“and it’s hard to hate someone once you understand them.” – gemma toombs
Lucy Christopher’s young-adult contemporary novel, Stolen, was thought-provoking and intense, dealing with the difficult and equally controversial topic of kidnapping. Set from the perspective of Gemma, a sixteen-year-old girl that gets taken from an airport by an attractive yet not-quite-there-in-the-head young man, the story is the telling of a heartfelt letter from the girl to her captor. Written in the uncommon second-person tense, the novel intensifies as Gemma’s own feelings do as well – with contrasting emotions of love and hate, confinement and freedom and hope and hopelessness.
The story starts straight off the bat and the pacing in the novel was fairly consistent. Throughout the middle portion of the novel it occasionally felt a little dry and repetitive, but it wasn’t difficult to push through and still kept you very interested. Unravelling the mind of Ty, Gemma’s captor, was certainly a strong-suit and the way that Christopher has realistically built his backstory and his perspective is highly admirable. I often found myself understanding Ty in some areas, almost agreeing in others. And that was part of the fantastic thing about this story – it was so realistically honest that you couldn’t point out who was wrong, only who was more wrong. Was he the martyr or was he the villain? And that’s the point – nobody is either, because everybody is both.
Ty’s perspective on humankind, civilisation, freedom and wilderness was truly intriguing and relatable. You find yourself wanting this creep locked up yet aching for the tortured, lost boy. And the way that Christopher handled that – the way that Gemma handled that – was very well done. She reacted the way any sane teenage girl would and utterly freaked out.
Sometimes I found myself getting tired and a little frustrated with the repetition of the Australian landscape and the wilderness, yet I suppose this could be considered as both a blessing and a curse. As an Australian myself (born and bred), sometimes I felt like shouting YES! I GET IT! IT WAS HOT AND IT WAS BARREN! MOVE ALONG PEOPLE! But other times, my breath was stolen by how accurate and vivid the descriptions was. And it did make for a fantastic setting, and I can imagine that many other people who have not yet had the privilege to visit Australia would now have a fairly realistic view on it (if you left out the beaches, forest, cities, oceans, reefs, mountains, snow, etc). I also found metaphorical meaning in the smallest details – the presence of the camel and how I viewed that to signify Gemma as she was with Ty, and how when he had to let the camel go it showed how Gemma had to leave behind part of who she had grown to become while with him. The second-person tense was effective and gave a closer sense of understanding between the reader and the characters and also helped establish the relationship between them both.
In conclusion, Lucy Christopher’s novel was both achingly beautiful yet very thought provoking (and don’t even get me started on this gorgeous cover!). It addressed heavy issues yet did so with grace and respect and for that, it is a great achievement. While it no doubt had its flaws, the overall reading experience was intense and enjoyable which is, after all, what we all look for in a book.