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YA, Contemporary, 301 pages, Chicken House Ltd
- Series: stand-alone
- Pub date: May 4th 2009
- Disclosure: Received a copy as a Christmas present from my lovely fabulous fellow blogger Emma of Booking Through 365. Thanks!
It happened like this.The Long...
I was stolen from an airport.
Taken from everything I knew,
everything I was used to.
Taken to sand and heat, dirt
and danger. And he expected
me to love him. This is my story.
A letter from nowhere.
I can't get to the bottom of my complex feelings about this book without getting to the bottom of my complex feelings on sensational media kidnapping stories. Elizabeth Smart. Madeleine McCann. As a culture, we're obsessed with the idea of a pretty white virgin kidnapping, and this book explores that in a vaguely creepy, yet lyrical and ultimately heartbreaking, way.
Gemma is the most basic of YA heroines: British, disillusioned. She wanders away from her parents in an airport, and bumps into the gorgeous, Australian, too-old Ty, who proceeds to drug her and keep her on his compound in the Australian outback, where, beyond flashbacks, most of the story takes place. Gemma tries over and over to escape, but is foiled by the heat, the desolation, and by the endless parade of poisonous creatures Australia is famous for. The landscape is beautiful, bleak, and unusual, and Christopher evokes it in all of its vicious and surprisingly tender glory. There is a harrowing (and disgusting) scene involving the capture of a camel. I could feel the grit in my eyes and the sun on my back.
Gemma, really, is only here to make Ty an enigma to us: he's the true center of the story. He is bewildered by Gemma's desire to return to her family, when in his eyes he's simply rescued her from an unhappy situation. There are vague sexual, sensational undertones to their relationship as the story progresses--how could there not be?--but there's something deeper, too. Ty is a savior and a big brother and a monster all at once, and Christopher has given us a terrific, if implausible, anti-hero to root for.
Terrific, if implausible, is a great way to sum up the story, actually. The prose is drippy and angsty as a teen's diary, and while it's a little much at times, it's also a guilty delight to read. Stolen is compulsively readable for the same reason kidnapping and cult stories make the front page of People: we are fascinated by these subspecies of the human race, the monsters, those who refuse to live by society's rules. We want to devour them.
I cried at the end, and I'm not sure why. I felt like I was held captive myself; like this book was a dream I had to wake up from. I imagine that was the effect Christopher had in mind. It's a sucker punch of a book that I never quite believed, but loved just the same; just like Gemma seems to feel about Ty.
...and the Short:
Gushy and sensational, but haunting and lovely, too. Christopher evokes an unforgettable landscape and anti-hero, even if I had trouble swallowing every little detail.
The Final Word: Liked it.