"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis
You can find more of my reviews (plus discussions and giveaways) at Christina Reads YA.
I can't write this review in my usual format. This book doesn't really have the usual linear plot, so its pacing is different than most, and while it has some other characters, it's really about Ty and Gemma and their experience with the Australian Outback. It's not a romance either. Not really.
What I loved most about this book was the writing. I've read several reviews which refer to the writing as "purple," but it never read that way to me. Maggie Stiefvater read and recommended this book; Maggie Stiefvater referred to leaves in The Raven Boys as claws. I love her figurative, lyrical writing, and I love Laini Taylor's prose too, but those are more purple than that of Lucy Christopher. The writing in Stolen reads to me as poetic mixed with a scientific style. She uses several similes, but she also uses a lot of symbolic (and vivid) imagery and the occasional epithet to describe the sounds, smells -- the ordinary, empirical details of the life surrounding Ty and Gemma. There's a sensual quality in the writing that helps bring the setting to life.
“Let's face it, you did steal me. But you saved my life too. And somewhere in the middle, you showed me a place so different and beautiful, I can never get it out of my mind. And I can't get you out of there either. You're stuck in my brain like my own blood vessels.”
"You said you knew the perfect place to run to. A place that was empty of people, and buildings, and far, far away. A place covered in blood-red earth and sleeping life. A place longing to come alive again. It's a place for disappearing, you'd said, a place for getting lost... and for getting found.
I'll take you there, you'd said.
And I could say that I agreed.”
“When the darkness gets easier, you know you're sinking deeper, becoming dead yourself.”
“You told me once of the plants that lie dormant through the drought, that wait, half-dead, deep in the earth. The plants that wait for the rain. You said they'd wait for years, if they had to; that they'd almost kill themselves before they grew again. But as soon as those first drops of water fall, those plants begin to stretch and spread their roots. They travel up through the soil and sand to reach the surface. There's a chance for them again.”
The second most affecting aspect (for me) is the portrayal of Stockholm's syndrome. This book will probably make you feel uncomfortable at some point. As the summary states, Ty is not the stereotypical bad villain. How much of that is because of Gemma's changing perspective? What happens when he shows you kindness? It's more than that, though. In learning about Gemma's story, you learn about Ty's, and it's as Gemma says, "it's hard to hate someone once you understand them." This story shows Ty's transformation too: from drugging captor to reformed, oblivious hypocrite to pitiful, desperate man, and how that connects back to Gemma's experience of Stockholm's syndrome.
Yet another wonderfully done aspect is the portrayal of the Australian Outback. For all y'all who want a different setting for your YA novels, you'll find one unique and very evocative setting in Stolen. It's all in the various details: the silent land, the suffocating heat, the different flora and animals that surround their outbuildings and beyond, the things that are necessary to survive in the Outback like water filtration systems, the things you can make from the surrounding nature like paint... There are a lot of fun aspects to these details too like driving a stick through sand dunes.
This book is an experience. If you're looking for your next unique YA read, you'll find it here. Brimming with evocative, survivalist details on the Australian Outback and showing a terrifyingly realistic portrayal of a girl taken from everything and everyone she knows, Stolen is an experience not to be missed.
If you haven't read this book yet, I would suggest reading an excerpt online. Besides the "purple" prose complaint, I've also seen people cite the letter format and Gemma's POV as reasons for why they did not like the book. An excerpt will allow you to determine whether you'll share those complaints and whether you'll like the novel. Also, if you're super sensitive to anything happening to animals in books, you might have issues with this novel.