September 27, 2013

Review: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

September 27, 2013
Lucy Christopher's novel Stolen tells an unconventional story of a kidnapper and the victim living off the land in an isolated Australian desert. Caution: there are spoilers.

Christopher's writing style when telling the story by the therapist in the story's advice to write a letter at the end of the book, which was the tool used to write this novel. The whole book is the letter to the captor that which tells us the story.

It happened like this. 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.  
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.

There are many books about kidnapping, but what sets Stolen apart from others (for me anyway) was the dynamic and character development, and that it was told in a form of a letter instead of as it was happening. By doing that, we got to see how Gemma's mindset was then and her take on it now that she rehashes the events. Telling by the story being told in an extensive letter to her captor, it's clear that protagonist Gemma does escape.

Why I say their dynamic is unconventional because Ty isn't like other captors. Most kidnappers don't really pay any mind to nutritional needs for their victim, or give insight to appreciate something that's important to him. Kidnappers usually beat up their victims and molest them, however, Ty did not try any of those things on Gemma. Of course, Ty did show a bit of his aggression by snapping at Gemma or balling his fists, but he didn't take it out on her physically. Yes, I thought it was creepy that he kidnapped Gemma and isolated her, and his obsession over her was creepy and not creepy at the same time. What I mean is that they met years ago, except Gemma didn't know, when she was around ten years old and Ty was barely an adult. Ty was a lost 18-year-old and took to vices like drinking, and ten year old Gemma found him laying in the park while easter egg hunting. Gemma gave him some insight on life and that's what got him to build a life for himself and learn to appreciate things. And leaving a robin's nest at her windowsill the day after. Okay, knowing where she lives and which window is hers is creepy.

Why that's not creepy is because that wasn't when his obsession over her started. The obsession didn't start until years later when Ty saved Gemma from being raped by one of her friends. That's when the creepiness of it all started. Since he saved her, Ty knew he had to have her. So he built a place to live off of in the middle of the Australian desert for a few years, then waited for the perfect opportunity to steal her away. He played off that his feelings for her was love. That may have been, but there's a line between love and obsession. I think there may have been real feelings for her because he truly did try to make her happy, and he went to great lengths to get her professional help when Gemma got a fatal snake bite risking exposure in his role in her kidnapping. Even if he really did love her, what he did to have those feelings reciprocated was not the best way in doing so. If only he did it the old fashioned way, maybe they would have worked out a real relationship. Then there's the brainwashing. Though Ty's brainwashing wasn't extensive whatsoever, it still corrupted Gemma's mentality toward her parents up until the end when she discovered that it wasn't true at all. Gemma's parents truly did care about her.

Majority of the story, it was just Gemma and Ty. We spent a lot of time in Gemma's mind while she wanders around the land, so the pace was slow but bearable. You really feel for Gemma, of course. In spending a lot of time during such a tedious and unfamiliar situation, brought a humor that I followed so well. Gemma's thoughts about what she wanted to do to Ty for what he did adds for comedic relief and will have you snickering several times. It sure made me want to metaphorically high five her.

Ty's relentless insightful babble about appreciating the land wasn't truly understood by Gemma until she saw it in aerial view on the plane ride back home. It was then she finally appreciated the nature and beauty of it all. Sometimes it takes perspective to understand concepts and meanings.

The ending was a bit confusing for me because I didn't understand what Gemma's feelings toward Ty really was, and where that left Ty in the hearing. Did she really fall in love with Ty or not? Did Gemma win the case and sentence Ty to prison? Did he receive and read the letter she wrote? Those questions were left unanswered as they were not clearly stated. I don't know if Christopher ended it that way because she felt that readers can imagine where it can lead to, or it was for some other reason.

Other than the ending that left me with questions, this poignant yet riveting story is an enjoyable read. And if you're interested in getting to know the land of the Australian outback, you will find appreciation in it.

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