"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." -Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Stolen, by Lucy Christopher

I must admit, Lucy Christopher can write.

Christopher's debut novel, Stolen, is a marvel of literary craftsmanship; albeit not perfect, it's easily one of the best YA novels I've read in some time.

The synopsis is simple: sixteen-year-old Gemma Toombs is kidnapped from the airport in Bangkok while on family vacation with her parents.  Her kidnapper, Ty, takes her to a desolate region of Australia.  There are no other people.  No roads.  

No escape.

I'm not one for long bits of description when critiquing novels; if you want to know more, click on the link above.  

The brilliance of the novel lies in its telling: Gemma's narration places the reader in a strange relationship between captive and captor, in which the first-person narration is influenced by the Gemma's use of "you" to refer to Ty.  Stylistically, the novel is a letter to Ty, as written by Gemma; conceptually, the juxtaposition works almost as though written in second person; the effect, brilliant.  We are left feeling deep empathy for both captive and captor, through our first-and-second person connection to the characters in the text.

Symbolism is rampant in the novel, often evoking an Edenic motif; however, it can be obtuse at times, especially in regards to the snake/serpents.  The captured cow camel is a thinly-veiled metaphor for Gemma's relationship to Ty--and perhaps the most aggravating tactic Christopher uses to flesh out their relationship--as Ty talks about gently 'breaking' or 'training' animals to his will.

Stolen is compulsively readable, harrowing on several levels, and quite beautifully written.  Christopher, for the most part, tactfully handles a difficult relationship between a young woman and her kidnapper; and I must say, there are moments of true beauty in the text.  This is no romance novel, yet it is; it's a romance between human beings and their land, a romance of an uncanny cast.  At its heart, Stolen is a novel of psychology, of the experiences that define us, and the very emotions that separate us from the serpents and snakes.

Four stars, of five.

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