Stolen: A Letter to my Captor by Lucy Christopher

 Review originally written in 2014.

I was wary of Stolen at first. The premise was of a young teenage girl who gets kidnapped by a handsome stranger and he holds her hostage in the Australian Outback until Stockholm Syndrome starts to sink its teeth into her mind. Too often, I find, stories (esp. young adult) try to sell that stalking=love, and typically with older men and young girls. "He's just SO IN LOVE with her that he can't help but be obsessed with her - isn't that romantic?" That kind of thing bothers me on a fundamental level. So, I entered this book worried. And at first, the book did nothing to soothe those fears.

I listened to the book in audio format during a couple of long drives and my solitude as I cruised down road amplified the story in an unpredictable way. The vast majority of the tale is spent with only Gemma and Ty, her kidnapper, alone in the harsh Australian desert. The audio book, which is performed by Emily Gray, I think is the best way to enjoy this story. Christopher has structured the book as a lengthy letter from Gemma to Ty and is the first book I've ever encountered that was in first/second person. That might grate on some readers, but I found that it added to the impact.

As I was pulled into the endless desert and the conflicting emotions that Ty brings out in Gemma, I found myself almost as confused as she was. A rational section of my brain cried out against the creepy things he was doing, but a more emotional part felt sorrow for a boy who was so lonely that he was driven to such extremes. I had to keep reminding myself that he was a kidnapper and a grown man who had stalked a girl from the age of 10. It wasn't always as easy as it should have been to hate him.

The strongest elements of the story are the emotions it inspires and how it forces you to confront them along with poor Gemma. Gemma's characterization is well done, but it's Ty and how he relates to her that is the most complex part. Ty does do an awful thing, but through Gemma's eyes, we see another side of him and I'm still questioning whether the author intended to romanticize the kidnapping or if that was Gemma's stockholm syndrome twisting the narration of events. Sometimes he seems almost too good to be true, but there are hints, especially towards the end of the book, that imply that we might not be getting the whole story.

So, is Ty a lonely, misguided boy who makes a mistake or a monster made sympathetic through the rose-coloured glasses of an unreliable narrator? Sitting here, writing this review, months after I finished the story, the answer seems clear, but when I was listening to the narration alone in my car, it wasn't.


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