03 August 2009

Book of the Week (25): "Stolen" by Lucy Christopher

Gemma quite fancies the young man who offers to get her a cup of coffee at Bangkok airport. Maybe that’s why she agrees. After all, it’s a busy place, and her parents are waiting for her not too far away, so what could possibly happen? When she finds herself in a remote and isolated cabin in the Australian desert she realises that drinking that coffee was a big mistake. Gemma has been abducted. Her captor, Ty, has been stalking her since she was ten years old, and six years later he finally caught up with her and intends to keep her forever. From this you might conclude that Lucy Christopher’s first novel is no more than a heroine vs. villain adventure story. You couldn’t be more wrong. The opening is just a premise for exploring the unusual and complex relationship which develops between Gemma and Ty. The desert, Ty’s hideaway from reality, is as alien to Gemma as her handsome captor, but as she attempts to escape again and again, she begins to respond to its beauty as well as to Ty’s. This is a beautiful novel, though its subject is provocative. I was, however, left with a certain sense of discomfort regarding the implications of depicting a girl falling for her stalker. Though Christopher asserts that Ty’s actions are morally wrong, the ‘yes’ that lingers behind Gemma’s ‘no’ is disturbing from a feminist point of view. Still, a remarkable and gripping read.

Recommended by Noga Applebaum

  • The inappropriate relationship between a teenaged girl and a young man is also at the heart of award-winning novel What I Saw and How I Lied (by Judy Blundell) set in post-war America.
  • Another taboo relationship, this time between a young teacher and her student, is explored in Robert Westall’s Falling into Glory, again set after War World II, this time in a northern town in England.
  • Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien is set after a nuclear disaster in which a young girl is under threat from a possessive older man, who is unfortunately the only other survivor she knows of.

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