A kidnapped child is rescued or escapes and returns home. How does a person who changed in order to survive cope with the re-entry? How different is the child? How different is the world?
STOLEN by Lucy Christopher, Scholastic, 2010.
16 year old Gemma is abducted while she’s traveling on vacation with her parents. Gemma is British, a city girl. One with street smarts. Or so she thinks. After a brief flirtation with a stranger who buys her a soda, she wakes up in the Australian Outback
This is the debut novel of an author who grew up in Australia. Christopher’s familiarity with the Outback plunges the reader into a full understanding of the setting. We flick ants away, dodge spider webs, feel blisters rise in the unrelenting daytime heat, shiver when the sun drops out of sight. How could anyone held here against her will hope, dream, or dare, to escape?
Days roll by and Gemma becomes desperate for control. She writes to her captor, opening her inner self to the reader, making her struggles deeply personal, as though we are thinking Gemma’s thoughts before she writes them down. Her letter to her captor becomes her emotional bridge back to the world she left.
This is one of those books a reader might be tempted to put down after the first hundred pages. It moves slowly. Then the action picks up and it’s hard to put the book down for short breaks. The story will stay with you long after you’ve read the final pages.
If you are the parent of a teen, I can’t urge you strongly enough to read this. How easy it is to target and abduct a teenager! At an age when young people think they are most capable, parents think they are well informed and savvy–and they might be–they could also be most vulnerable to strangers who are skilled at breaking down barriers. One turn of the head, one quick action of the wrist, and a drink is drugged. A simple soda can be the first step to a dangerous destination.
Stockholm Syndrome? It’s creepy. It creeps in and takes over the victim. Mid-way through the story, I began to think the title was a reference to how Gemma’s original world was stealing away her ability to be her own person. Stuffy society? Overbearing parents? Sound like a common teen complaint? I began to think Gemma had been rescued by her abductor. The skill of the author was turning the reader into a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, too.
Whatever your family dynamic, however you manage to discuss tough topics with your teens, not sermonizing, not sounding like a worry wart, not turning young people off to reading in general and parents in particular, this book will give you much to ponder and much reason to start a discussion.
If you are lucky enough that your teen reads this book the same time you do, you won’t have to plan an introduction to the topic. A plain old, “What did you think of this book?” will be just fine.
And what did you think? I’d really like to know.