Book Recommendation: Stolen

3 Jul

by Vanessa Di Gregorio

~~~

“You saw me before I saw you.”

Imagine being taken, and then finding yourself one day suddenly stuck in the middle of the Australian desert. No matter where you look, there is nothing; no people, no real landmarks, and no escape. How do you survive? Even if you run, where will you go? This is what Stolen deals with; a girl who is kidnapped and faced with the frighteningly alien landscape that is Australia’s outback. It alters the definition of what it means to be trapped.

When I first heard of Stolen by Lucy Christopher, I was instantly intrigued. I really have to thank my friend over at Scholastic for introducing this book to me. Its cover is so simple, and the back blurb doesn’t do this book justice; if I had seen it at a bookstore, I’m not sure I would’ve picked it up. But all she had to say were the words “Stockholm Syndrome” and “kidnap”, and I was interested. I don’t want to ruin too much, so I’ll avoid talking about things in too much detail.

Here’s the description from Goodreads about our Book of the Month pick for July:

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.

~~

I know the reaction some people have had after reading the various blurbs about this story. Some think this book sounds anti-feminist and disgusting. But here’s the thing: Stockholm Syndrome exists. People who are kidnapped for long periods of time often develop it, and for whatever reason, they end up forming a bond with their captor. There are various reasons as to why this probably happens; but I for one have always been fascinated behind the psychology of it. Does Lucy Christopher glorify it? No. She explores this topic with such heartbreak and confusion and despair and wonder; with so much depth and maturity and seriousness that it will leave one feeling breathless.

Stolen’s prose is beautiful. Written as a letter to her captor, the story still bears all the tension as if this wasn’t something Gemma was looking back and reflecting upon. And yet, there is such surreal beauty that comes from the landscape that is the Australian outback. If anything is glorified, it is that; the beauty of the natural wilderness.

And something strange happens while you read; you find yourself feeling attachment to the landscape, and to Ty, the captor. Christopher is able to make us, the reader, feel all the conflicting emotions that Gemma herself feels. We know what he has done is wrong, and yet you’ll find yourself sympathizing with him, even if you don’t want to. It is the skill of her craft that will leave you feeling the effects of Stockholm Syndrome. And that is the beauty of her prose; it is lyrical and paints such a clear portrait of the red-brown sand that is the Australian wilderness; and it also conveys so much emotion, and creates these characters that are hauntingly sympathetic.

The characters really make Stolen so great; Gemma and Ty, and even the landscape, are brilliantly explored. Gemma is a real sixteen year old; she is frightened, and tense, and alone except for Ty. Her voice is so clear, and so compelling; by the end of the book, you feel as if you are in her head. Even though she is faced with such hopelessness, there is a will there; a fire that won’t burn out. Her defiance often leads to even more problems. She struggles with trying to accept what has happened, and refusing to allow it to continue. Ty is equally as great a character as Gemma. He is frightening yet calming, angry yet hostile, a stranger yet familiar. He is contradictory, and flawed, and delusional. And yet you can’t deny the intense love he holds for Gemma; the confusion that also eats away at him at times. He is older than Gemma, and yet so much a child. And, most brilliantly of all, he will confuse and sway you back and forth between love and hate.

Christopher’s description of the outback will stun you; I always felt as if I were under that beating sun, sweltering in the heat and whipped by the red sand that surrounds Gemma and Ty for miles on end. This landscape is the perfect backdrop for the exploration of what freedom really is; a theme that ties closely with the psychological problem of bonding with you captor. Love and relationships are also explored, with such gripping realism even set against a background that becomes surreal. And what a job Christopher does!

There is little action in this book; but really, the action and the suspense are in the interactions between these two characters. The psychological intensity will leave you reeling. And the ending was not what I expected; it will leave you speechless. I, for one, cried. And hopefully that, if anything, is proof of its merit.

I highly recommend this book. It is thoughtful and hauntingly beautiful. And chances are, it’ll be unlike any other YA book you’ve read in a long time.

~~~

Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.

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13 Responses to “Book Recommendation: Stolen”

  1. Marina July 3, 2010 at 12:45 AM #

    Wow, that sounds amazing, I’m sold.

    • Vanessa July 3, 2010 at 11:37 AM #

      Sweet! You’ll love it!

  2. Sandra July 3, 2010 at 10:18 AM #

    *adds to goodreads* I am so excited about this one! (how do you make books sound so good?!)

    • Vanessa July 3, 2010 at 11:39 AM #

      Great!! And the books themselves are just so good that it’d be hard NOT to write about its awesomeness!!!! (although perhaps years of writing English essays help :p)

      Let me know what you think after you’ve read it!! You’ll love it 😀

  3. melimeloo July 3, 2010 at 11:47 AM #

    I like your review. I read Stolen a couple of months ago, when it first came out in Canada and the US. If you’re interested, please check out my review.

    • Vanessa July 4, 2010 at 11:48 AM #

      Thanks!! It really is a great book!

  4. Kate July 5, 2010 at 4:12 AM #

    Damn. I’m usually not one to read anything non-fantasy but I’ll have to make an exception for this one!

    • Vanessa July 5, 2010 at 10:41 AM #

      I’m a huge fantasy nut as well; but I’m sure you’ll love this book. I can’t say enough how much I loved it! And since it takes place in the middle of the desert, it has a surreal feel to it.

  5. Nell July 7, 2010 at 10:12 AM #

    Lucy visted our school, she was amazing to talk to. She said that all she wanted to write about the desert, taht;s why it lacked action but she said that she just fell in love with Ty and Gemma, and told us that Gemma didn’t get Stockholm Syndrome!

    🙂

    • Vanessa July 7, 2010 at 1:26 PM #

      Oh wow! That must’ve been great, getting to talk to her. I could definitely see how the desert was something she loves; I fell absolutely in love with it as well! I didn’t care that there was little action; I couldn’t put the book down! 😀

      Ty and Gemma are such great characters; they’re really complex.

      And I think Gemma definitely struggles with the effects of Stockholme Syndrome; whether or not she actually fully develops it is another question entirely.

      It would’ve been absolutely fascinating to talk to Lucy about this book!

  6. Kayleigh October 5, 2010 at 3:23 PM #

    I’m currently reading, and loving, this book because of THIS review. Thank you!

    • Vanessa October 6, 2010 at 10:04 AM #

      Kayleigh, you have NO IDEA how happy your comment has made me!! You’ve just made my WEEK! I’m so glad you’re loving it! 😀

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