Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book Review: Girl Stolen by April Henry

Product Details

Reading Level: Ages 12 and up
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); First Edition edition (September 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805090053
ISBN-13: 978-0805090055

The Muse Reviews Rating: 2.5 Laurels

Publisher's Description

Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

Girl, Stolen is the third YA novel from New York Times best-selling author April Henry. Inspired by the 2005 carjacking of 18-year-old Heather Wilson, Girl, Stolen relates the story of the uneasy alliance that grows between Cheyenne and her accidental kidnapper, Griffin.

On the surface, 16-year-old Cheyenne seems like a typical adolescent girl: She loves dogs, books and chatting on the phone. She gets along with her stepmother most of the time and occasionally chafes under her father's over-protectiveness. But Cheyenne isn't average. Three years ago, Cheyenne lost her mother to a hit-and-run driver. She also lost her sight. Since then, Cheyenne has fought to regain her independence. Now she's fighting again - this time, for her life.

On a snowy day in December, Cheyenne is waiting for her stepmother, Danielle, to come back from the pharmacy. Cheyenne has pneumonia, so she elects to wait in the car while Danielle picks up a prescription for antibiotics. Cheyenne persuades Danielle to leave the keys in the ignition so she can turn on the heat if she gets cold.

Griffin is a 16-year-old high school dropout and petty criminal following in the footsteps of his father, Roy. Griffin has been stealing shopping bags from cars in the mall parking lot all morning. When he sees the keys in the ignition of Danielle's SUV, he thinks he's hit the jackpot. It should be easy to drive the car back to his house where Roy and his cronies will strip it for parts. In his haste, Griffin doesn't notice Cheyenne laying down in the back seat until he's already on the road.

Confused and scared of his abusive father's reaction, Griffin dumps Cheyenne's cell phone and takes the most indirect route he can think of back to his house. Roy is predictably angry with his son's blunder until he learns Cheyenne is the daughter of a wealthy businessman. At that point, he decides to demand a ransom.

However, Roy could easily star in an episode of "America's Dumbest Criminals." In a drunken stupor, he manages to lose the phone numbers Cheyenne gives him to contact her father and doesn't bother to disguise his voice when he finally does make the ransom demand. To top it off, he puts his buddies TJ and Jimbo - who would more aptly be named Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber - in charge of keeping an eye on Griffin and Cheyenne.

Although April Henry is a New York Times best-selling author and her work has won several awards, I was underwhelmed by Girl, Stolen. While the premise of the novel had the potential to be a fast-paced thriller, the plot drags in several places while Henry gives lengthy explanations of Cheyenne's particular type of blindness, her struggle to regain her independence by learning to use a cane and then a service dog, and what a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is and how it works. Maybe Henry thought a young adult audience would need these details to understand the story. However, if the sections dealing with these minutiae are slow enough to bore me, I can't image a teenager being remotely interested.

I also found April Henry's depiction of Griffin to be inconsistent and implausible. This is a boy who has been abused by his father most of his life and has the scars to prove it. I had a hard time believing he would risk provoking Roy by defying him in even the most trivial way, let alone risk his life to help Cheyenne escape. In addition, I consider Girl, Stolen inappropriate for children under the age of 16 because of the liberal amount of obscenities, a murder and an attempted rape scene. Although I liked the idea of Girl, Stolen and had high hopes for the story, the execution left much to be desired.

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