In modern film, television, and literature, a common reason for kidnapping is money. Some greedy thief demands funds from a rich parent or spouse before releasing a hostage. But sixteen-year-old Gemma Toombs has a different problem. When she is stolen from the Bangkok airport and dragged to a ranch in the middle of an Australian desert, her captor has no intention of ever letting her go. Twenty-something Tyler MacFarlane has stalked Toombs for over six years, and now he wants her all to himself. Forever.
Lucy Christopher's novel, Stolen, follows Toombs' excrutiating journey from a coffee shop in Bangkok to MacFarlane's homemade Australian mini-resort. Unlike the 2008 film Taken and other typical violent abduction stories, there is no sex slavery, no rape, no abuse, and no threats in Stolen. In a more terrifying tale of psychology, MacFarlane is simply trying to make Toombs fall in love with him so she will stay with him always.
Structure: 5 out of 5 stars
Christopher had the clever idea to present the novel as a 300-page letter from kidnapee to kidnapper. Toombs doesn't hold back - every moment of uncertainty, every hateful plan, every fleeting (but eerie) loving thought - she spells out exactly what happened in an attempt to deal with her horror. There are no chapters. The book isn't broken into two or three parts. Instead Toombs' letter just flows, with occasional page breaks when she falls asleep or gets overwhelmed. The reader feels Toombs' full gamut of emotions, and watches her story unfold.
Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The majority of the novel revolves around Toombs and MacFarlane. The reader learns about the former's life back in London, and the latter's adventures in the wild. Both characters are dense and complicated, and the reader consumes both life stories. I would have liked to learn more about Toombs' relationship with her parents and best friend, Anna, and about MacFarlane's mother and childhood nanny. All five secondary characters are introduced in a number of ways, but only on a surface level. Overall, the story doesn't lack in character development, but there are certainly questions from the reader by the end of the book.
Voice: 4 out of 5 stars
While the reader only hears the protagonist's words, plenty of the antagonist's personality, fears, and past show through Toombs' detailed account. Both voices dominate the text in different ways, even if the story is told from just one perspective. At times, I crave to know more about Toombs, more than just her thoughts and the way her body reacts to fear and heat. If the reader could get a glimpse of Toombs' desires, her hopes for the future, her feelings toward her parents, Anna, and a previous love interest, Ben, we would relate to the main character on a more personal level. Overall, though, a strong character narrative.
Christopher has written a chilling story, one that makes you glance over your shoulder and wonder if a stranger is staring at you. I recommend this book for readers interested in thrillers and dramas, and look forward to more works from Christopher.
Stolen was published in 2009 by Scholastic.