Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?
The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don’t exist – almost.
I’ve tried to post this review four times. Every time I click “post”, I cross my fingers and hope that this will be the one that works…
You see, if you know me pretty well or you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m currently travelling around Australia and at the moment, I’m in the middle of nowhere.
In a place that’s three hours away from the closest town. I’ve spoken to about 10 different people in the space of three weeks. There’s no phone signal. The power goes off at half ten and doesn’t come back on until half eight. I rely on rain water to drink… and I’m in a place where it possibly rains about 3 days a year.
I have ended up in the Outback. The proper Outback. Not, according to my host, the “tourist Outback”… according to him “even Australians would count this as the Outback”.
So when I did a callout for a book I could read, Maggie & Mandee said I should read Stolen because when am I ever going to be in this situation again? And also for advice on what to do if I actually get stolen. They always look after me, you see.
It was interesting to read Stolen when I was kinda in the same setting as Gemma. I’m actually in the Northern Territory right now, not Western Australia, but there’s definitely similarities. The water, for example, chugs and is red. The dust around me is red. The scrubs around me are dry. There is literally nowhere to go. If I left the homestead where I’m staying, it would be about 300ks until I found another living person.
I think this may be the first YA book I’ve read that’s written in second person and I actually really liked it. There was something quite unsettling about the way it was told that I liked because it perfectly matched the disconcerting nature of the story.
And of course the setting was great. I’ll always love YA books that are set somewhere original and I’ve only read one book set in the Outback (Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffreys) but the story is completely different and is pretty much unique in the YA genre, right? I can’t think of another book like this. Ms Christopher set the scene so well, especially with the parts where Gemma was exploring her new home and the Separates. The desperation and the desolation she felt was perfectly in tune with the harsh and seemingly hopeless land she finds herself in. Because when they say the middle of nowhere, they really really mean it.
But I also liked that the Outback wasn’t just painted as omgsoscaryandbigandeverythingwillkillyou, but it was also portrayed as beautiful too. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss it as dead, dry and… well, nothing. But if you look you will see how vibrant this place is. The sunsets, the plants, the animals, the blue of the clearest skies you’ll ever witness. And I swear you’ll never see a shade of red like the dirt that surrounds me.
I’ve already accepted it will never come out of my clothes.
There are a lot of things that Ms Christopher could have done with this story which would have ruined it completely, but luckily she didn’t. When I first started the book, I wasn’t sure where it was going to end and I liked that. Usually, you can put two and two together and work it out but, whether it’s just because I’m out of practice with YA books or not, I didn’t at all with this one.
Sure there are a few bits that I thought were a little silly and it slightly tiptoed the “Oh come on…” line but it didn’t spoil it for me. And I loved how the story ended. I think if it had ended any other way, I would’ve thrown this book as far as possible.
But that last bit was perfect and exactly how I wanted it to end.
This next bit contains some spoilers so, if you’ve not read it, go catch a snake or something…
The only criticism I have is that both Gemma and Ty got a bit of a “get out of Outback free” card with the snake bite. I thought it was a great addition to their dynamic when Ty said that if she didn’t like being with him in four months, he would’ve taken her back. I would have been quite interested to not only see if Gemma would have agreed to stay with him (let’s hope not) but also to see if Ty actually kept his promise. I just feel that this would’ve added a bit more weight to the story and made it even more intense and deeper…
Alright, you can come back now.
So apart from a few niggles, I enjoyed this book. And truly being out here in the middle of nowhere really drives it home how desolate Gemma’s situation really was. I’ve been in such a crap reading slump recently so it was great to read a YA book that’s not only compelling and interesting but unlike any other one I’ve read before.