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Stolen by Lucy Christopher: A Librarian’s Perspective Review

Stolen by Lucy Christopher was popular in my Grade 6-12 library a few years ago. I had three copies, and they were never on the shelf. Concerned about the possibility of mature content, I read the first few pages at my desk on a rare day that we had a copy available. A student saw me reading it and asked for it, so I never even got to take it home. It’s been a few years, and I finally read the audiobook. Here’s my review of Stolen both as a reader and as a librarian.

AUTHOR: Lucy Christopher
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Chicken House
PUBLICATION DATE: May 4, 2009
PAGES: 304
GENRE: thriller, survival
SETTING: Australian Outback, modern day
GIVE IT TO: mature MS readers, HS, and adults

SUMMARY OF STOLEN

While waiting for a flight at Bangkok Airport, Gemma meets Ty, a handsome stranger who looks oddly familiar. Ty drugs Gemma’s coffee, kidnaps her from the airport, and takes her far from civilization to the Australian Outback.

THE SHORT VERSION

Well worth a read! I think adults would like this, too. Be sure to read my notes for middle school librarians in the “Librarians Will Want to Know” section below. All the professional reviews I read recommend Grades 9-12, but it was in my MS/HS library and quite popular!

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT STOLEN

Lucy Christopher is a brilliant writer. She managed to make me feel sorry for a kidnapper who drugged a teenage girl. She made me like him and worry about his welfare. She took me into the mind of Gemma, who resisted Ty as much as she could, but ultimately, she admits that she loves him in a way. And I wasn’t even upset that Gemma loves Ty. Gemma’s feelings for Ty ring true because Lucy Christopher created such a compelling character in Ty. I understand Gemma’s Stockholm Syndrome because I feel it, too.

The setting. For most of Stolen, there are only two characters–Ty and Gemma. We do not get to see any of the outside world while Gemma is with Ty in the Outback. We don’t know anything about the search for Gemma or what Gemma’s family and friends are going through. But there is a third character…The Australian Outback. Lucy Christopher does a beautiful job describing the Outback. It’s dangerous and beautiful and solitary. If the camel is a metaphor for Gemma (she is), then the Outback is a metaphor for Ty.

Gemma is believable. Her actions and her emotions reflect what a 16-year old girl might really do and feel in this crazy situation.

Survival. I always love a good survival story! Stolen has this in spades because Gemma is not only surviving long enough to escape Ty; she and Ty also have to survive the dangers of the Australian Outback. They can be injured in so many ways–venomous spiders, scorpions, snakes, getting lost, dying of thirst, ingesting poisonous plants, breaking a bone, heat stroke…

Stockholm Syndrome is explained as a survival technique. The captured person bonds emotionally with her captor as a way to survive long enough to escape. This is certainly the case with Gemma, but as a reader, I also felt connected to Ty. What he did was horrible. He drugs Gemma, kidnaps her, lies to her, keeps her prisoner against her will. Yet I still feel sorry for him? I still like him? I still root for Gemma to love him? This is some brilliant writing to make me feel that way.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT STOLEN

I loved this from start to finish. My only sadness is that the end just stops. It is a good and appropriate ending, but there is still plenty more to the story left hanging. I guess I just have to tell myself that the camel finds her pack again. I have to believe that the chickens are somehow rescued and that the poisonous critters in the barn (they are innocent, too) are all set free.

AUDIOBOOK QUALITY

I read the Recorded Books audiobook narrated by Emily Gray. The narrator reads both Ty and Gemma’s voices, and she does it well. Ty has an Australian accent, and Gemma’s accent is British. She alternates between their voices smoothly, and I could easily tell who was speaking. I’m not sure if I would have been as engaged in this book if I had read the printed book or e-book. The reason I was so engaged is because I cared about Ty. Without hearing his narrative and his voice, maybe I wouldn’t have been as empathetic toward his character.

DIVERSITY IN STOLEN

Gemma is British, age 16, and cues white. Ty is Australian, around age 25, and has blue eyes and blonde hair.

COVER ART

The cover is a bit unremarkable–just solid black with an orange moth. I would have said it was a butterfly, but at one point, Gemma catches a moth in her hands and says the moth is like her. Safe in her hands, but caged and in the dark.

LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW

Themes: force, freewill, freedom, kidnapping, Stockholm Syndrome, nature versus cities, Australian Outback, art, camels, survival

Would adults like this book? YES

Would I buy this for my high school library? YES, no reservations at all

Would I buy this for my middle school library? I personally would buy this for MS, but please note that all the reviewers on Titlewave recommend Grades 9-12. I think mature middle school readers would be just fine with this book though. The biggest content issue I see is the psychological aspect of Stockholm Syndrome. As an adult, I empathize with Ty. Part of me wanted Gemma to love him, even though that would have been wrong. It would be very easy for a teen reader (or any age) to also empathize with Ty and romanticize his character or his actions.

TRIGGER WARNINGS

Language: I don’t remember any profanity. I listened to the audiobook, so it’s possible it slipped by. It certainly wasn’t gratuitous if I didn’t notice it.

Sexuality: Would you believe there is almost none? There is no sex, no sexual touching, and only one kiss near the end. Gemma does appreciate Ty’s hot bod a few times, but she also fears Ty and wants to escape. There are a couple of times they are naked, but there is a reason behind the nakedness. For example, after a failed escape attempt, Gemma is lost in the desert. She takes off all her clothes because she is hot and delirious. In another part, Ty comes out of the shed where he paints mural and floor art. He has painted his body, including his penis. That may sound weird, but it’s not sexual for Ty and fits his character.

Violence: Gemma is drugged and kidnapped. She is tied to the bed at one point. She is held against her will. Of course, stealing someone is a violent act, yet the story of it doesn’t feel violent. There is no hitting and no real threat of physical harm to Gemma. There is allusion to a possible rape that could have happened (but didn’t) to Gemma prior to the story.

Drugs/Alcohol: Ty drugs Gemma’s coffee in the airport. Gemma drinks an entire bottle of rum she finds in the food storage. Some medicinal drugs, including anti-venom and herbal treatments.

Other: The Stockholm Syndrome thing I mentioned above. I think teen readers will empathize with Ty and possibly romanticize his actions. But Gemma does this, too, and the narrative is from her perspective. I don’t see anything inherently dangerous for teen readers except that it could make controlling relationships seem thrilling or sexy. But really, any reader could do this (as I did). The book is written in such a way that we are meant to experience Gemma’s Stockholm Syndrome right along with her. It worked for me!

MORE YA FICTION KIDNAPPINGS

 

MORE LIBRARIAN’S PERSPECTIVE REVIEWS:

Have you read Stolen? Let’s talk about it! Any thoughts about putting it in a

middle school library (or not)? Did you feel empathy for Ty the same way I did?

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