Gemma is a sixteen-year-old British teen on vacation with her parents. While at the Bangkok airport, she runs to grab a quick cup of coffee before her plane takes off. Leaving her parents for just a few minutes, she is approached by an innocuous stranger. She thinks nothing of it and enters a polite conversation as he covertly drugs her coffee and proceeds to kidnap her. Gemma’s awareness is hazy as she is whisked away onto a plane with her captor. She wakes up and finds herself in Australia, alone with her abductor Ty. She quickly finds out they are completely isolated, deep in the outback. Gemma doesn’t give up trying to escape even after several life-threatening episodes.
Ty tells Gemma he’s been planning to “save her” from her life for a long time and horrifyingly corroborates isolated events in which they’ve interacted before. Gemma recognizes him as a tramp that lived in a park near her home. We feel something for Ty, perhaps pity. His intentions were not all bad, just corrupted by obsession and insanity. As Gemma listens to his stories we begin to understand his character more. We become torn and confused just like Gemma.
I was immediately drawn in to this novel. Gemma tells of her ordeal in the form of a letter to her captor. Referring to Ty as you, her voice narrates the action of her abduction, peppering it with the future knowledge of what will come later. Lucy Christopher does a wonderful job letting us into the minds of two very different people. Our emotions change with Gemma’s, from confusion to fury to hopelessness. Her sadness and regret is interrupted by anger. Gemma seems to develop Stockholm Syndrome as a result of being isolated with only one person on which to rely. Ty loves her and takes care of her. But Ty has stolen her. I applaud the author’s choice to not have the abductor sexually assault the victim. Although perhaps unrealistic, it lends credence to the fact that he truly cares for her and would not hurt her. This only deepens our ambivalence towards him.
The starkness of the Australian outback is a character in itself. We can understand how someone would give it all up and retreat to the desert. It is merciless and infinite, erasing all hope of escape like footprints in the sand. It is beautiful, yet unforgiving, as Gemma discovers. Sunburn, dehydration and delirium are the result of failed attempts to flee. Ty comes to her rescue, nursing her back to health. Under different circumstances, it could be an oasis from the mundane, civilized world.
I made the mistake of reading the first page of this book as I was covering it. I was hooked from there! What a great book! Never have I felt so conflicted in my feelings for a fictional “bad guy.” Christopher blurs the line between good and evil. Gemma’s gut-wrenching torment is palpable throughout the novel. Her voice is powerful, yet fragile but always real. Let us not forget she was Stolen.