Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher & Release Date: St. Martin’s Griffin, March 2013
The Hook: This has been flying off the shelf at my library, as well as getting some buzz around the teen lit community.
The Lowdown (from Amazon): “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 two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.”
Overall Impressions: Fans of “Where the Stars Still Shine” by Trish Doller and “The Rules of Survival” by Nancy Werlin, not to mention “A Child Called It”, will be in love with Carey’s story. To be honest, this is not my favorite kind of story, but Murdoch did a great job of sucking the reader in and not letting go.
The Highs: Nicely paced, flipping between camper/meth!Mom flashbacks and present-day adjusting with a hint of foreshadowing to carry the story. The focus is (rightly) on the development of Carey’s relationships with family and friends, with just a touch of romance; given the backstory, it was nice to see her take that very cautiously. The ending was a twist for a couple of reasons – I think most readers will guess the main reveal, but there was a little extra that set a new lens over the previous story.
Buzzkills: Scenes of rape and abuse are grim, although not overly graphic. Her mother’s diagnosis seemed a little thin to me – but I’m not well-versed in mental conditions, which it’s possible the author is counting on. Carey’s education is suspiciously deep in some areas and incredibly shallow in others – she can quote Bronte and tests out as a sophomore, but doesn’t know what a locker or a cell phone is. (I suppose it’s possible none of the books she picked up were set in present-day.) Jenessa can read, but there’s a whole host of other skills that are prerequisites for joining first grade that she would never have developed. Also, some of Carey’s reactions were out of proportion to the issue – after everything her mother did, and much of it was truly horrible, getting her birthday wrong made Casey physically ill. And finally, her step-sister called a truce because of something pretty major… and that was the end of it, no consequences. An interesting choice.
The Source: public library
Disclaimer: Neither chocolate or bedazzled jeans were provided by the publisher in exchange for this review.