Cover Story: Incognito
I’m not crazy about the girlie-handwriting typeface or the shiny butterfly, but for once they actually have something to do with the book. Otherwise, the basic black cover is tame and gives NO HINT of the CRAZYBALLS inside. So just be warned, if you’re in the bookstore and see the book and think, “La la la, oh look, a Printz honor book with a shiny butterfly! That sounds fun!” you are in for a surprise. The black is a warning you should not ignore.
Gemma is getting coffee during a layover in Bangkok, en route to Vietnam for vacay with her parents, like ya do, when she’s chatted up by a rugged, handsome and slightly familiar guy. Next thing she knows, she’s drugged, abducted and stashed away in the remotest of the remote Australian outback, aka the desert of instant death, and there’s no one around for a zillion miles but Ty, who is no longer quite so handsome.
BFF Charm: Yay
Damn, Gemma is crazy tough. She’s the kind of heroine I love to see — she’s a normal girl, with no supercrazy powers or talents of any kind, no experience as a hunter or a kickboxer or whatever. She probably can’t carry a tune or sew her own clothes from birch bark or make a 10-course meal out of a rabbit and some dried roots, and I’ll bet she’s the type who bitches with her friends when she has to run the mile in gym class. But when she’s in the shizz for real, she fights. And that’s a girl I want on my team.
Plus, damn, she’s really gonna need a spa slumber party after all that drying desert air.
Swoonworthy Scale: -A Billion
Look, I don’t care if Ty starts to seem a little sympathetic. I don’t care that he’s not interested in hurting Gemma. I don’t care if maybe you sorta understand his feelings. HE IS A CRAZY KIDNAPPER and that never EVER ends well. Gross. Scary. NOT COOL OR SEXY AT ALL. (Don’t worry, I don’t think Lucy Christopher thinks it’s cool or sexy, either, although she does leave a lot of judgement up to the reader. She doesn’t embrace the Bella-n-Edward school of romance, is what I’m saying.)
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Just FYI, if you get the copy of the book that doesn’t have “A Letter to my Captor” as the subtitle, the book is written in 2nd person. And it can get CRAZY annoying — I mean, shit, Gemma, you think Ty doesn’t remember everything that happened out in his desert compound? But as the book goes on, somehow it works, and makes the emotions Gemma wrestles with more poignant, like sitting in a park somewhere and overhearing a stranger on her cell phone having a conversation she does NOT want to be having in public, but she has no choice and you can’t help but listen to her hiss and whisper and cry and shout at some guy on the other end, even though you’re trying really hard to focus on the ice cream cart guy who’s wheeling up the path but you find yourself getting angry at the guy, too, and choking up a little bit because you know how sucky it is to love someone who doesn’t deserve it.
Plus, Christopher just has a wicked gift for words. I think I drank a gallon of water every 3 pages of this book, and whenever I put it down, I blinked, a little confused to be in green-green-green, humid east Texas, in an air conditioned house.
The sunlight hit me immediately. Everything was bright, painfully so. And hot. Hotter even than inside. My mouth went dry instantly. I struggled for breath, leaning into the doorway. I brought my hand up to shield my eyes and tried to stop squinting. I was blinded by all that whiteness. It was like I’d stepped out into an afterlife. Only there were no angels.
I forced my eye open, made myself look. There was no movement anywhere, no sign of you at all. Besides the house, there were two other buildings over to my right. … And then, there was beyond.
I made a sort of choking noise. As far as I could see, there was nothing. There was only flat, continuous brown land leading out to the horizon. Sand and more sand, with tussocks of small scrubby bushes standing up like surprises and the occasional leafless tree. The land was dead and thirsty. I was in nowhere.
Bonus Factor: The Desert
I love the desert — its loneliness, the seeming emptiness that’s actually full of crazy life, the endless horizon. So even though the desert is Gemma’s prison, I fell in love a little with the land. Dammit, Ty, I didn’t want to LEARN anything from a crazy kidnapper, but I couldn’t help be mesmerized by your desert.
Bonus Factor: Loyal Animal
Stolen the Camel isn’t the cuddliest potential Manchee Award of Incredible Loyalty nominee, but she’s pretty amazing in her cantankerous and stinky way.
Relationship Status: This Isn’t Stockholm Syndrome
Whatever I ended up thinking about Gemma’s complex feelings about Ty, which I won’t go into because “Spoiler” is not in my vocabulary, I am sure about this book. This gritty, scary, tense kind of survival story is usually SO not my thing, and I also stay far away from anything that even mentions Westerners in Thailand because it only ends in shameful tears (Brokedown Palace, The Hangover II, Bridget Jones II, the book not the movie). But this book? Oh, this book won me over HARD and it’s not because we were locked up together for a couple of days with no other companionship and I started to identify with it out of psychological necessity. Not at all.
FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from publisher. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Stolen is available now.