Saturday, September 3, 2011

Stolen, by Lucy Christopher: Wherein Australia steals my vote AGAIN

by Lucy Christopher
Chicken House (Scholastic, Inc.): New York, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0545-17093-2
I’m just going to go out on a limb and say it:  I still have no idea how Shipbreaker won a top literary prize when it was up against so, so, so many better written books.  Like, say, Stolen, by Lucy Christopher.  Holy, creepy, moly, is this a stunningly well written book, gorgeous in descriptive and evocative language, often striking chords and depths of frightened/confused/sympathetic emotions with a reader in ways that frankly, many YA books strive to reach, but just can’t quite get to.  So again.  I fail to see how a great story with excellent writing is just an honor book (like so many others this year), while a great story with just good writing (in my opinion) was the winner.  AHEM.  End of rant. 
Sixteen-year-old London teenager Gemma is on her way to Vietnam with her parents for vacation when she is drugged and abducted by a handsome, blue-eyed, oddly familiar stranger during her layover in the Bancock airport.  When she finally wakes up, she finds herself in desolate house filled with years of provisions, in the middle of a foreign desert.  Ty, her captor, is the only other human for hundreds of miles.  Naturally, Gemma is terrified, confused, and wants to escape.  Naturally, Ty doesn’t want her to, but curiously also doesn’t want to harm her in any way.  Over time, Gemma discovers that he has been planning this for years, following her and her family, learning everything he could about her as he planned and built his isolated desert compound.  However, as Gemma and her readers come to know Ty, his kindness, and his story, surprising and confusing feelings of sympathy emerge.  In this terrifyingly gripping story of survival, lines are blurred between hate, compassion, empathy, captivity, and freedom. Striking and gorgeous descriptions of the Australian Outback are juxtaposed with a rich, realistic, and evocative spectrum of emotions.  This boldly written first person narrative is recommended for teens grade 8 and up, and may even hold special interest for adults who want a read-alike of books like Emma Donoghue’s Room
Sidebar: It is my understanding that Lucy Christopher is not-quite-Australian, but lived there for a while.  I’m counting her and this book in my funloveparade of awesome lit coming straight of that giant landmass down under.  Seriously.  Keep it up, Australia!  If you couldn’t tell, I thought this book was fantastic.  Terrifying and confusing.  But dayum the man.  Never did I ever think it would happen,  but Lucy Christopher takes us right along with Gemma; I too developed a wicked case of Stockholm Syndrome before I saw it coming.  Sure, you could argue the camel capture and taming is kind of an obvious metaphor.  But in a book that creates such a frighteningly real yet foreign world, it’s not outside of the scope, and moreover, it works.  This story has great adult appeal, and yet also works so well in the YA length and format; we really just need the high/lowlights that Gemma gives about her experience.  I could say more but won’t waste your time; do yourself a favor and just read it.  You won’t regret it!

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