Author: Lucy Christopher
Publisher: The Chicken House/Scholastic
Publication Date: May 2010
Ages: 14 and up (and tweens on an advanced reading level)
The idea of being kidnapped is a terrifying one—being ripped from your parents, your friends, your family, your home. And, we all have a pre-conceived idea of what we would do if we were placed in this situation: We would fight, we would scheme, we would look for any crack to get away from our captor, until our last breath, if necessary. And, if—no, when—we did finally make it back to our families, we would see our captors behind bars for the rest of their natural lives, just as we were placed behind bars, literally or figuratively, ourselves. We would fight to see justice done until, once again, our last breath, if necessary.
That is how one responds to a kidnapper.
But, what if you find yourself wanting to want him?
And hating yourself for it?
Sixteen-year-old Gemma finds herself pulled from her parents, her home in England, her friends, from everything she knows to be real, by her kidnapper, Ty, a young man who, after watching Gemma for years, is determined that he must save her from herself, her family, the world, and take her to the Australian Outback, where they could make a life together. Where he could love her, without distraction. And, where, he was sure, she would grow to love him and the land, once she understood how he had actually saved, not stolen, her.
In a letter to Ty, Gemma takes the reader down a long, winding, breathless path to discover the truth: Did Gemma, in fact, come to realize Ty is, after all, her true love and not, after all, the delusional kidnapper identified in the beginning of Stolen? “…it’s hard to hate someone once you understand them,” Gemma eventually relates (p. 278, uncorrected proof).
It is hard for the reader to imagine that anyone could come to like, much less love, someone who has violated them so intimately, stealing them from their very life and dictating a newer, “better” way to live. But, interestingly, Christopher is able to create sympathy for the character of Ty, showing the reader glimpses of his nature through Gemma’s eyes, and, in a twisted kind of way, making the reader—as well as Gemma—feel that he truly does care for her—respects her, even. He isn’t violent with her, in the sense that he never hits her, never physically abuses her; he doesn’t force himself upon her sexually; and he shows himself to be a truly gentle soul at heart.
And there is the rub: Can a man who has so ruthlessly drugged a young woman and ripped her from her homeland, parents and everything she knows ever be described as a “gentle soul?” Should the reader feel sympathy for Ty? Or hatred for a brutal kidnapper? Should the reader have compassion for the man who professes so profoundly to love Gemma? Or feel guilty for ever letting such a thought cross her mind?
Only the reader—and Gemma—can decide.
Stolen is Lucy Christopher’s debut novel. She is currently in a Ph.D. program with Bath Spa University, and is studying the ways Australian literature represents wild places, particularly in its writing for young adults; Stolen was part of her doctoral work for the program. It recently won the 2010 Branford Boase Award for best debut young adult novel released in the UK in the last year.
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