Monday, October 14, 2013

Christina Read: Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Release Date: May 4, 2009
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!

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher - Purchase | Goodreads

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.

As always, feel free to send in more recommendations!

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.


  1. Huh, I've heard the term 'purple prose' but never encountered a book that had it until now I realise that The Raven Boys sort of has purple writing. Interesting because I got the impression that purple prose could get really bad but it didn't seem terrible in The Raven Boys.

    I definitely expect myself to be uncomfortable when reading this book because of the portrayal of Stockholm Syndrome but I am very curious about how the author handles it.

    I definitely wouldn't mind if you stopped this feature for a while, just do whatever you want and don't worry about not posting if you can't :)

  2. I have this one on my Kindle. I think I do, at least. I know I tried reading it about a year ago and I wasn't really into it back then, but as you know, my reading preferences have changed over this short period of time. I really like what you brought out in your review and you know I love my M. Stiefvater books ;) I don't know about the theme though. Stockholm syndrome makes me reallllllyyy uncomfortable. Perhaps it's the reason I haven't read Captive in the Dark yet. Though.. there is the erotica bomb there. I'd love to give Stolen a try though since I'm always up for something unique and different.

  3. I actually never heard of 'purple prose' (I guess it's because it's an English term) before, so I had to look on google what it means. I guess I like it, since I really enjoyed Laini Taylor's writing-style. The mixture of poetic and scientific sounds great to me, but I'll look for an excerpt just to be sure :) The whole Stockholm syndrome is fascinating, because it's so strange to believe it could happen. I'd love to be in someone's head to see how they experience it.

  4. An experience is the perfect way to describe this book! I completely agree with all your points, of course. :)

    I can see how Lucy Christopher's writing style might not be for all, but it didn't particularly read to me as purple prose either. And the portrayal of stockholm syndrome was what made this book so impressive to me. I can't actually think of any other title where I've been so utterly convinced.

    And yes to the setting! I didn't expect to fall in love with THAT aspect of the story when I first picked it up, but it was definitely a nice surprise. I remember reading somewhere afterwards that Christopher's writing process involved finding a setting that she wanted to explore, and then from there getting the characters, theme and story. It obviously works well for her. :)

    So glad you enjoyed this!

  5. I've heard reviews stating that the Australian desert was described as a person on it's own. Plus, I've read an excerpt, and I had the same impressions you did, minus.. ahem.. actually reading the book.

    I personally think the second person perspective is underrated in books, and is the reason I'm dying to read this. It's new and engaging and and gives a whole new depth to the book. Aaand, since you like this book, I'm sold :D

    Great review!

  6. Amanda@LateNightswithGoodBooksOctober 14, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    Based on those few examples you provided, I don't think that sounds much like purple prose. Pretty, yes, but at least those examples didn't strike me as over-the-top as I expect purple prose to be. I've heard mostly good things about this book myself, despite (or perhaps because of) how very different it is from most YA books. Even though this is different from your normal reviews, I thought this was very readable and I enjoyed seeing your thoughts on this book. I will have to keep this one in mind for myself.

  7. I hadn't heard of this book before, but your review has piqued my interest. Bad stuff happens to animals, though? Is it just one scene or something that happens a lot? I don't know if I could handle that. Definitely sounds like a unique read, both in terms of writing style and in content. Great review! (And discussion posts are always fun so if that works better for you time-wise, sounds good to me!) ~Pam

  8. This book is old. Har di har har. I first encountered this book on a ya list in 2011. Since then it has been on my wish list. It has been pushed back by newer releases I really want. I really hope I can read it soon. I can stomach more darker contemporary. Tnx for the review. ^=^ hugs

  9. Sarah (Escaping Through Books)October 15, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    I loved this book for its uniqueness and the "experience" it provided. I completely agree that the portrayal of Stockholm Syndrome and the Australian outback were incredibly well written. I was so conflicted in my feelings about Ty--like Gemma, I couldn't bring myself to hate him.

    I wouldn't mind if you switch to discussion posts, as those are my very favorite type of posts to read and comment on (and also why I love your Wednesday round-ups so much!)

  10. I'm so happy that you enjoyed this book, Christina! It's one of my favorite contemporaries and it makes me feel emotional just thinking about it. Lucy Christopher's writing is absolutely beautiful and I always feel warm inside when someone else is able to experience it.

    I agree with you, Gemma's Stockholm Syndrome was written very well. I actually felt as if I was suffering from it too O_O Although, I sometimes wonder if Gemma really was suffering from Stochholm Syndrom... "As Gemma says, "it's hard to hate someone once you understand them." So maybe she and the reader was just understanding him? I can't say for sure since I don't know much about Stockholm Syndrome other than the basics.

    "You'll find one unique and very evocative setting in Stolen." Haha, yes! That is completely true. Experiencing the Australian Outback alongside Gemma was one of the things that made reading Stolen so fun and interesting, in my opinion.

    PS-- I wouldn't mind! Your discussion post are amazing :D

  11. I'm so happy you enjoyed (hmm.. I think that's the wrong descriptive word) Stolen. The portrayal of Stockholm's syndrome was the most affecting for me as well. It was disturbing but something I couldn't tear my eyes from even if I wanted to. By the end I was feeling terribly sad for Ty yet in the same instance felt that was the wrong way to feel yet couldn't be helped. I'm a huge fan of epistolary novel types (if done right) so I loved the writing style but I agree with you about it not being as 'purple' as I had heard it being.

  12. Absolutely fab review, Christina. Love it! I haven't read it yet because I don't know if I can handle it, but the quotes are gorgeous. And one of the reason I'm hesitant is like you said, it might make me uncomfortable about the whole kidnapper scenario. But I will read it someday :)

  13. This sounds like a nice setting for a book

  14. Oops. I always assumed people knew what purple prose meant. Yeah, I don't think it's too bad in the Raven Boys. She uses a lot more purple prose for her Mercy Falls series, I think.

    I think I am going to stop the feature for a little bit... or at least change it up a bit by analyzing the deeper themes in some of the books. I feel kind of disappointed when I post some reviews... but we'll see. Thanks for all your support, Charlotte!

  15. :D :D I hope you get to try the book again. Stiefvater did recommend, and yeah the Stockholm's Syndrome aspect will probably make you uncomfortable, but Stolen is definitely very unique and different and a great experience that I hope to share with you :D

  16. Oops. I assumed purple prose was something everyone had heard of - my bad!! I should keep an eye out for that king of thing more. I'm with you - I like purple prose too so... :). Right?? It's like, we all know about Stockholm's Syndrome, and she knows she ought not to feel anything for him - she hates him for so long - but there are some situations you can't control or don't realize something's happening until it's too late. I hope you enjoy this one!

  17. Sam!! I saw you posted again and I'm so far behind with blogging right now, but I'm so excited to see you active again. :)

    Ha, no one writing style is for everyone. Right??? I don't think I've ever read another book that portrays an experience like Stockholm's syndrome so accurately.

    Oh really?? I would've thought the story and theme came first for her just because it was so realistic and well done but interesting. The Australian Outback portrayal definitely worked out...

    Thanks for letting me recommend it to myself via you hahah ;).

  18. It is! One of the synopses for the book says it's like a character, and it really is. If you liked the excerpt, you will like the book :D. I read ~30 pages before I read this (nearly a year ago) and I just knew that I'd like the rest of the book.

    There really aren't very many second person perspectives in books nor many letter types that work (there are a lot of diary types but they always don't feel quite real to me, you know?)... so yes! I hope you're sold on the book and I hope you like the second person letter perspective and I hope you like the book in general :).

  19. Not much bad happens to animals. It's just one of those things where I imagine if you're SUPER sensitive to animal rights, this might not be the best. I will describe the situation below in a spoiler, if you're still interested in the book and curious. It's a great book though.

    (It's a taming of an animal situation. The animal cries out and it's kind of a metaphor for Gemma's experience of Stockholm's syndrome.)

  20. I agree - I don't think it's as over the top as other purple prose so maybe it's all just relative? I do think it's quite pretty, and yes, part of its praise is probably due to it being so different from other YA, though it does stand well on its own as well. Thanks, Amanda. I hope you enjoy the book if you get to read it!

  21. It is an old title! But I also love looking back at old titles because there are some gems like Stolen out there that we shouldn't forget or you just won't find in newer releases. I hope you get the chance to read Stolen soon :).

  22. It is a nice setting. And wonderfully executed too.

  23. Yes! Honestly, it's a shame there aren't more YAs out there. I kind of get the feeling that this is what Laurie Halse Anderson's work might be like - portraying an experience so very realistically - but I haven't had a chance to read her work. But besides the two of them? Can't think of others like them. And yeah... Ty... *sigh* it was really sad. A part of me was like... would this guy exist? can someone be so hypocritical? But *shrug* yeah, she made it so realistic that those questions are just a part of the experience.

    I think I am going to do something more discussion oriented, perhaps on the recommended books. Maybe lists or analysis of the themes or... we'll see :D. Having a bit of a hard time managing the blog as it is now but am not going to stop - just reinvent things a bit.

  24. Me too! Definitely a favorite contemporary - I put it on my books that define me as a reader list. Her writing is beautiful and the kind of writing that I wish to emulate. :)

    Haha, yes, I know what you mean. It shows how talented Christopher is when she's pulling us into the Stockholm experience too - and wondering whether she's fully suffering from SS. I think the understanding part is a part of Stockholm's - I don't know much about it either, but I think a part of the experience is that you start to identify with your captor and have feelings for him.

    YESSS. I was looking at an image of YA books and it didn't feature Stolen for Australia and I was quite disappointed because Stolen is definitely one of the best when it comes to that portrayal.

    Thanks! :D I do think I'll be changing the feature soon. Can't say in what capacity until I read the coming books...

  25. I know, right? I kind of wondered about that too. Can I say I enjoyed Stolen? Loved the writing, the setting, but ha, the experience? Hmm... YES. Exactly what you said about Ty. I don't think I'll ever quite have just one opinion on him. Haha also agree with what you said about epistolary novel types - but the question is if they're done right.

    (Also, Bonnie, I owe you like five comments. I'm only now getting to reply to comments, but I did want to say that I am keeping track and that I hope to be able to return the visit in a week or two. Thanks for the blog love!)

  26. It is hard to handle. I don't even know whether I can say I enjoyed the book lol. It's got great writing, a great setting, but the uncomfortable feeling? Yeah. So I understand if you don't read it right away or might feel uncomfortable about reading the book in general :).

  27. You're fine. Don't even worry about it. :)


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