Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Summary: 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.

Told in a letter to her captor by 16-year-old Gemma, Stolen explores the influence that a really wild and remote space can have on the inner development of a young woman.

Gemma, a British city-living teenager, is kidnapped while on holiday with her parents. Her kidnapper, Ty, takes her to the wild land of outback Australia. To Gemma’s city-eyes, the landscape is harsh and unforgiving and there are no other signs of human life for hundreds of kilometres in every direction. Here, there is no escape. Gemma must learn to deal with her predicament, or die trying to fight it.

Ty, a young man, has other ideas for her. His childhood experience of living in outback Australia has forever changed the way he sees things. But he too has been living in the city; Gemma’s city. Unlike Gemma, however, he has had enough. In outback Australia he sees an opportunity for a new kind of life; a life more connected to the earth. He has been watching and learning about Gemma for many years; when he kidnaps her, his plan finally begins to take shape.

But Ty is not a stereotypical kidnapper and, over time, Gemma comes to see Ty in a new light, a light in which he is something more sensitive. The mysteries of Ty, and the mystery of her new life, start to take hold. She begins to feel something for her kidnapper when he wakes screaming in the night. Over the time spent with her captor, Gemma’s appreciation of him develops …but is this real love, or Stockholm Syndrome?

My Thoughts: I loved Stolen. After reading the summary (young girl, kidnapping, stockholm syndrome) I was kind of apprehensive that it would be false, or stupid, or deceivingly and disgustingly-untrue-abuse romanticized and painted over in a Twilight-esque light. You know, where the creepy “love interest” is supposed to be so tragically romantic and possessive and “unique” and she can change his bad ways, really she can!

It was so far from that. Christopher made Gemma’s terror and fear real to me, and it was obvious almost from the get-go that Ty is not your typical dark and brooding bad boy who is supposed to be “saved” by our heroine. Ty has issues. Real issues and a real history that surround the solitary domain he has built in the arid desert of outback Australia, the place he has kidnapped Gemma to.

There are really only two characters in this novel, and therefore we are intensely focused on the psychology and developments between Ty and Gemma. Christopher makes you fall in love with the landscape even as you know, just as Gemma does, that is inescapable, dangerous, and terrifying. There is a sense of building fragile things, anticipation and feelings rising to a point–and then everything topples over so heartbreakingly. You are sitting there at the end, wondering what exactly happened, just as Gemma does–she is no less confused than the reader.

Stolen is one of my Best Books Read in 2011. Beautiful.

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Room by Emma Donoghue

Summary: To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world….

It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn.  There are endless wonders that let loose Jack’s imagination-the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells, the imaginary world projected through the TV, the coziness of Wardrobe beneath Ma’s clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night, in case Old Nick comes.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it’s the prison where she’s been held since she was nineteen-for seven long years.  Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in that eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack’s curiosity is building alongside her own desperation—and she knows that Room cannot contain either indefinitely….

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience-and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

My Thoughts: Tense, riveting, and scary. I thought that having the narrator be a five-year-old boy who has lived his entire life inside one room was a great idea.

A review from the New York Times.

Hush: An Irish Princess’ Tale by Donna Jo Napoli

Rating: 7 out of 10
Summary: Melkorka is a princess, the first daughter of a magnificent kingdom in mediæval Ireland — but all of this is lost the day she is kidnapped and taken aboard a marauding slave ship. Thrown into a world that she has never known, alongside people that her former country’s laws regarded as less than human, Melkorka is forced to learn quickly how to survive. Taking a vow of silence, however, she finds herself an object of fascination to her captors and masters, and soon realizes that any power, no matter how little, can make a difference.

My Thoughts: Many might glance at the title, see “Princess” and immediately think happy fluffy cloud thoughts.

I”m not sure whether this novel is classified as YA, but there is mature content as Melkorka, our protagonist, is forced into the world of slavery. The style is very sparse and gritty, and Napoli does not spare the readers the darker details of life. There are open wounds and violent sexual assault, but all serve to highlight the cruelties of human slavery.

Melkorka was a very interesting heroine. I didn’t feel a very strong connection to her, but I admired her and her fortitude. Very beautiful and gloomy story. It’s based on true happenings, and the ending sort of depressed me, but it was very well written all the same.

The connection to mythology was great, I’m glad the author wove in the variation on the traditional enchantress/shapechanger tale.

I think this might actually be the first Napoli book I’ve read, and I wasn’t disappointed. Hush is very different from your traditional “princess” tale.

It’s very… hm, magnetic. That’s the best word I can think of to describe it.