Saturday, May 1, 2010

Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Tags: YA, kidnapping, abduction, Australia, Stockholm syndrome


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.

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

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.


  1. Whoa, this sounds like such a compelling read. I'd love to pick it us sometime! Thanks for reviewing.

  2. You're very welcome Steph! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

  3. I LOVED this and completely agree with the feeling of intimacy in the writing. Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Since I'm in the UK I really have no excuse for not having read this one already, but somehow I've never picked myself up a copy. It actually sounds amazing and challenging and thought-provoking and all those wonderful things that would probably add up to me loving it too.

  5. I just finished this book and I thought your review was spot on. I kind of liked how little we knew of Gemma's life before the kidnapping, it made the ending seem even more ambiguous to me. I also really enjoyed how this book, unlike others in this new sub genre of ya lit (abduction stories) really makes the reader think and question what is right and what is wrong.

  6. This sounds like a pretty interesting novel! I'll be sure to add it to my want-to-read pile :)

  7. i really like the sound of this one, its going onto my wishlist :)

  8. Awesome review! I've been wanting to read this one, ever since I read the summary awhile back. I'm glad you enjoyed it :D

  9. This one was already on my list, but you've nudged it up!

  10. I can't wait to read this! The cover's wonderful, and the general idea sounds amazing. Plus, I love books written as letters.

  11. Fantastic review! This sounds like an amazing book. I hope it will be published here. I guess if it isn't, I'll just have to get it from the Book Depository someday.

  12. I loved Stolen, it's weird but I actually liked Ty better than Gemma most of the time.

    Although, you said it's written in first person - wasn't it written in second persona narrative? The whole "you" thing is second person (where either the protagonist or one of the main characters is referred to as "you")? I could be wrong...

  13. Wow! Another one to add to the wish list..

  14. I've been waiting for this one to come out for AGES. I remember seeing that a paperback version was released, but I was waiting on the US one. Of course, now I'm tempted to get the Aussie one, since it's cover is a little more kick ass.

    Thanks for the review!

  15. This is in my to-read pile. On Friday, I had two books with the same title in front of me, and opted for the Vivian Van Velde instead. :)

  16. This book reallt has me interested. It sounds absolutely fantastic and I can't wait to get a copy from the library or a bookstore.

  17. This one sounds interesting, too! You've been reading some very good-sounding books!

  18. @Lanna Lovely.
    The book is written in first person (using "I"). That means it is written from the perspective of the narrator. The narrator, using the main character of Gemma, is simply addressing the other character (Ty) as you.
    I found the style alternately irritating and hypnotic, and I quite liked the ambiguity of the whole novel. There are no right or wrong answers. It isn't a clear case of right and wrong; that you should or shouldn't be drawn to the character of Ty. By creating deliberately shadowy pasts for the characters, the only judgements can be made on the images presented in the story. I found myself wondering more and more about Ty's past. Although it is never directly alluded to, I believe that Ty himself is an Indigenous Australian. Gemma says he told her that as a child he spent a lot of time in the company of 'oldfellas', but the extent of his knowledge of the land and his connection to it, point more towards him being Indigenous.

  19. I am reading this book right now and can agree with the whole thing about the desert experiences blending together. But i just wanna know-- do Ty and Gemma get together or not? Because he acts so different towards her at different times, its hard to know whether he wants a friend or a lover. But I must agree-- it is a fabulous piece of writing and a good warning to stay away from older guys willing to prepare your drink! Please tell me-- WILL THEY GET TOGEHTER OR NOT? I MUSTTTT KNOWW!

  20. Awesome review! Here's mine if you don't mind:

    Thanks and have a nice day! :)


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