If You Find Me (side note: I always want to call this book “If You Can Find Me.” I don’t know why) follows fifteen-year-old Carey and six-year-old Janessa, who have grown up in a camper in the middle of the “Hundred Acre Wood” in Tennessee. Their mother went out for supplies over a month ago and never returned. The girls are starved and terrified that their food supply will run out before Mama returns.
One day a man and a woman, both of whom the girls have never seen before, come stumbling into their little section of the forest. Turns out, it’s a social worker and Carey’s father, come to save the girls from the life of neglect and abuse they’ve come to know.
I was expecting more of a mystery with this book – where did the mother go? Why was she raising them like this? Is there some deep, dark, secret this family is harboring? Some of these questions ended up being answered, but this book is not so much a YA mystery/thriller as it is a truly heartwarming book about the power of love.
Okay, that sounds super cheesy, I know. I’ve been called heartless, cold-hearted, etc. many times, because I’m not a person who loves love. I’m not super affectionate, I don’t cry reading Hallmark cards, I honestly cannot remember the time a book or movie made me cry, I don’t like sappy commercials targeted at middle-aged moms, I don’t say “Aww” when I see couples hugging/holding hands/kissing in public, I HATE romance books and movies, and I definitely don’t seek out heartwarming reads. But this book may have softened up my ice queen heart just a little bit.
The relationship Carey has with her younger sister is beautiful. Carey is a fierce protector; she would do anything to keep Janessa safe. They both love each other so unconditionally because they’ve been through so much shit together, and one another is all they have. Seeing the two girls slowly adjust and come to love their new family felt real. Yes, it seems like they adjusted pretty quickly, but it’s a 266-page book. I say it felt real because I know what a changing family dynamic is like. I’ve never dealt with long-lost kidnapped children or siblings, but I know how it feels to have someone new around and to have to adjust to them. I’ve read complaints that the stepsister and Carey’s relationship went from hateful to friendly out of nowhere, but that’s how it happens, in my experience. No one likes their regular routine shaken up, and living with someone you hardly knew (in this case never knew) before is tough. But one day you just accept it and decide to stop sulking and try to make things work. That’s exactly what happened to me, and what I think happened in this book.
There were some things I had problems with in this book – mainly the process of integrating the girls back to society, how their case was handled by one social worker and seemingly no one else, how no one realized that this was the long-lost girl from ten years ago…but I can overlook these things because this book was just so lovely! So much in this book just melted by heart .God, I hate dogs but I loved the scenes with Janessa and the three-legged dog. This book has familial love, the love that stems from friendships, a teeny bit of romantic love, and the love that you have for people that you know you shouldn’t – the kind that can be the hardest to give up.
I went into this wanting some intensity and drama but I came out with warmth in my soul and a newfound appreciation for my family and for the things we take for granted every day – running water, electricity, food, and general safety.
** Trigger warning: This book alludes several times to child molestation, and includes a fairly graphic rape scene **