Author: Lucy Christopher [website] [twitter] [facebook]
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Publisher: Chicken House Publishing
Parental Advisory: drugs, alcohol, abduction, child abuse
Teachable Moments: personal safety, Stockholm syndrome
“You told me later that it was only for a day or two. It felt like weeks. My eyelids swelled from crying. I tried to think of ways to escape, but my brain had melted, too. I got pretty acquainted with the ceiling, the rough walls, and the wooden frame around the window. I drank the brownish earthy water left beside me, but only when you weren’t watching. And once I nibbled at the nuts and seeds you left in a bowl, touching them gingerly with my tongue first in case they were poisoned. Whenever you came in, you tried to talk to me. The conversation was pretty similar each time.”
Summary (from the publisher):
In a moving letter to her captor, sixteen-year-old Gemma relives her kidnapping from Bangkok airport while on holiday. Taken by Ty, her troubled young stalker, to the wild and desolate Australian Outback she reflects on a landscape from which there’s no escape. In a story of survival, passion and darkness, Gemma reveals how she had to deal with the nightmare, or die trying to fight it.
How does one start a review for a book so beautifully written?
How does one put into words how powerful the words coming from a victims mouth can be when the victim is filled with compassion and understanding for her captor?
How does one give any kind of perspective to the pain, urgency and desperation a young girl feels to escape the most desolate place in her life? Yet in the process learns that her life before was equally desolate just in much different ways.
Home. That’s all Gemma desperately wanted. To go home and live her life with her family in a familiar and comfortable place. Yet Ty, the boy holding her captive, was just as desperate to keep her with him. And keep her with him he does, in the most torturous ways.
The plot of this story is quite simple, a boy takes a girl and squirrels her away in the middle of nowhere so she can’t be found and can’t escape. The story follows Gemma as she navigates the difficulty of the initial abduction and her subsequent captivity. It is deeply rooted in character development and exploration; a story in which the reader learns much about how a captive thinks and feels during their time with the person who takes them.
The story takes careful consideration of the relationship between the two, how it grows and changes from one of animosity to one of genuine caring (at a certain level). Sure, the abductor already “cares” about his captive at an unhealthy and unrealistic level. Ty idolizes Gemma and places her on a pedestal high above all others leading to an obsession based on unrealistic features he believes she symbolizes for him. In Ty, Gemma first sees a monster (and ultimately I believe continues to feel so despite her growing attachment to him) and then slowly over time he becomes human. It’s an interesting journey to watch on both parts.
The characters are the true strength of this outstanding book.
Gemma is tortured yet accepting. Her navigation of the situation has a tentative yet urgent feel to it. She wants desperately to get home but not necessarily because of who is waiting for her there but because she chooses to do so. She misses civilization and the routine of her ordinary life and we feel the anguish of her slowly accepting that she may never have any more than the sparse life she is forced to share with Ty.
It should be easier for me to say Ty was a horrible person, a misogynist with homicidal tendencies, but I can’t. He was a boy with clear emotional issues; a boy who lived a troubled childhood filled with loneliness. Growing from that boy into a young man he builds up the vision of an idyllic life (one he’d yet to lead) in his mind of what it should be like with Gemma at his side. His motivations are clear– companionship, love, family — however his actions getting them to that point are less so. Christopher has built in Ty a boy who the reader genuinely feels for. While I disagreed with his chosen path I understood how he got there and at times I found myself rooting for him to find his way. The end was inevitable, I knew, but I couldn’t help but wish he’d find a different one.
Christopher hasn’t short-shifted the setting, though, be assured of that. It’s sparse and dangerous and overwhelming. We not only see how isolated Gemma has been made emotionally but feel physically as well it with every single dust particle that settles in the home that Ty has built for them. The home, built from pieces of other people’s lives that he has collected over time. Time he was biding as he waited for the perfect opportunity to bring the one person he’d chosen to live with him back to share it all with. It was dirty, sloppy, hot and filled with few of the creature comforts a person gets so used to and the reader is made well aware of every single one of those elements.
Stolen is assuredly an emotional read about a difficult subject, but is so exceptionally written that the brunt of the horror is made in the softest of blows. It is just that beautiful in plot and character. It is a book that adults, young and old, should add to their list of must reads.