Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

We’re Not Out Of The Woods Yet

Read If You Find Me and never complain about your childhood again.

We’re Not Out Of The Woods Yet

BOOK REPORT for If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Cover Story: Big Face In Her Natural Habitat
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: Backwoods
Bonus Factors: Homecoming, Splash
Relationship Status: Foster Sister

Cover Story: Big Face In Her Natural Habitat

This cover provides an intimate glimpse of Big Face in the woods, au naturel. There's no heavy make-up, no stylized wardrobe, no product-laden hair in the face. It's a nice change and yet, I can't help but wish that Big Face was as elusive as Bigfoot.

The Deal:

Trigger Warning: This book deals with child abuse and molestation.

Prepare to feel REALLY GREAT about your childhood. So, fifteen-year-old Carey has spent the majority of her life living in a trailer in the middle of the woods. She's killed animals for food, taught herself to read and even raised her little sister, Jenessa, while her meth addict mama disappears for weeks at a time. She always comes back... until the day she doesn't. Instead, Carey's father appears to reclaim them, and while Carey doesn't trust him, she's not sure that she and Jenessa can survive in the woods for much longer. As they learn to, as Garth would say, live in the now, some adjustments are easy (hot showers!), while others, like school and cultural assimilation, are much more difficult. Carey is grateful for this chance to start a new life, but no matter how hard she tries, she can't seem to bury her past in the woods.

BFF Charm: Yay!

Are you kidding me? Of COURSE I'm gonna be friends with Carey. She's tough, she's smart and she would give her life for her little sister. So she's basically Katniss, minus the bitchiness. There were a few times when I felt like she was a little *too* wide-eyed and sweet, but then I thought about all of the shizz that she's been through, and how her only source of warmth was a coat covered in cat piss that she found in the forest, and then I felt like a really bad person for rolling my eyes at her naïveté. Not only was I impressed with her endurance, I felt proud when she finally began to stand up for herself outside of the woods. She's a strong, compelling, complex heroine, but I'll be honest: the real reason I want to be Carey's friend is so that I can introduce her to stuff like tacos and John Hughes movies and BLOW. HER. MIND.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

We don't meet the potential love interest, Ryan, until about halfway through the book, which is fine by me, because this is really Carey and Jenessa's story. Consequently, Ryan's character doesn't get a ton of build-up, and while he seems cute, he also felt like an afterthought. Plus, the whole molestation storyline didn't exactly put me in a romantic mood.

Talky Talk: Backwoods

As the narrator, Carey's voice twangs with her uncultivated upbringing. The text is peppered with plenty of reckons and mighty fines, and though Murdoch refrains from the cartoonish, she occasionally lays it on too thick. Carey's stream of consciousness feels intimate and achingly real-- maybe too real, because her repetitive thought patterns, while probably authentic for someone with so much trauma, wore on my nerves. Like, after the fifth reference to the terrible memory of the "white-star night," I was pretty sure I knew what happened, so the reveal felt extremely dragged out and not revelatory at all. (I know, I'm a bad person!) With that said, I admire the delicate balance Murdoch achieved with Carey's character-- she's innocent yet tainted, young but wiser than her years.

Bonus Factors: Homecoming

Carey reminds me so much of Dicey in Homecoming. She's saddled with way too much responsibility for someone her age, and yet she perseveres. Just like the kids in Cynthia Voigt's novel, Carey and Jenessa have to be incredibly resourceful to survive, and I found their trailer life as fascinating as it was horrifying. Carey's skills at finding food and making her own fun with Jenessa brought to mind The Boxcar Children, but those kids are WAY too happy to be used as a comparison.

Bonus Factor: Splash

Ok, obviously Carey does not have a fishtail. But aside from this anatomical difference, she's basically Daryl Hannah in Splash. Girlfriend is a stranger in a strange land, and she hasn't been exposed to, like, anything. She's never had an Oreo or used a pencil, and she had to be reminded of how to use a toothbrush. I mean, she doesn't even know what a HAMBURGER is. SHE'S NEVER HAD BACON BEFORE. I WEEP.

Casting Call:

Elle Fanning as Carey

Elle's got Carey's beauty as well as the look of an old soul.

Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Jenessa

Ever since I saw We Bought a Zoo, I have been dying to cast Maggie because SHE IS SO PRECIOUS.

Relationship Status: Foster Sister

Once I heard about its story, I was eager to welcome this book into my life. It has a completely different perspective than most of the books I know, and it doesn't pretend that life is all sunshine and roses. At the same time, this book doesn't take anything for granted, and I delighted in its celebration of little pleasures. It took us a while to get used to each other, and we certainly didn't always mesh, especially when it came to our styles of communication. But this book exposed me to a completely different world than my own, and learning about its past made me appreciate my present.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from St. Martin's Press. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). If You Find Me is available now.

Categories: Book Report Tags:
Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).