Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. St. Martin’s Griffin. 248 pp.
After 10 years of living in a camper without water or electricity in the middle of the woods with her meth addict mother and six-year-old sister Janessa, fifteen-year-old Carey knows how to hunt for food, how to teach herself and Janessa their schooling, how to play the violin, and how to survive. Carey has always taken care of Janessa, but now that Mama hasn’t come home in two months she’s worried because they are running low on food.
When a strange man claiming to be her father and a social worker show up, the girls are taken back to civilization. Janessa has never lived outside of the woods, but takes happily to her new life. Despite the love Carey feels from him and his wife for Janessa, she finds it hard to believe they love her. She had to do bad things to survive, and one of those big secrets has kept Janessa from speaking for over a year.
High school is awful; with her stepsister Delaney making sure it gets worse every day. Everything having to do with civilization is new to Carey and she is overwhelmed, wanting to run away to the woods. Her new friend Ryan was trying to be helpful when he showed her a flier saying Mama kidnapped her when she was five years old, but Mama had always said her father beat them so she had to run away.
Carey doesn’t know what to believe and, because of her big secret, is unsure of her place in this new world. She is certain everyone will hate her when they find out what happened that night. As Carey remembers what she had chosen to forget, she realizes she will have to tell the secret that bound her and Janessa together and kept Janessa from speaking. Their future depends on letting go of the past.
Emily Murdoch does a wonderful job drawing readers into the mind and heart of a young girl forced to grow up in the harshest of circumstances. Her use of flashbacks as Carey remembered Mama and their years in the woods had me on the edge of my seat as I walked through Carey’s pain with her. The rawness of those years comes out in Carey’s violin playing, and will necessitate that readers have a box of tissues at the ready as they read. I finished the book in one sitting, and know it will mesmerize others as it did me.
Highly recommended for readers aged 14 and older.