Review of Stolen
I took issue with the premise of Stolen at first. In the novel by Lucy Christopher, a sixteen year-old English girl named Gemma is annoyed at her social climber parents and slips away from them at the Bangkok airport to buy coffee. At the cafe, she meets a handsome, oddly familiar stranger who drugs her drink and kidnaps her. When she finally wakes up in Australia, her captor makes it quite clear that he plans to make her fall in love with him… and then she kind of does.
As a feminist, I’ve got a little bit of a problem with the idea of the younger, weaker girl falling in love with the big strong man just because he wants her to. But I decided to give the book a chance because of the Printz Award seal on the cover; as far as I know, they don’t give out those awards lightly.
I ended up loving the book. While yes, I didn’t like the idea of Gemma falling for Ty simply because he was the only guy around and it was a teen novel, Stockholm Syndrome exists and is common in situations like Gemma’s: you’re sequestered with one person who might possibly kill you. Besides trying to humanize yourself to them so they won’t murder you, they might convince you that they, too, have a soul (and worst of all, they might actually have one.)
Christopher’s novel is very well-paced and emotionally (and sometimes physically) action-filled. Gemma is fantastically resilient throughout most of the book, making sure that Ty doesn’t touch her in any way and trying to escape every chance she gets. Unfortunately, because they’re in the middle of the Australian outback, escape is pretty much impossible. Even after a month, when Gemma starts to adapt to life there, she tries her hardest to let Ty know that she’s just as desperate to leave. The emotion in the novel in general is great; I really felt Gemma’s intense hopelessness when she firsts realizes where she is and that she might very well be killed. Her fear is palpable in the words Christopher uses, and she never overdoes it.
Possibly the best part about Christopher’s book are the scenes you don’t expect. It would be easy enough to have Ty keep Gemma in a house that he’s stocked with food and water, but Christopher makes Ty a bit of an adventurer. At one point, he takes Gemma along to help him catch a camel, a scene that I hope Christopher didn’t have to experience to write (it’s very dangerous and potentially fatal if something goes wrong.) I was also happy that the forced (or worse, consensual) sex scene, or even a kiss, did not make an appearance in the novel. I also loved that Ty did have a soul. Though I was less convinced of his goodness than other reviewers of the novel, his backstory is very complex and interesting. It makes the reader and Gemma both question which life was worse for her: the one with her fake, forceful parents whose love is questionable (even at the end of the novel) or the one with her truthful, forceful captor who has loved her for years.
Suffice it to say that, despite my initial reservations, I loved Stolen. Trust the Printz Award seal- it hasn’t steered me wrong yet!
I’d never imagined that you’d have a story, too. Until that moment, you were just the kidnapper. You didn’t have reasons for anything. You were stupid and evil and mentally ill. That was all.
Mum’s face went pale as she studied me, her lips pinched and tight. “What did he do to you?” she asked. “What did he do to you to make you think like this?”