Tag Archives: abduction

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

It’s been a few days since I put down Stolen and I’m still trying to work out my feelings about it.  I’ve read tons of reviews and talked with other people who read it and there are some very conflicting viewpoints out there.

Let’s start with a summary:  Gemma is a 16 year old girl who is abducted from an airport in Bangkok while traveling with her parents.  Her kidnapper, Ty, has been stalking her for years and has chosen this moment to finally make his move.  Ty drugs Gemma and when she comes out of her stupor, she finds herself in the desert.  In Australia.  Completely and utterly cut off from civilization.  Stolen is written as a letter from Gemma to Ty.

The more time passes in the hot, desolate Australian outback (which is vividly portrayed), the more Gemma’s feelings for Ty become conflicted.  She hates him for stealing her, but comes to need him in a strange way as well.  He is tender towards her, for the most part, claiming that he loves her and that he has “saved” her from a life where she doesn’t belong.  He truly believes she is better off with him and will learn to love the life he has built for her on the land he obviously loves so much.

While it is clear that Ty manipulates Gemma in many ways to break her down mentally and emotionally, it was difficult for me to view him as a complete monster.  This is the 3rd abduction novel (Room, Still Missing) I’ve read in under a year and I had no problem feeling outrage and hatred for the other kidnappers.  But with Ty it was different.  Maybe it was because he was young.  Maybe it was because he was described as being attractive.  Maybe it was because he had a troubled past and passionately believed that he loved Gemma, when it is so clear that he has no idea what true love is.  I can’t say for sure.  Some reviewers have claimed Christopher created a scenario in which we as the reader develop Stockholm Syndrome along with Gemma, where our feelings for Ty become twisted and distorted and we just can’t seem to completely hate him.

One thing I did think about several times while reading was that this would have been a more interesting story if it had been from Ty’s point of view.  I found myself wanting to know more about his motivations for doing what he did, sick and twisted though it was.  I guess I wonder, was there more to this troubled man than just he awful thing he did…or was I manipulated by him as well?

Disturbing.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Young Adult | 304 pages | May 2010 | The Chicken House | 0545170931 | Library copy
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I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (2010)

At age 15, Elizabeth Lerner was kidnapped and held captive for 39 days by Walter Bowman.  Unsure as to how much she had seen when she stumbled upon him digging in the woods, Walter felt like he had no choice but to take Elizabeth.  He certainly didn’t chose her like he chose the others.  Maybe that’s why she’s the only one who survived.

Flash forward twenty some-odd years.  Walter is on death row. Elizabeth Lerner is now Eliza Benedict, wife of Peter, mother of Iso and Albie.  Eliza has managed to carve out a comfortable existence, one in which she has not let what happened to her when she was 15 define the outcome of her entire life.  But when Eliza’s past slams into her present, she is forced to revisit that fateful time and face some tough questions about what happened between her and Walter.

I was underwhelmed by I’d Know You Anywhere.  Which was disappointing because the premise was so intriguing.  But I think this book tried to be too many things (thriller?  suspense novel?  psychological exploration?)  and ultimately failed to deliver sufficiently on any of those counts.  I felt bombarded with too many overt references to current pop culture tidbits.  Below is one I found particularly irritating and cheesy:

“Peter loved shopping for school supplies, if only because it allowed him to perform his own version of the commercial, the one in which the parent danced ecstatically to ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.'” (p. 11)

I also found Lippman’s writing amateur-ish and pretentious at times.  She uses a lot of big vocabulary that doesn’t necessarily fit in with the rest of her writing style (similar to what Walter does…hmmm) and sometimes underestimates her reader’s intelligence by over-explaining her ideas.  For example, after expressing her distaste for viewing herself in photos, she claims that she and Peter are mismatched, “like and otter and a …hedgehog.”  Ok, that’s fine, but then she goes on to explain her simile:

“Peter was the otter, with his compact , still hard-muscled body and thick, shiny hair, while she was the hedgehog.” (p. 51)

Uhm, yeah, I got that.

But for all of the things that irked me, I still found myself unable to stop reading.  What did Walter have on Elizabeth?  Sadly, the climactic scene between Walter and Elizabeth was…not.  We found out no new information, there was no huge, surprising turn of events, nothing. 

According to the jacket, this is Lippman’s first stand alone novel.  Her other series have been on the New York Times bestseller lists, but it’s not likely I’ll pick one up any time soon.

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Room by Emma Donoghue (2010)

Jack loves Room.  It’s the place where all of his memories exist, where he and Ma play and read and do Phys Ed and watch Dora and SpongeBob on TV.  Where they scream at Skylight, curl up together on Bed, and lie side by side on Rug, talking and dreaming.  Where he’s learned all he knows about the world and how it works.  Except for Jack, his whole world is Room.  But Jack’s 5 now, and 5 is bigger than 4 so he’s ready for the truth…or is he?

Jack was born in Room where Ma has been imprisoned for 6 years after being abducted at 19.  He’s never breathed in the fresh air, felt a raindrop or experienced the warmth of the sun on his skin.  His entire existence has been spent in an 11×11 space.  He’s never spoken to or seen another person in his entire life, save for Old Nick, Ma and Jack’s captor who visits nightly to “jump the Bed” with Ma.  Even Jack’s glimpses of Old Nick are only through the slates in Wardrobe where Ma has him hide when Old Nick comes.

Told in Jack’s unique voice, Room is a haunting novel.  It was difficult for me to get into the book at first, precisely because Jack is a 5-year-old and speaks like a 5-year-old.  But eventually I was able to look past the annoying grammer and phrasing to experience the deeper story.  Having the story told from Jack’s perspective makes Room at once more and less emotional.  For Jack, Room is all he’s ever known.  He doesn’t miss things from the Outside because to him, those things don’t exist.  He’s happy in Room.  We experience the true horror of the situation through Ma’s reactions and behaviors.  I was laid off from work this past winter, one of the coldest we’ve had here in NJ in some time.  I had nowhere to go and nothing to do for the 8-9 hours my husband was at work.  I nearly went insane.  That is as far as I can go to comprehend what Ma (we never do learn her real name) must have been going through being locked away for 7 years.  And yet, she carved out a life for Jack that had a degree of, dare I say, normalcy to it. 

I found the part about their escape a little bit unbelieveable.  Jack rolled up in a rug pretending to be dead?  Old Nick just taking Ma at her word that that’s what happened?  That doesn’t seem very bright for a man that built a sound-proof, escape-proof prison in his backyard and managed not to be found out for 7 years.  It all seemed to go off a little too smoothly.

I thought Donoghue did a good job expressing the sensory overload Jack would have experienced during his first few weeks out in the world and the overwhelming despair Ma felt.  She’s been nothing but Jack’s mother for as long as he’s been alive and suddenly she must learn to re-adjust to the world as well. 

“Most days…Jack’s enough for me.”

“‘The Soul selects her own Society – Then – shuts the Door – ‘” That’s his poem voice.

Ma nods.  “Yeah, but it’s not how I remember myself.”

“You had to change to survive.”

Noreen looks up.  “Don’t forget, you’d have changed anyway.  Moving into your twenties, having a child – you wouldn’t have stayed the same.”

Ma just drinks her coffee. (p. 314)

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Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (2010)

How do you reclaim your sense of security after it has been brutally ripped away from you?  How do you begin to live again when life as you previously knew it has been shattered?  Annie O’Sullivan, a thirty-two year old Realtor, must answer these questions after she was abducted and held captive in an isolated cabin in the woods.  Still Missing is told through a series of sessions with Annie’s therapist in which she recounts the year she spent locked up with The Freak.   As Annie struggles to relive her horrific experience, it becomes clear that the woman she was and the woman she has become are very different; that the woman she was may, in fact, be gone forever.

Still Missing had a slow start.  It was difficult to connect with Annie’s character, as she seemed so detached from the horrendous details she was describing.  As I read, though, I began to realize that this detachment was a survival mechanism.  Annie has to distance herself from her time on the mountain in order to put one foot in front of the other and attempt to regain some semblance of a life.  It’s clear from the book jacket that Annie is rescued, but it happened earlier in the novel than I expected.  I wasn’t sure where Stevens was going after that, but it’s what happens after Annie comes home that really picks up the pace.  It’s here that the real story unfolds, as betrayals are revealed, suspicions are aroused and it becomes more and more difficult to know who to trust.

The writing in this debut novel was a bit amateurish but there was something about the story (even the parts that were a little unbelievable) that made you want to keep reading.

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