Saturday, May 1, 2010
Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Gemma is sixteen when she is taken from a Bangkok airport and brought to no-man’s land in the wild and dusty Australian desert. Her kidnapper, Ty, says he stole her from the life she knew back in London in order to save her from the soulless lifestyle of zombie-like commercial conventionality and acquiescence. But Gemma wants nothing to do with Ty and his independent existence: she just wants to get back to her old life.
As time passes with just the two of them, however, Gemma learns of Ty’s past, his reasoning, and even begins to see the desert in a new light.
Written in letter format addressed to Ty, STOLEN is a startlingly unique and utterly haunting UK debut that is sure to take the world by storm. It is a detailed exploration of the human psyche under extreme conditions, a vivid portrayal of Australian wilderness, and a rare literary accomplishment.
Gemma’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior perfectly befit those of who have been taken, and are now being held, against their will. Of course I don’t have any personal experience to back my claim up, but I found myself nodding along to her thoughts and actions, knowing that, if I were ever in her situation, I would react the same way. Gemma is not universally likable: she is at many times petty, reckless, and frightened to senselessness. However, that makes her more appropriately human for this book than the “perfect” protagonist: she is the worst side of ourselves that would come out in similar conditions.
I found Ty sympathetic, and understood his logic much more quickly than Gemma did, even though his methods of carrying out his dreams were downright dangerous and psychotic. Lucy Christopher gradually reveals his troubled past to readers, and the beauty of it is that at the end we are not sure where we should stand. Should we agree with Gemma’s desire to return to her old life, even with knowing how stale, monotonous, and “unreal” it would be? Or does Ty’s version of removing oneself from the corrupt society in order to find a more fulfilling lifestyle among nature make more sense?
There is something remarkably intimate about the way in which STOLEN is written. Because it is written in first-person letter format to Ty, we connect, remarkably, with Gemma (first-person narration) AND Ty, the “you” whom the letter is addressing, since we are placed in a position of essentially being both Gemma and Ty at the same time. STOLEN makes it clear that there are no easy answers to this scenario, and readers can feel free to make of it what they will.
STOLEN is not without its flaws. We are not given enough information about Gemma’s old life to decide whether or not Ty was justified in taking Gemma away or to reach a decision about which “life” Gemma should choose. The desert experiences can become a bit tedious as they blend into one another, and despite the excellent characterization, some of the scenes were a tad too dramatic for me to despite. However, it all comes down to the fact that STOLEN is a remarkable achievement and an alluring, nearly unputdownable read. Pick this book up and see if you don’t get sucked into Gemma and Ty’s story yourself.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I absolutely love the UK cover for this book, with its subtle "desert floor" cracks within the black background. This one feels a little too plain for me, though I still love the title font, as well as the butterfly silhouette. I like how it's so different from most other things we see out there.
Scholastic / May 1, 2010 / Hardcover / 304pp. / $17.99
UK copy gifted by Jenny (thank you so much!!); review copy sent by publisher.