Study Guide

Stolen Themes

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    Think of the last time you flopped on the couch, stuffed your face with cookies and chips, and took in an eight-hour Law & Order: SVU marathon. (Don't even try to deny it because we know you've done it.) Typically, when a girl gets abducted, it doesn't end well for her—she usually ends up sexually assaulted or dead or damaged for life.

    We expect all of these things from Ty when he kidnaps Gemma in Stolen, and yet they just don't happen. Ty diverges from the typical criminal stereotype in the odd compassion he shows his victim, even sacrificing his freedom for her in the end. Meanwhile, it's this kindness that allows Gemma to forgive him and offer him the hope that he can change.

    Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

    1. What's the motivation behind Ty's kindness to Gemma? What does he expect to accomplish or gain from it? Remember to back up your answer with evidence from the text.
    2. What does Gemma do to draw Ty's attention in the first place? How does he perceive her as different from other people? Is he right? Why or why not?
    3. Why does Ty allow Gemma to try to escape? Why does he take care of her rather than punish her for it? Is this compassion, manipulation, or something else? Be specific and dig into the text for support.
    4. Why does Gemma choose to tell the truth about Ty? How is sending him to jail the compassionate course of action to take?

    Chew on This

    Ty repeatedly lets Gemma escape to reveal her need for him for survival.

    Sending Ty to jail is an act of forgiveness and compassion for Gemma, not revenge.

  • Isolation

    What's the most alone you've ever felt? Sitting in the cafeteria alone at lunch? Not getting picked as someone's partner for a school project? Getting turned down by a prospective prom date? Try getting kidnapped from an airport and held hostage in an endless desert with nothing and no one around for miles.

    In a way, the land in Stolen is its own character in the drama of Gemma's disappearance—everywhere she looks, there are no people or places to be seen, and this only serves to make her feel more desperate and lonely. You know, in case things weren't hard enough for Gemma already.

    Questions About Isolation

    1. How does Gemma's attitude change throughout the story? How does her isolation gradually cause her to lose hope that she'll escape or be rescued?
    2. How do Christopher's descriptions of the desert play a role in upping the stakes of Gemma's situation? Pick a few examples to explore in depth.
    3. How does Gemma's isolation heighten the tension between her and Ty? Be specific. Is Ty isolated, too? And, if so, how does this affect their interactions?
    4. What effect do the descriptions of the desert have on you as a reader? Can you sense Gemma's desperation and loneliness?

    Chew on This

    Placing the characters in an isolated environment forces them to interact, creating greater strain between them.

    While there's clearly no evidence of life outside Ty's property, Gemma remains hopeful as a psychological device to help herself survive.

  • Man and the Natural World

    A lot of people would probably find living the way Ty does in Stolen to be pretty much impossible. Forget about grocery stores, text messaging, entertainment, and the usual modern conveniences—you're hunting for your food and looking at the stars instead of watching sitcoms, and Ty would probably laugh in your face if you asked why you couldn't get a signal on your smartphone.

    But, in a way, that's what makes his character so fascinating: He has no interest whatsoever in living in a modern society. Not only that, but there's major tension between him and Gemma, who's clearly a city girl. Regardless, Ty has some things he wants to teach her about the value of nature and its meaning in a world overrun with technology.

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. What accounts for Ty's close bond with the wilderness? Why is he more at home there than in a more conventional, populated area? Be specific and give evidence from the text.
    2. While Ty goes about it in a way that's just plain illegal, what does he hope to reveal to Gemma about the land? Is he successful?
    3. How does Ty use analogies about life in the desert to reveal its beauty to Gemma?
    4. How do you think Gemma will be different as a result of her encounter with Australia's wilderness? How will it affect her worldview for the rest of her life?

    Chew on This

    Christopher portrays the wilderness not as a place of death but as a place of rebirth.

    Ty's connection with the natural wilderness heightens the sacrifice he makes by going with Gemma in the plane.

  • Memory and the Past

    We've all been there: You run into someone who looks a little familiar and start wracking your brain to figure out who they are. Or, maybe you've been in a new place for a while and can't help thinking about life back where you're from. Throughout Stolen, both of our main characters are haunted not just by the roles they've played in each other's lives but unresolved family conflicts that still occupy their thoughts. Gemma may not remember the ways Ty was involved with her life long before her kidnapping, but her gradual recollection changes the way she sees him.

    Questions About Memory and the Past

    1. Ty and Gemma are really the only characters we consistently get a picture of throughout the story. How does Christopher use Gemma's memories to develop the characters of her family members and friends?
    2. How does being in Australia change the way Gemma remembers and perceives her life back home?
    3. Do you think there's any association between Ty's mother bearing a resemblance to Gemma and Ty's plot to abduct her? Why or why not? Is Ty aware of this? How can you tell?
    4. What do Ty and Gemma have in common in terms of their pasts? How does this affect their relationship?

    Chew on This

    Ty kidnaps Gemma not as revenge for what happened to him as a child but because he's trying to make it right by rescuing Gemma from the life he experienced in the city.

    The more Gemma remembers about Ty's role in her life back home, the more we truly get to know him and his motivations.

  • Rules and Order

    Laws and order (not to be confused with Law & Order) play a huge role in Gemma's world in Stolen. Whether it's her parents' subtle pressures for her to participate in their upper class lifestyle or Gemma's sense of relief at knowing Ty brought her to a country where law enforcement has the potential to rescue her, Gemma relies on the conventions of the society she's been raised in as a way of interpreting what's happening to her.

    By contrast, Ty has a reckless disregard for the law and authority figures, seeing them as people who disrupted the order of his own unconventional life. Stolen definitely blurs the line between "civilized" and "uncivilized," causing us by the end of the book to reevaluate the way we see Ty's approach to life.

    Questions About Rules and Order

    1. How does Gemma learn to adapt to the order of Ty's environment? Be specific, please.
    2. What is Gemma's world back home like? What rules does she operate under that being in Australia forces her to question?
    3. What is Ty's motivation in kidnapping Gemma? Do you think he understands that what he's done is wrong? Why or why not?
    4. Do your impressions of Ty's actions change by the end of the book? How so? What influences this change in your perspective?

    Chew on This

    While Ty's kidnapping plot may be wrong, some good still comes from it in terms of how Gemma sees the rules and order of her life.

    While Ty and Gemma grew up in completely opposite environments, neither of them ever thinks to question the order of their lives until they are stolen.

  • Power

    Ty is ridiculously strong and more than capable of overpowering Gemma physically. What really gives him the upper hand in the struggle between them, though, is that he knows how to live in the middle of nowhere on his own. The key to controlling Gemma isn't physical force, but letting her experience the reality that she has nowhere to turn except to him. She can't hack it on her own without him.

    So, while Ty himself is pretty intimidating, it's his mental power that makes him a frightening character; in the end, he knows Gemma's inability to survive in the desert will keep her in his clutches. Despite this upper hand, though, Stolen's core conflict is the power struggle between the two of them—Gemma yearns for freedom, trying to get to it by any means, while Ty is unwilling to let her go.

    Questions About Power

    1. How does Ty manipulate Gemma into letting him buy her coffee and engaging her in the conversation that leads to her abduction? Do a close reading of that section and really dissect how Ty pulls this off.
    2. On a couple of occasions, Ty lets Gemma run away, only to go rescue her and bring her back. Why does he do this? How is he exercising his power over her?
    3. Why is the idea of accepting Ty so frightening to Gemma? How does she try to fight against it?
    4. Could Gemma have resisted Ty's efforts to control her at the airport? Do you think it would have thwarted his plan, or would he have tried something else?

    Chew on This

    Ty's capacity for mental manipulation is more powerful than his physical strength.

    Ty allows Gemma to run away not as a way of freeing her but to heighten his control over her.

  • Contrasting Regions

    Where would you rather live—in a bustling city with lots of activity and action or a laid-back country setting with a slow-paced way of life? For Ty and Gemma in Stolen, their totally different answers to this question are one of the biggest ways they're different from each other. You just can't get too much farther from London than the middle of the Australian desert. There's a bit more to this, though: Each character's perceptions of rural and urban locations come from the experiences that have shaped them—thus shaping their understanding of the contrast between these two regions, too.

    Questions About Contrasting Regions

    1. How do the geography of London and Australia shape Gemma's and Ty's upbringings? Do you notice any patterns?
    2. What are the most striking differences between the desert and more populated areas like Bangkok or London? How does Gemma adapt to them?
    3. How might Gemma's and Ty's family backgrounds play a role in how they see the places that they're from?
    4. Ultimately, how are Australia and London similar? What about these regions give Ty and Gemma something in common?

    Chew on This

    Ty largely sees the city through the lens of his traumatic relocation there as a child.

    The theme of contrasting settings ultimately reveals that what's on the surface isn't always the whole story.

  • Freedom and Confinement

    For most of Stolen, Gemma is a prisoner. After Ty abducts her, she finds herself alone with him in the desert, with no way to escape except through him. As a result, a huge part of the book is about examining what it means to be in captivity, as well as what it means to be free. While she originally feels confined and isolated in Ty's homestead in the wilderness, her experiences with him distort the meaning of these words. Is the desert really a prison? Has Gemma been in captivity her whole life without even knowing it? It's one of the paradoxes at the core of Stolen—Ty may hold Gemma captive, but he might also be the person who sets her free. Whoa.

    Questions About Freedom and Confinement

    1. Ty makes it pretty clear that they're in the middle of nowhere and there's no way out of this except through him. Why does Gemma keep plotting ways to run away?
    2. Does Gemma really have Stockholm syndrome, or does her attitude toward Ty genuinely change as a result of her experiences? Turn to the text to support your argument.
    3. Gemma describes her return to civilization as like being in prison. Has she really learned the lesson Ty has been trying to teach her, or is she experiencing shock from having been in the desert so long?
    4. How do you think Ty will respond to being in prison? Do you think Gemma's letter will have any effect on the experience?

    Chew on This

    Stolen broadens the definition of captivity to include the situations and places we don't know are holding us back.

    Ty is using Gemma's captivity to make right what was done to him as a child.

  • Madness

    What were your first impressions of Ty at the beginning of Stolen? Did you think he was a maniac? If so, you're not alone. The thing is, it then gets more complicated—we learn that he's obsessed with Gemma and has been observing her and her family for years. Who does that? Creeps, that's who. But as the story goes on, we find there's more to Ty than meets the eye. Is he really insane, or has his past led him to believe that he's genuinely rescuing Gemma from the city and her family? Does he have some kind of mental illness? While it might seem like these questions have easy answers at the beginning, the ending leaves us not so sure. Like, at all.

    Questions About Madness

    1. At what point in the book did you first realize there was something "off" about Ty? Did you get it from the minute Gemma saw him in the airport, or did it take you a while to catch on?
    2. Do some research on childhood trauma, particularly absent parents, and how it can affect people as adults. How does Ty's experience line up with information about these disrupting events and mental health? Are there ways in which it doesn't?
    3. How does the story reveal Ty's obsession with Gemma? What effect does this have on your understanding of him as a character?
    4. What about you? What do you think is up with Ty and why? Back that answer up with evidence from the text.

    Chew on This

    Ty would be eligible for an insanity plea during his trial.

    Gemma's experience with Ty temporarily causes her to lose sight of the distinction between right and wrong.

  • Art and Culture

    Back in London, Gemma's mom experiences art and culture by buying paintings and drawings for her personal collection. She attends gallery openings, goes to other countries to acquire diverse artwork, and is really zeroed in on the act of shopping for other people's work. In other words, she's an art hoarder.

    When Gemma goes to Australia, though, she encounters a whole new definition of art and culture through Ty's interactive art in the outbuildings. She becomes exposed to the power of creation over consumption as she comes to understand that Ty's art expresses his connection with the land. For a book about kidnapping, Stolen digs into some deep thoughts on what makes art and what the purpose of art truly is.

    Questions About Art and Culture

    1. Why is Ty's art so important to him? What motivates him to create? Be specific.
    2. Ty doesn't just paint the outbuildings on his property; he paints his body. Why does it matter that he involves himself in his work this way? Why does he make Gemma try to paint herself when he shows her his work?
    3. How does Ty's artwork change Gemma's view of him?
    4. If you were going to make a playlist for Gemma's experience with Ty, what songs would you include and why?

    Chew on This

    Ty's artwork changes the way Gemma sees him by revealing his humanity and sincerity.

    Ty reveals the creative process behind art, which goes deeper than the cold consumerism of Gemma's mom's acquisitions. He humanizes art.