This was one of my five books for the Basically Books! Autumn 2011 favourites challenge. I took this book from the lovely Char’s favourites shelf. It’s a book that I’ve seen her recommending to others countless times and eventually my eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I bought the book.
It arrived at my house some time in early July when I’d already left for my family home in France. Any and all books that arrived then have ended up on the backburner – even a book by my favourite author! This challenge has pushed me to pick up the book. I didn’t really know what to expect of the book. All I knew going into it was that it was in letter format and that it was about a girl’s ordeal when she is kidnapped, so I went in with a pretty open mind.
Presentation: Your average sized YA paperback. The font is relatively large and well-spaced. There are 301 pages. There are no chapters, though there are breaks in the text.
Story: It’s hard to sum this one up without giving away too much of the story, so all I’m going to say is that it’s about a girl who gets kidnapped from Bangkok airport and is taken away from civilisation itself to live in a hut in the middle of the Australian desert with only her kidnapper, the relentless sun and nature very different from anything she’s ever known.
Thoughts and impressions: I don’t even really know where to begin with this review. This is another case of finding one of those YA lit gems in a vast ocean of mediocre YA books out there. Just like Beth Ravis did in Across the Universe, Lucy Christopher has taken all of my prejudices against YA and completely smashed them apart. Stolen sucks you in as of the very first line and ruthlessly demands your undivided attention until the very last line. This book should come with a warning that once you pick it up, you won’t be putting it down again until you’ve finished it!
I suppose that it is arguable as to whether or not Gemma is a fragile character at the start of the book – personally I found a lot of little hints that she wasn’t happy with her life or where it seemed to be headed (especially the hints that all was not well in her circle of friends because she’d fallen for her best friend who happens to be her other best friend’s boyfriend.) By the end of the book she is certainly very conflicted in her feelings about everything: about her situation, the landscape where she’s living, her captor…
Ty, on the other hand, was “broken” well before the events of the story take place. His story is slowly revealed to Gemma and the reader: the way that he’s been planning all of this for a long time; the way that he needed to be closer to nature, away from the taint of civilisation. Logically, I knew that Ty was in the wrong. He’d taken Gemma from her life against her will, had taken her to the middle of nowhere where she could not escape him. And yet, he did allow her to make her escape attempts; each time he would let her go but he would save her from her folly to try to escape into the Australian desert and nurse her back to health. He definitely had issues as well: this was made obvious in the way that he would freak out over small things. That said, he would always try so very hard to keep him temper under control. Everything that he did for Gemma made him very endearing. This in itself just goes to show just how talented a storyteller Lucy Christopher is.
Stockholm syndrome is, of course, a very important part of the story. But it goes much further than that because it was me as the reader who was suffering from Stockholm syndrome well before Gemma ever changed in her stance towards him. Logically, I knew that really he was the antagonist of the story but at the same time, in spite of myself, I found myself coming to love this poor, broken soul. I don’t imagine that this will be the case for all readers – if you find yourself attracted to the bossy alpha male hero in stories, I suspect Ty might not do it for you. I personally have always found myself more attracted to the tortured male lead that needs help finding his way again and Ty fits this bill perfectly. Lucy Christopher makes the reader consider Stockholm syndrome from the inside. I think that it is also very important to keep in mind that the book treats a glamorised version of kidnapping, Gemma’s experience is a far cry from the kidnap stories you hear in news.
There is also a camel in this story. For most of the story, Gemma and Ty are the only characters but the camel could be considered a side character. I loved her. I really did. I came so close to tears several times during her scenes. I don’t want to spoil this too much but the camel’s story is a great allegory for Gemma’s story.
And finally, this book is cyclic: Gemma starts the story not really aware of what’s going on around her and ends it in the same state. This worked really well.
The only thing that I wasn’t so sure about was Ty’s hair colour. About half way through the story, Gemma mentions his blonde locks. Up until that point, I’d viewed him as having dark hair. I don’t know whether this was because I’d read this in the book at some point or because I’d superimposed my own personal preference for darker hair on the character. It is likely the latter but this still pulled me from the story for a moment while I tried to figure it out.
Style: This book is written as a letter to Ty. It addresses him as “you”, which makes it very different from what I have read before now. This worked really well for this setting, though, and I don’t think that the story would have been as good had it been written in a traditional manner. The style is fairly simple, but it fits.
Final verdict: I will be going around recommending this book to everyone I know. I loved it. 5 stars.
One warning comes with this recommendation, though. Make sure that you have nothing pressing to do when you start the book because if you’re anything like me then you won’t be able to put it down again until you’ve finished it!
Extra notes: No strong language, no sex. Appropriate for mature younger readers who are able to understand the concepts addressed in this book. If in doubt, read it before you allow your child to read it – it shouldn’t take you more than an afternoon to get through the whole book.