I recently read Stolen: A Letter to My Captor, a 300 paged young adult thriller by camel-loving, South Africa-traveler, Lucy Christopher.
Stolen: A Letter to My Captor was published on May 4, 2009 and has since then has been awarded with the title of Printz Honor Book along with being translated into French, Dutch, Greek, Danish, and German.
I happened upon this gem of a novel while wandering around Barnes & Noble one rainy afternoon and was originally drawn to the book by the simplicity of the cover: a black background with white lettering and a single bronze butterfly silhouette. After reaching for it and reading the blurb on the back paired with the glowing reviews, I knew I had to read it.
Gemma, a british city-living teen suddenly finds herself in the hands of a kidnapper after being drugged and stolen from the airport. Ky, her captor brings her to the wild australian outback and attempts to show her what he sees in the landscape. Unlike Gemma who views the rugged, desolate terrain as a prison, Ky sees an escape. He sees an opportunity for a new life; one more connected with the earth and the beauty it hold. Through the time spent with her kidnapper, Gemma begins to see Ky in a new, more positive light and she begins to develop feelings of sympathy and compassion for him. But is this affection real? Or is it Stockholm Syndrome?
I really admire Christopher’s gift of hooking the reader and her beautifully unique writing. From the second I opened Stolen, I was infatuated with the story and the characters. After the initially intrigue, Cristopher made sure this book was an exceptionally interesting read due to the fact that the whole book is a letter written from Gemma to Ty presumably after she escapes his clutches.
The point of view Stolen was written from was Gemma’s and like I previously stated, the whole novel is a letter to her captor. I think this decision that Christopher made was an amazingly idiosyncratic one and I highly respect her for this. This was such a brilliant way to tackle the subject of Stockholm Syndrome due to the fact that you get to view Ky from Gemma’s point of view and get to experience through her eyes exactly what she began to see in her kidnapper. This is also an interesting perspective because you don’t necessarily feel like you become a part of the main character but rather that you are a bystander which isn’t something many books do.
The tone of this story is quite difficult to decide upon due to the fact that this book has a lot of very different, conflicting tones. The tone of Stolen is angry, regretful, longful, and affectionate all at the same time and I think that the differing tones are perfect to reflect the pandemonium of emotions Gemma felt at her situation.
One of my favorite passages from Stolen is actually the very first one. The book starts like this:
“You saw me before I saw you. In the airport, that day in August, you had that look in your eyes, as though you wanted something from me, as though you’d wanted it for a long time. No one had ever looked at me like that before, with that kind of intensity. It unsettled me, surprised me, I guess. Those blue, blue eyes, icy blue, looking back at me as if I could warm them up. They’re pretty powerful, you know, those eyes, pretty beautiful, too (page 1).”
This one paragraph completely captured my attention and held it. With this one paragraph, I had so many questions and I later discovered, so many answers. I think that’s the reason I love this passage so much: it gives you the beginning and the end without you even noticing and Christopher’s cryptic, foreshadow heavy writing made Stolen such a refreshing read.
Overall I give Stolen: A Letter to My Captor an 8 out of 10 for beautiful writing and a breathtaking view of Stockholm Syndrome and the thin line between love and hate, affection and manipulation.