Believe the hype.
[b:If You Find Me|15793231|If You Find Me|Emily Murdoch|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1364401872s/15793231.jpg|18670766] is one of those rare books that so expertly, sadly, wonderfully, horrifically captures the protagonist's pain. But not just pain. Their resilience, determination, fear and hope too. Fans of heartbreakingly powerful stories by authors such as [a:Sara Zarr|19093|Sara Zarr|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1302718823p2/19093.jpg] and [a:Courtney Summers|1487748|Courtney Summers|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1355950434p2/1487748.jpg] will surely fall in love with this story. A story which dragged my heart mercilessly along the ground without once feeling melodramatic or cliche or overdone. [a:Emily Murdoch|5445024|Emily Murdoch|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1349821585p2/5445024.jpg]'s debut is truly fantastic and I hope this is the start of a long and beautiful love affair between myself and her novels.
The story opens out in the woods where fifteen year old Carey and her younger sister, Nessa, live in a run-down old camper van. This time, their mother has been away longer than ever and Carey has to struggle to make sure they both don't starve. But one day, two strangers arrive with a letter from their mother, confessing that she can no longer take care of her two daughters. The girls are taken away from the woods to live with their father and his new family but, of course, things aren't as simple as happily ever after. Carey has to adjust to a life where there are no trees to hide secrets behind... and the more time that goes by, the more her dark past threatens to come back to haunt her.
One thing I absolutely adore in young adult books is a strong bond between siblings. I loved it in [b:Angelfall|11500217|Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)|Susan Ee|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1319887835s/11500217.jpg|16435765] and I loved it in [b:The 5th Wave|16101128|The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)|Rick Yancey|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1359853842s/16101128.jpg|19187812] - it's just one of those things that seems to always plant me firmly on the protagonist's side. Perhaps it's because I'm the oldest of three children and feel very protective toward my younger brother and sister - I don't know - but I find myself immediately liking protagonist's that put their younger sibling first and dedicate themselves to making sure they're kept alive/happy. And I think the relationship between Carey and Nessa is told so well. These girls have spent so much time alone with only each other for company and, even when they are removed from the woods and go to live with others, they seem to exist a little separately from the rest at first. Eventually, they start to adjust to their new lives and the change felt gradual and realistic.
There's only a couple of reasons why this didn't get the full five stars and I think they were big enough reasons for me to justify the lowered rating. Basically, I often thought that Carey's "voice" was somewhat more adult and mature than it should have been for a fifteen year old. Now, I'm happy to make some allowance for the unusual circumstances that Carey has grown up in and the parental role she has been forced to take on. However, while this may be a good enough reason for her altered outlook on life, I still feel that it isn't enough to explain some of the language used. The other reason for the lowered rating was the handling of the situation with Delaney (their father's stepdaughter) which I think was resolved too quickly to be satisfactory. I sympathised with both girls' situations but thought that it could have been explored better and developed more subtly than it was.
Overall, though, this was an excellent debut. The story was compelling, albeit dark, and the characters were well-rounded and interesting. I'm very excited to see where Murdoch goes next.