First off, I’m so sorry for my inconsistency lately. I want to say LIFE, MAN, LIFE — but no excuses. I’m going to catch up on every post, comment, response post, and award I’ve been honored to receive. Expect appreciation posts throughout the week; no, this isn’t the guilt talking. You deserve it.
Second, here’s my review, as promised. I have to start somewhere, right? 🙂
I usually analyze books in conversations with my family and friends, or in my mind, so writing this kind of post is new to me. If you have yet to read April’s YA psychological suspense, don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything beyond the blurb. (Btw, if you’re wondering why I keep bringing up this book, check out last week’s The Write Playlist).
Title: Girl, Stolen
Author: April Henry
Publisher/Imprint: Square Fish
Publication Date: March 2012
Page Count: 240 pages (depending)
Recommended Age Range: 15+
The title sparked my interest right away. It made me wonder: Who’s the girl? Who took her? Why? Will she escape?
The two cover designs touch on elements of suspense: A girl covering her face, her nail polish scuffed up — and — a red background covered in yellow crime scene tape with the bold, black repetition of GIRL STOLEN.
BLURB (My own words)
Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder, sick with pneumonia, stays in the car to sleep while her stepmom goes into the pharmacy. When the car starts back up, she knows the person behind the wheel isn’t her stepmom. Cheyenne might be blind, but she smells cigarettes — and the person’s breathing too fast, too harsh.
Griffin had only meant to jack the Escalade, not kidnap a girl. But once the evening news spews out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, there’s a reason to keep her. Or so says his own father.
Last time I checked, this book was $7.09 on kindle, $9.18 paperback, $14.14 hardback, and $11.95 audio.
The story starts right in the midst of Cheyenne being stolen while she lies under a blanket in the backseat.
I often read advice about starting a story in the middle of the action. While that may grab my attention, it won’t hold for long if I don’t care about the characters. I want to care about them and understand enough of the stakes before things explode or implode. There needs to be a build up or a strong display of emotion.
Even though April began Cheyenne’s story when her car was jacked, she let readers get adjusted to the situation and acquainted to the sixteen-year-old by putting her in a vulnerable state (from the pneumonia). It took a moment for the sick teen to grasp what was happening. All the while, the dramatic irony and inductive reasoning gripped me.
By the end of the first chapter, which is short, readers know two major points:
1. Cheyenne is blind and sick.
2. The unintentional kidnapper (Griffin) is just as shocked and horrified by the predicament.
The narration, written in third-person, alternates between Cheyenne and Griffin’s perspectives. The dual narrative is an effective technique to emphasize similarities and differences between Cheyenne and her kidnappers, whether it be in the kidnapping situation or their lifestyles.
Btw, we’re officially introduced to Griffin, the car thief, in the second chapter. He’s a high-school dropout with a troubled background who questions his crooked life as much as he takes pride in it (Self-preservation?). Since the kidnapping wasn’t planned, Griffin and his dad play it by ear.
The story progresses as April blends conflict and drama and stacks the odds against each character. One thing to make clear is Cheyenne’s blindness wasn’t a gimmick for the plot, or at least not to me. I believe April meant for Cheyenne to be real. She’s a girl who happens to be blind, too. Person-first language, just like with the book’s title (Girl, Stolen). Makes me wonder if April had done that on purpose. I’ll have to ask her one day.
THINGS THAT WERE GOOD, BUT NOT GREAT
The Psychological Suspense:
The tension and nervousness mounted as I got closer and closer to the end. A great thing, but I wanted more. It wasn’t enough to just rely on the situational horror of being taken by strangers, which is more objective than subjective. I also remained hopeful the whole way through when I would’ve liked to feel hopeless every now and then. That might sound crazy, but it’s true. Don’t get me wrong. I love how April took a realistic approach — I wasn’t suspending my disbelief the whole time — but I wanted more danger and unpredictable twists and turns. I wanted the story to burst at the seams with grit and wreak havoc on my mind and Cheyenne’s.
The info dumps:
They’re short paragraphs, but these dumps in the dialogue or narrative came off stilted. It was during these occurrences that April’s writing seemed too simplistic, because she explained things out-right instead of trusting the reader to infer them (or look it up for themselves).
At times, I felt detached from the third-person narration. This ties back to the psychological aspect. I wanted April to dig deeper into these characters and storylines. More intensity, expression, and depth of content. I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll just leave it at that.
I appreciate the way April unfolds the story. Also, I can tell she did extensive and hands-on research concerning blindness and kidnappings. In fact, April was inspired by a real kidnapping that’d happened in the same way as Cheyenne’s, except the girl — who is blind — was forced out the car about three blocks away from the abduction site. For more information, click here (2005 Heather Wilson carjacking).
Girl, Stolen is a short read (215 pages on Kindle), with strengths and weaknesses, but it packs a punch worth experiencing. I give it a B+. If you’ve read it, what do you think?
– YALSA Quick Pick
– YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
– Barnes & Noble Top Teen Pick
– Named one of the best books of 2012 by Children’s Books Ireland
– Named to Ireland’s national reading list for teens by Ireland’s National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
– Scholastic bestseller
– Winner of Maryland’s Black-Eyed Susan award
– Winner of Missouri’s Truman Readers Award
– Winner of South Dakota’s YARP (Young Adult Reading Program)
– Young Adult Honor Book for Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award
– Named to Delaware Diamonds book list
– Finalist for the Iowa Teen Award
– Finalist for Worcestershire Teen Book Award in England
– Finalist for Oklahoma’s Sequoyah Book Award
– Finalist for Oregon Book Award
– Finalist for New Hampshire’s Isinglass Teen Read award
– Chosen for St. Louis Book Battle
– Chosen for One Book, One Community in Olney, Illinois
– Chosen as a Cafe Book in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and Stafford schools and the Central Rappahannock Regional Library in Virigina
– ALAN Pick [Assembly on Literature for Adolescents]
– Rights sold in the United Kingdom
– Rights sold in Germany
– Rights sold in Turkey
– Audio rights sold to Brilliance
– Film rights optioned by Jerry Leider and Dean Hargrove
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
April Henry is the New York Times-bestselling author of over a dozen mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.
For now, here’s the link to her blog: http://www.aprilhenrymysteries.com/bio.html