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Jacqueline Carey
Into the Closet: Cross-Dressing and the Gendered Body in Childrens Literature and Film (Children's Literature and Culture)
Victoria Flanagan
Stolen: A Letter to My Captor - Lucy Christopher Gemma, sixteen, is taken from the bustling airport in Bangkok and stolen away to the deep, endless Australian wilderness. She is determined to survive, to escape, but the Australian desert proves itself to be much more dangerous than her captor. Ty is dangerous too, however. Strong. Unstable. But there is more to him than meets the eye, and Gemma finds herself fighting feelings for him. Is this real love, or just Stockholm Syndrome?

Stolen is written in the form of a letter from Gemma to her kidnapper, Ty, in the weeks leading up to his trial. I think that's part of the reason why this story is so compelling. It sucks you right in and doesn't let you go until the very last page.

The first line? You saw me before I saw you.

Yes, the whole time the word 'you' is reiterated, stated over and over until the reader feels a kind of kinship with Ty. You can imagine him reading the letter. The whole story seems more real, and personal, and drawn in painful technicolour. Between that and the first person narration, this story gets under your skin from the word go.

It is one of the most beautiful and disturbing books I've read in a long while.

Against my will, I started to like Ty. I started to sympathise with him. I started to see him as Gemma's love interest. It was like, slowly but surely, I was falling in love with him myself. Like a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, like a shadow of the emotions Gemma herself feels.

And yes, he was a dangerous man. Yes, what he did was terrible and wrong. But damn, Lucy Christopher does a hell of a good job of making him seem sympathetic. Of making it believable that the young girl he has stolen could ever feel anything but terror and hatred for him.

It's so weird. I kind of wanted them together by the end, despite knowing how wrong wrong wrong it all was. Gah.

Gemma was a strong character, despite everything. I mean, in fantasy we get kickass heroines and strong women who can fight just as well as any man, but Gemma is a real teenager. She's stricken by terror, by culture shock, by the sheer need to survive even if that means giving up. She does what most people would do in that situation, and that's what makes her a strong character. She's real.

Stolen is quite a slow-paced, lazy kind of read, with a few short bursts of action. The Australian Outback is as much a character as Ty or Gemma, and the leisurely descriptions of the desert were vivid and painstakingly imagined. It is obvious the environment had a big effect on Gemma and, if I'm honest, it had an effect on me as well. I wish I could see it for myself, despite the heat, the cold and the danger. One day. It was just so richly imagined I want to see if the real thing lives up to the pictures in my head.

This will not be for everyone, obviously. Firstly, if you're looking for an action-adventure type novel, with fast-paced action and fight scenes, this probably isn't for you. If you're looking for a beautiful romance or a happily ever after, probably not for you either. Because of its theme of abduction, I'd slap a big trigger warning on it, especially because Gemma imagines all these things Ty could do to her. Lucy Christopher doesn't hold back on the details, either - though Ty never touches her or makes her do anything against her will, Gemma has quite a fertile imagination, and the anticipation of bad things happening is enough for anyone to be triggered by.

The reason I read this book was that it started out as part of a PhD thesis, and I'm about to begin work on my own. As such, this book is quite an inspiration for me, a benchmark I can aspire to.

I think this will stay with me for a long time after I take it back to the library, and I definitely plan on getting a copy of my very own.