Monday, March 10, 2014

Review - Stolen

by Lucy Christopher
Date: 2009
Publisher: The Chicken House
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 306
Format: e-book

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere.

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is not the type of book I usually read, or even contemplate reading.  But it just goes to show how occasionally stepping outside of your comfort zone can pay off.  I really enjoyed this book.

While the underlying premise might seem similar to a book like Emma Donoghue's Room, Stolen is altogether different in voice, setting, and tone.  I cycled through a range of emotions while reading this book.  I felt anger at Ty for what he'd done to Gemma.  I felt the fear that goes along with the horrible sense of isolation of the unpeopled desert.  And I felt utter confusion as I started to understand and even empathize with the villain.  I liked that this book wasn't just written in black and white; it was painted in shades of grey.

It's interesting that, even though the entire novel takes the form of a letter written by Gemma, we're really more familiar with Ty by the end of the book.  While Gemma comes across as a somewhat stereotypical teenager, who does stereotypical stupid teenage things (like drinking in the park with friends and almost getting herself raped), Ty is really the more interesting character.  What little he tells Gemma of his backstory is enough to help us understand what he did, why he did it, and why he thinks his actions were completely logical and justified.  And yet he was more than just a calculating criminal with a hair-trigger temper.  At times he was gentle, sensitive, and caring; those vulnerable moments let the reader see what kind of person he might have been had the events of his own past been different.

And I found that having such a complex, utterly human character as the story's villain really messed with my mind.  I kept having to remind myself (much like Gemma did) of what this man had done, the initial decisions and acts that had set the story in motion.  But I suspect that the back-and-forth of emotions in the reader was actually what the author was going for.

One of the main themes in Stolen is summed up well by Gemma herself when she says:

A part of me understood why you'd done it, too.  And it's hard to hate someone once you understand them.

Had we been left with no real understanding of Ty, it would have been so much easier to hate him.  And while I couldn't quite get to thinking about him as appealing, I did feel awfully sorry for such a messed-up young man.

Stolen wasn't really what I was expecting when I picked it up and started to read; it ended up being better than that.  It's an emotional roller coaster that immerses the reader in a landscape and a relationship that are both difficult to forget.

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.57 out of 5

1 comment:

  1. I just started this one yesterday, and it's making me very uncomfortable. But I know it's supposed to. It's been nominated for our high school book award in Illinois for next year. Great review.