fears. But she really takes life head on and deals with the hand she’s been given.
I loved watching both characters transition into their new lives; they were both fascinating to watch in different ways. Jenessa adapts beautifully. As a six year old, she’s young enough to forget about the past and just enjoy the wonderful new life she’s been given. Carey, on the other hand, is still burdened by the hardships she has faced, and at times, she almost longs for her old life. More than once I found myself close to tears, whether it was because a memory was so sad, or because their new life was so wonderful, and I felt like they deserved it.
Good things come to those who let them in. All you have to do is take a chance.
But for me, one of the most interesting parts of the book was my torn feelings for Carey’s mother. As a kidnapper, abuser, drug addict, and many other horrible things, her mother was a terrible character that I despised. But, Carey’s mom also had shining moments of clarity where she dished out brilliant pearls of wisdom. In those moments, I couldn’t help but love and admire her. It was kind of an awkward, totally messed up feeling. If it weren’t for Carey’s mother, they obviously would never have been in that horrible situation, but at the same time, if it weren’t for those moments of clarity, their situation could have been so much worse. She encouraged Carey and Jenessa to be smart, intelligent, studious, and to take care of themselves. She constantly reminded them to not live like savages. At the end of the day, she was in no position to be taking care of kids, but I loved those few moments when I saw a different side to her. It’s like they were glimpses of who she was before the drugs, the alcohol, and the insanity.
My one complaint about this book is how flashbacks are integrated; they made the book extremely confusing at times! Carey would be in the middle of a thought, and then she would suddenly switch to describing a flashback with no warning or heads up whatsoever. It made the book really confusing and disjointed. I often had to read entire pages two or three times because a guy would pop up out of nowhere and I’d try to figure out what the heck was going on. Then I’d finally realize, “Oh, this is a flashback.” But the problem was that the flashbacks were so sudden and without any warning (no textual warning and no visual warning like a line break).
But overall, I really enjoyed If You Find Me. It’s certainly a different story, and one that really made me think. Because in a way, it’s totally scary to realize that this could totally and completely happen to someone, and that thought alone just breaks my heart.