I've written before that my taste in books isn't always what most people would consider academic. I read for pleasure and many times that means well-written books...sometimes it means books that are just mind candy. They aren't well-written and they have no intellectual value, but I enjoy the story. The problem is that I enjoy them while I'm reading them, but the more I think about them afterward, the harder it is to like them.
Girl, Stolen was unfortunately one of those books. I tried not to be too hard on the writing, but honestly, it was pretty bad. The premise (A blind girl, waiting for her step mother to get a prescription, is kidnapped when a car thief doesn't realize she's in the car. She forms an unlikely friendship with her kidnapper) is interesting, other than the unlikely friendship part, which seriously, I'm getting a little tired of. I feel like I've read that before a few times this year... (Stolen?)
The story itself was good. I was intrigued, I liked the characters, and I wanted to know what happened. I even hurried home from work to finish it on my lunch break. The problem I had with the writing was that it was completely unbelievable. I'm very good at suspending my disbelief, if that's what a book calls for. You don't have to scientifically prove time travel is possible for me to enjoy your book. I have what I like to think of as the MST3K motto for my viewing and reading entertainment: "If you're wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts, repeat to yourself, 'it's just a show; I should really just relax'".
But when you're writing a contemporary novel set in the real world, I need to be able to believe that the characters could actually exist. And I just couldn't in this one. For example: one "character" is a dog that has been terribly abused and mistreated for its entire life. It has been trained to be mean and guard the home. In a matter of seconds a character is able to befriend the dog by giving it a treat.I know this doesn't sound major, but I don't want to be guilty of spoiling. The other examples are all pretty central to the story.
All of that negativity to say that I actually liked this book as I was reading it. I recommend it for younger teens and for anyone looking for a short, entertaining story. Given that the recommended age is 12+, I can see this being a good middle grade read (although honestly, who am I to say that because I definitely don't read MG). I don't recommend it for someone who is reading with writing as a craft in mind. This book just doesn't demonstrate that. It's a great idea and a decent effort, but I wouldn't suggest it as an example of a well-written YA novel. I'd compare it to very generic YA fiction from my teen days like The Face on the Milk Carton or anything by Lurlene McDaniel. That said, I would probably give her another try, based on the originality of most of the plot (seriously, the unlikely "friendship" theme is done).
Thank you to the publisher, Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books, and to the author, April Henry, for sending me a review copy!