Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I've had this book sitting on my TBR pile for a long time. I'm kind of ashamed to tell you just how long. Despite the accolades from some bloggers I trust and respect, I just didn't get to it. And of course, it was recently awarded a Printz Honor so then the guilt tripled. Well, finally, finally I read it. Lucy Christopher's Stolen is a book that will stick with you, make you uncomfortable, and question the power of relationships.

Synopsis: Gemma, 16, is on layover at Bangkok Airport, en route with her parents to a vacation in Vietnam. She steps away for just a second, to get a cup of coffee. Ty—rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar—pays for Gemma's drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what's happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. The unknowing object of a long obsession, Gemma has been kidnapped by her stalker and brought to the desolate Australian Outback. STOLEN is her gripping story of survival, of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare—or die trying to fight it. (B&N.com)

Gemma is drugged and stolen out of the Bangkok airport. When she wakes up, her entire world is different, is displaced, and gone forever. Gemma has been taken out of her life in London and is kidnapped to a remote and desolate part of Australia, removed from cities, towns, even the most rural of village. She has no idea why she has been taken, if she will live, or what the future could hold for her.

Stolen is a book like few I have read. The characterization is phenomenal because it is impossible to remain hating Ty, the kidnapper. Seriously, impossible. It is obvious he is in the wrong and it is obvious that there may be some kind of mental issues (in my opinion) impairing his judgment but he has his reasons for what he has done. He genuinely believes he is giving Gemma a better life. That is where the crux of the story lies for me, in how he is consumed in his belief that he is doing the right thing and how it plays out for Gemma.

What I imagine was the Australian title of this book, Stolen: A Letter to My Captor is perhaps more apt than the US title. It also gives you a hint of what stage Gemma is in while the story unfolds. I do not think I'm doing an adequate job of describing this book or why it is special. It is scary because in reality, you should not want to sympathize with a kidnapper. The reasons for a kidnapping are rarely ever positive so one would think this would mean Gemma is in imminent danger. But more than anything she is just confused because Ty shows her a way of life she never thought possible. And she softens towards him, even as she tells herself not to. She knows what he did is wrong, she does know this, but when you are the only two people in a very desolate corner of the world, it is hard not to form some type of bond, even if you feel wrong in doing so.

One of the most amazing elements of this book is the setting. The harsh climate of Australia is perhaps the best setting for Stolen. Gemma is truly on her own, at the ends of the earth in some respects, and this dry, rock hard climate that provides no vulnerabilities. It is a harsh reality and it shows on every page.

Gemma and Ty become entwined in ways one would never expect as they rely on each other. Ty's back story unfolds with a sense of the macabre. Just how close to Gemma has he always been? It is another level of uncomfortable in this story because while in the present you can see him being both the kidnapper but yet Gemma's ally in this unfamiliar land, in the past, he is rather just the creepy guy who followed her around and spied on her. It is hard to balance the two personalities he presents.

Stolen did not blow me away but it was a book that made me contemplate how deep, fragile, and changeable relationships can be. One minute a person is the enemy, the next, the only savior you can rely on. It is a very interesting conundrum.

Other reviews:
Persnickety Snark reviews Stolen
Galleysmith reviews Stolen
Steph Su Reads reviews Stolen

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