Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review: STOLEN by Lucy Christopher

Stolen by Lucy Christopher; The Chicken House
A girl: Gemma, 16, at the airport, on her way to a family vacation.

A guy: Ty, rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar, eyes blue as ice.

She steps away. For just a second. He pays for her drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what's happening, Ty takes her. Steals her away. To sand and heat. To emptiness and isolation. To nowhere. And expects her to love him.

Written as a letter from a victim to her captor, STOLEN is Gemma's desperate story of survival; of how she has to come to terms with her living nightmare--or die trying to fight it.

Oh, this book. Talk about a land mine. Whisked from an airport in London to the empty and deserted Australian Outback, Gemma is completely without resources. She's too far from the nearest town to summon help, too deep in the Outback to hope for accidental discovery, and too closely watched to hope to deceive Ty successfully. I say successfully, because she does try a few times, but it always ends in either disaster or them staring soulfully into each other's eyes. Oh, didn't you know?

I spoil nothing when I say that it's fairly obvious that Gemma will grow to "love" Ty by the end. Love, heavy case of Stockholm Syndrome, whatever. I mean, he has "blue, blue eyes." In the sometimes cliched world of YA phrases, that's a dead giveaway right there. And did I mention Gemma is a very-underage sixteen while Ty is closer to thirty? Ew.

Also, the entire book is written as a letter to Ty himself. It's all "you did this" and "you did that." The choice sort of makes sense by the end, but it's still strange to read. Boring to read at times, as well.

Some reviewers accuse the author of indulging in purple prose (that's stuff that's overly flowery and poetic), and I agree. I like pretty writing as much as the next person, but at times it really dragged down the story. The Australian Outback is aliiiiive and magical, yeah yeah yeah. Cue "The Circle of Life", do a little dance, and get on with it already. However, that isn't to say that all of the flowery descriptions were unnecessary. Even as Gemma struggles to understand Ty, she grows to love Australia and the wild beauty of the desert. The setting becomes a character in its own right at times, so some appreciation is warranted.

The Sixth Sense, by M. Night Shyamalan
As for the characters, there's nothing much to say. Their motivations, at least, make a sort of superficial sense. I think some of Ty's motivations are pretty stretched, but I let such concerns slid if the story amuses me enough. Gemma is feisty, and I do love feisty. I cheered every time she put up a struggle in any form. I was never sold on Ty's supposed irresistibility, though. Instead of imagining some tanned god, I just kept picturing Vincent Grey, the freaked-out man-child from The Sixth Sense.

Taken by Pierre Morel
I think what saved the book for me was the ending. Gemma has some pretty big decisions to make, decisions that must be settled in a way that seems organic and logical given her various shifts in understanding regarding Ty but that also wouldn't have advocates up in arms. I don't think this book in any way is a stellar talking point for "stranger danger" (the circumstances leading up to the kidnapping are fairly unique and, dare I say, preposterous). However, from Helen of Troy to Taken, fictionalized kidnappings have always fascinated the general public, and interest has increased in modern times due to the high-publicity cases of Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart. I believe that many teens, having grown up inundated with such fears and pressures, will find this book interesting despite its flaws.

Points Added For: Feisty heroine, a plot involving kidnapping, pretty scenery, a logical conclusion.

Points Subtracted For: Less-than-stellar delivery of an interesting premise, icky "romance," "blue, blue eyes," purple prose, a way-too-heavy extended metaphor involving a camel.

Good For Fans Of: Future fans of Room by Emma Donoghue (WAY better, IMO), Twilight or other sketchy romances, anyone fascinated by news cases involving kidnappings.

Notes for Parents: Heavy language (way too many f-bombs for my taste, plus other profanities), really stupid romance (she's sixteen! he's in his late twenties!), underage drinking, nonsexual disrobing.

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