Published by: Chicken House
Recommended by: Sam (Realm of Fiction)
Christina Reads Your Recommendations is a regular Monday feature here (inspired by A Reader of Fictions' Sadie Hawkins Sunday) in which you, my readers, get to choose what book I will read and review next. Got a book that you love and want everyone to read and review? That you're not sure what to think of and want a second opinion on? That you think I'll love or that I should have already read? Send in your recommendations via this form!
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.
I can't write this review in my usual format. This book doesn't really have the usual linear plot, so its pacing is different than most, and while it has some other characters, it's really about Ty and Gemma and their experience with the Australian Outback. It's not a romance either. Not really.
What I loved most about this book was the writing. I've read several reviews which refer to the writing as "purple," but it never read that way to me. Maggie Stiefvater read and recommended this book; Maggie Stiefvater referred to leaves in The Raven Boys as claws. I love her figurative, lyrical writing, and I love Laini Taylor's prose too, but those are more purple than that of Lucy Christopher. The writing in Stolen reads to me as poetic mixed with a scientific style. She uses several similes, but she also uses a lot of symbolic (and vivid) imagery and the occasional epithet to describe the sounds, smells -- the ordinary, empirical details of the life surrounding Ty and Gemma. There's a sensual quality in the writing that helps bring the setting to life.
“Lets face it, you did steal me. But you saved my life too. And somewhere in the middle, you showed me a place so different and beautiful, I can never get it out of my mind. And I can't get you out of there either. You're stuck in my brain like my own blood vessels.”
"You said you knew the perfect place to run to. A place that was empty of people, and buildings, and far, far away. A place covered in blood-red earth and sleeping life. A place longing to come alive again. It's a place for disappearing, you'd said, a place for getting lost... and for getting found.
I'll take you there, you'd said.
And I could say that I agreed.”
“When the darkness gets easier, you know you're sinking deeper, becoming dead yourself.”
“You told me once of the plants that lie dormant through the drought, that wait, half-dead, deep in the earth. The plants that wait for the rain. You said they'd wait for years, if they had to; that they'd almost kill themselves before they grew again. But as soon as those first drops of water fall, those plants begin to stretch and spread their roots. They travel up through the soil and sand to reach the surface. There's a chance for them again.”The second most affecting aspect (for me) is the portrayal of Stockholm's syndrome. This book will probably make you feel uncomfortable at some point. As the summary states, Ty is not the stereotypical bad villain. How much of that is because of Gemma's changing perspective? What happens when he shows you kindness? It's more than that, though. In learning about Gemma's story, you learn about Ty's, and it's as Gemma says, "it's hard to hate someone once you understand them." This story shows Ty's transformation too: from drugging captor to reformed, oblivious hypocrite to pitiful, desperate man, and how that connects back to Gemma's experience of Stockholm's syndrome.
Yet another wonderfully done aspect is the portrayal of the Australian Outback. For all y'all who want a different setting for your YA novels, you'll find one unique and very evocative setting in Stolen. It's all in the various details: the silent land, the suffocating heat, the different flora and animals that surround their outbuildings and beyond, the things that are necessary to survive in the Outback like water filtration systems, the things you can make from the surrounding nature like paint... There are a lot of fun aspects to these details too like driving a stick through sand dunes.
This book is an experience. If you're looking for your next unique YA read, you'll find it here. Brimming with evocative, survivalist details on the Australian Outback and showing a terrifyingly realistic portrayal of a girl taken from everything and everyone she knows, Stolen is an experience not to be missed.
If you haven't read this book yet, I would suggest reading an excerpt online. Besides the "purple" prose complaint, I've also seen people cite the letter format and Gemma's POV as reasons for why they did not like the book. An excerpt will allow you to determine whether you'll share those complaints and whether you'll like the novel. Also, if you're super sensitive to anything happening to animals in books, you might have issues with this novel.
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Up Next: Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky and Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky. This will not be a Christina Reads rec. I need to catch up with these books since I accepted a review request for them a while ago.
PS - what would you say if I suspended this feature for a short time and posted discussions instead? At the moment, I don't think I can keep up with more than 3 posts a week. This is the only one I could alter.