Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Award Winning Wednesday — Stolen by Lucy Christopher

It's week two of Award Winning Wednesday! Be sure to stick around until the end of this post so that you can add your Award Winning Reviews to the linky at the bottom!!

I seem to be reading a lot of books lately that really challenge my perceptions of the world, and make me reevaluate how I judge things. Stolen by Lucy Christopher is very definitely one of those novels.

I had heard enough about this book, and read enough reviews to know that Ty, our kidnapper is a very sympathetic character. So, I knew that was coming. But I didn't think I would be as... moved as most of the people who have read this book. I knew I'd find some sympathy for him, because it's intentionally written that way, but I figured I'd say, Oh, poor sympathetic bastard. And leave it at that. I'd perhaps understand Ty better, but would still firmly believe he belonged locked up. I mean, seriously. He drugged a 16 year old girl in an airport and dragged her off to live in the absolute barren deserts of Australia. What a catch, right?

I have a tendency to place certain things into 'boxes'. Like child abuse. It's wrong. No exceptions. Special place in hell for those who hurt children. Infidelity is another absolute for me. For me personally, I have no respect for cheaters and know that it's not something I could ever come back from in a relationship. Kidnapping or abduction has always, always been firmly in that area too. It's bad. You don't do it. And if you do do it, you deserve whatever nasty punishments the 'law' decides to slam you with. So I wasn't expecting to care about Ty. He's a kidnapper. Not only did he take her from the airport, he has also been following her for 6 years. 6 years! That is insane! And creepy! And scary. And stalkerish. And creepy. Definitely creepy.

The book is written as if Gemma is writing a letter to Ty. You know, given the nature of the letter, that Gemma is now home. But you don't know how she got there, why or how Ty let her go, if she escaped, if she's writing him in prison, or if he got away. And because Gemma is writing the story of how she saw things happen, we also don't yet know where Gemma wants him to be.

Because we are learning about Ty through Gemma's voice in her letter, the way she feels about him at any given moment in her memories greatly colors her representation of him, which means it colors the way we see him. But mixed in with that is also the knowledge of how Gemma feels later, as she is writing the letter and so the flashes of vulnerability from Ty are included in the story. This creates a layer to the story I've never experienced before. As a reader, we can see both versions of Ty at once. The Ty that has so terrified Gemma, because he has taken her away from everything she knows, trapped her in a place miles away from anything and told her he is never going to let her leave. But we also see the Ty that is kind and compassionate and genuinely believes that Gemma will be happy here, and that he is saving her. It confuses Gemma. And we see that too.

In the beginning, I understood that Ty was a sympathetic captor, that he wasn't evil, but I was still against him overall. I was still all for him going to prison and rotting for a long time, for Gemma being saved and all that heroic stuff. And when we learn that Ty has been obsessed with Gemma since she was 10 years old, it only reinforced that idea. Sure, he's had a tough life, but he still needs to be locked up.

But somewhere along the way, I started to soften towards Ty. And I didn't even notice. Honestly. I went from assuming I was going to be really happy if/when he ended up being put away for years to terrified that Gemma and Ty were no longer going to be able to stay together. I knew that she got away from him, but when I saw it coming, when I realized how it was going to happen, I kept thinking hoping that there was going to be another way. That their split up was only temporary, that Ty would be able to stay on the desert homestead until Gemma could find her way back to him.

And then I had to stop reading for a moment. I had to stop so that I could process this. I am not sympathetic to villains. Ever. Really. Especially in a contemporary novel. Because that's like real life. And in real life, the bad guys belong in jail. I'm all about the justice system. If you commit a crime, you pay the price and accept the consequences. Period. End of discussion. So why on earth was I sitting there, reading, hoping against hope that he ends up safe?! It really shook me. To the point that I had a really long conversation with my best friend, who knows me better than anyone else. And when I told her about how I was feeling at the end of the book, her reaction was almost comical. I could see the shock in her eyes. Ashley does not express a desire for the villain to be freed from consequences. Ashley does not hope that the bad guy will be able to see the good girl one more time. Ashley does not think that perhaps the bad guy has some redeeming qualities, even while he is being bad...

But... Ashley did.

And I'm still reeling a little here. It's hard to read a book that shocks and ruptures your solid foundations. I don't think this book is going to make my sympathize for every abductor in prison or awaiting trial or capture. I'm not suddenly going to become an advocate for these people, because I still genuinely believe that what they have done is absolutely wrong. But, I never once thought I would be able to sympathize with someone like that. I never once thought I would find myself on their side, even if it is only in a book. It's made me take a deeper look at myself and it's made me wonder what else I might be persuaded to feel differently about if I were to read a book that handles to topic well enough. (Actually, I just finished another book that shook me even more than this one did and I'm pretty sure has left lasting changes on how I'm going to view my world... Review for that one will be here in July)

So, this is a book that I recommend with every part of myself. There is something about this book that forces you to reexamine your world, that will make you question what you believe in. Ty is a very sympathetic character, but Gemma is the real heart of the story. She is so strong. She tries to escape, tries to adapt and survive and she does. Gemma is a wonderfully strong character, a character that didn't ask for any of this but rises admirably to the challenges she dealt. I felt for Ty, understood him more than I thought possible, but I loved Gemma. Loved her voice, her strength, her ability to think and reason and analyze herself and her thoughts during seemingly impossible situations.

Please. Read this book. I can't imagine that anyone who reads this book will not be touched or changed in some way.

Don't forget to link your reviews! If you've written a review of a Newbery or Printz honor or award winner since May 31st, add your link here!:)