From the moment Gemma wakes from her drug-induced stupor, she is on edge, waiting for the moment when Ty snaps and breaks his promise of never hurting her. Her constant mistrust and wariness of her captor worked to create a level of suspense that kept me gripping Stolen’s pages. While Ty worked his hardest to prove that he was harmless, and that he was doing Gemma a favor by rescuing her from negligent parents and the noisy city, there was a certain…manic quality to some of his actions that hinted at a certain instability lurking beneath his mostly calm facade. The slightly frenzied gleam in his eyes, the tightening of his muscles and the increased pitch to his voice whenever Gemma asked him a question that made him uncomfortable worked seamlessly to paint this sometimes simple character with a much sinister brush. His dual characterization, the deranged kidnapper who was obviously harbouring some serious mental health issues versus the gentle artist who wanted nothing more than for Gemma to love him and his land as much as he loved them both, played at my heartstrings and my head; I was constantly changing my opinion of Ty, which constantly changed how I viewed his relationship with Gemma.
Because of my constantly changing opinion of Ty, I was constantly at war with my feelings for Gemma as well. When I was fearful of Ty, I was quick to encourage Gemma’s various attempts at escape. When I sympathized with Ty, especially after he shared a story from his childhood, I was dismayed by Gemma’s reluctance to see that he was trying his hardest to make her happy. Stolen played my emotions like a violin, and I absolutely loved it for it! I could never decide what course of action Gemma should take, so I was constantly at war with her decisions: was the possibility of escape worth the hazards of the desert? Was pushing Ty’s buttons, or probing him for sensitive information, the best course of action when you feared for your life? Was it worth it to encourage Ty to share things about himself, if it meant you might start to understand or even empathize with his situation? Was being alone really so hard that turning to Ty for comfort became the more appealing option? When it did come time for Gemma to deal with her feelings about Ty though, she managed to sum up my conflicting emotions as well:
"I hated you for everything; for making me feel so helpless everywhere I went, for making me lose control. I hated you for all the emotions in my head, for the confusion…for the way I was suddenly doubting everything. I hated you for turning my life upside dow nand then smashing it into shards. I hated you for making me stand with a whirring fan in my hand, screaming at my mum.
But I hated you for something else too. Right then, and at every moment since you’d left me, all I could think about was you. I wanted you in that apartment. I wanted your arms around me, your face close to mine. I wanted your smell. And I knew I couldn’t-shouldn’t-have it. You’d kidnapped me, put my life in danger..but I loved you too. Or I thought I did. None of it made sense."
While I absolutely loved how emotionally confused Stolen left me, my constant confusion did result in a certain level of separation from Gemma and her actions. How could I ever hope to understand Gemma when I could barely understand my own reactions to her situation?
I think the reason Stolen will stay with me long after finishing it, however, is because of how utterly uncomfortable it made me. I know that what Ty had done was wrong. I know that there was no way to rationalize his actions that would make them right. I know that Gemma was right to constantly fight her imprisonment. And I know that Gemma shouldn’t want to be with Ty. But none of that mattered, because knowing something is completely different from believing in something. And I believed in Ty’s sincerity. I believed that he truly thought he had saved Gemma, that he had rescued her from the life she didn’t want, the life her parent’s were forcing her to live. I believed that Ty meant Gemma no harm, and that he believed she would learn to love him if they spent enough time together, away from the harshness of the city. And I believed that Ty and Gemma shared a strong connection. And the fact that I believed in all of these things is a little disturbing; how can I sympathize with someone who would remove someone’s freedom, tear them away from everything and everyone they know and love, and imprison them in such a dangerous environment? If nothing else, my uncomfortableness is a testament to Christopher’s ability to write a compelling and thought-provoking story.
Emotionally draining, Stolen was masterful at playing with my emotions. I experienced the full spectrum – from fear and anger, to hesitant trust and hopefulness, to a bittersweet acceptance of what can only be described as disturbing love. While I was often uncomfortable with how eager I was to trust and sympathize with a kidnapper, it made for a compelling and intense read!