At the beginning of Lucy Christopher’s debut novel, Stolen, sixteen-year-old Gemma meets an attractive man in the Bangkok airport and thinks he looks familiar. He drugs her coffee and takes her on a confusing, blurry journey. When she awakens, she finds herself in a small house in the Australian outback. There is nobody around, and there is not even a road to indicate in which direction a town might be. She runs away anyway. Her kidnapper, Ty, chases her down. He does not hurt her, but he is so strong he subdues her easily even when she fights him.
Ty brings Gemma back to his house and explains that she has no chance of surviving in the desert if she tries to flee. When she realizes how hopeless her situation is, she threatens to hurt herself, but he stops her. For a few days she stays in bed, refusing to eat. When she finally gets up, Ty takes her outside and explains that he has brought her to Australia because it is a beautiful, magical place. He claims they are in an unmapped desert. This is a spot he found as a child and has returned to as an adult. Nobody else knows about the spot; he built all the buildings and laid the pipe to bring water from a spring to the house. He says he intends to keep Gemma forever.
Gemma watches Ty for days, hoping to learn his routine so she can escape. He gets up in the mornings and goes into an outbuilding; he returns to eat and sleep. Eventually she asks what he does in the other building. He says he makes art. He lets her come with him to see, but on the threshold he grabs her. Gemma panics, thinking he wants to kill her. He only wants to prevent her from disturbing his artwork, but before she realizes this, she thrashes around and disturbs a great deal. When she calms down, she sees that Ty is painting a desert scene that fills a whole room. He cries over the damage she has done, and she begs him to let her go. He warns her that she will get lost, but he does not stop her.
Gemma runs up a hill to two boulders, then she follows a path between them to a little shaded glen with a spring that provides the water for the house. Around the spring, she finds trees, a garden, and a few chickens in cages. She hides all day, and Ty builds a fence around the boulders so she cannot run further. When night falls, it grows very cold. Ty drives circles around the fence in his car, waiting for her to appear. She tries to stay hidden, but eventually he spots her. He carries her back to the house and wraps her in blankets to warm her up.
Gemma spends the next several days in bed, thinking about her parents and her life in London. She wonders how long they will keep trying to find her. When she finally gets up, she tells him she thinks she recognizes him from before the airport, and he admits he has been watching her for six years—since she was ten years old. He claims she should remember meeting him, but she does not.
Ty tells Gemma that his mother, a Londoner, abandoned him to his Australian father when he was born. He grew up on a farm in this desert. He knew no other children, but he learned about the land from Aborigines who worked on the farm. One day his father disappeared, and Ty ran wild in the desert for about a year until people realized he was out there. They caught him and took him to an orphanage in the city, where he was forced to live in a room without even a window. He despises the city, and he claims that Gemma does too. He says that he did not steal her; he saved her.
At night, Gemma plots to kill Ty, but she does not know how to do it. She steals a dull knife from the kitchen, but it does not seem adequate to the job. She uses it to scratch the bedpost with a mark for every day since Ty stole her. During the day, she watches Ty and sometimes allows him to show her the land around the boulders. It confuses her that she finds his perfect body beautiful.
One day in his paint shed, Ty tells Gemma how he met her. He was a homeless drunk living in the park by her house, and he heard her, a little girl, playing among the flowers. She found him in the bushes and talked to him without fear. He says she reminded him of his own childhood:
It made me realize where I belonged...not in a city park with cheap store-bought spirits, but out here in the land I knew, with the real ones.
Gemma says it was “sick” that he got obsessed with a ten-year-old girl, but Ty says he never intended to abduct her until much later. He claims that Gemma is different from other city people and that her parents do not love her or want her. Gemma kicks over a can of Ty’s paint. He raises a fist to hit her, but he holds himself back.
The next day, Ty drives Gemma even deeper into the desert. She is afraid because she thinks he might intend to kill her. Instead they have a meager picnic, and he points out termite mounds and kangaroos. Then he catches a camel and brings it back to his house. Gemma spends the next few days watching him train it. Gemma wants to name the camel Stolen, but Ty calls that a “crap name.” He says that once the camel develops faith in him, it will like being with him.
Gemma asks Ty if she ever saw him after their first meeting, and he says he followed her often over the next few years. He describes a night she spent drinking in the park with some friends. A boy she knew, Josh, chased her when she went off alone, and someone stopped him. Ty claims he stopped Josh. He says that was the night he decided to bring Gemma to the desert.
Gemma asks how Ty got to England in the first place. He says he came looking for his mother, who once wrote him a...
(The entire section is 2313 words.)