‘To everyone else, we only had one story: you, the evil kidnapper, and me, the helpless victim. I was innocent and you the contrary. But it was always more complicated, wasn’t it?’
Stolen by Lucy Christopher is one of our all-time favourite psychological suspense thrillers. Incredibly beautifully written and compelling, it tells the story of sixteen years old Gemma Toombs who was kidnapped and held by her stalker, Tyler McFarlane, in a remote desert in Australia. It was a book that completely broke us emotionally, where we experienced such problematic emotional reactions to the story of Gem and Ty. When we found out that Lucy Christopher was publishing Release a companion novel ten years later, we were beyond excited. We always wanted to know what came after. Did Gem recover psychologically from her ordeal and escape the clutches of her Stockholm Syndrome, provided even that is what it was? And whatever happened to Ty after he sacrificed his freedom in order to save his kidnap victim?
‘I wait for you to say you remember – every single occasion when we walked together in this land when you showed me the beauty in it and the beauty in you, the beauty in me. Here is why I can’t let you go, why we’re here.’
Release was written in much the same vein as Stolen, with the added aspect of past and present. We felt as whether we were reading a heartfelt letter inviting us to see and feel the very essence of Gemma Toombs, now known as Kate Stone. Highlighting the intellectual health issues derived from her traumatic experience ten years prior. Gemma has never moved on from her harrowing experience, Ty very much dominating her every waking occasion. She can’t let go of her version of memories and reflections, and it is clear that she is in desperate need of some kind of closure, whatever that may be. We encouraged her to find it, examine it, and receive it. Release it. We wished her peace.
‘It feels like I’m the stalker now, Ty. I hold the cards. I am the one waiting.’
We felt so conflicted at times, as we sought the truth between the written lines. Gemma/Kate was lost somewhere in between factual memories and self-imposed fantasy borne out of survival. But we didn’t realise just how much so. What came after Ty’s release was fairly the gripping, twisty, symbolic rollercoaster ride with Gemma at the wheel. It was intense, it was a narrative of two halves.
‘You shouldn’t have come. You must know that your being here changes everything. The quake inside me enters veins, bones skin. You always were someone who brought change, like the rain…Perhaps you’ve come for me, like I came for you, for revenge or even forgiveness. possibly we’re even.’
We’re sitting here feeling incredibly emotional right now. There we said it. Is it the journey we wanted for Gemma and Ty? We have to be honest, no not quite. We had rose-tinted glasses on, we championed something that felt right to us despite what came before. Notwithstanding, once we removed those rose-tinted glasses, we appreciated where Lucy Christopher took this story. There’s nothing fairly like an Author pushing a reader, making us question why we feel the way we do. She kept us guessing and speculating right until the very last page and we know that this book will not leave us be until we have discussed it ’till the nth degree. It has left us wanting to re-read, analyse, and investigate. Look for what was left unsaid. Sometimes you only see what you want to, not what you need to. Make of it what you will, but we believe we now know and we’re not quite certain how to feel approximately that. What we do know is that Lucy Christopher is a magnificent storyteller, one who delves deep into the human psyche, exposing human complexities, the power of the intellect, and the need to twist situations for self-preservation, for survival.
‘If I kill you, I will have the release and you will not. You won’t go back to prison, and neither will I. We will both be free.’
Release was harrowing, heartbreaking, thrilling, obsessive, complex, and problematic. It was cunning as a fox! It was unputdownable from start to finish, Release is too smart to be unravelled, try as we might. We believe that the title: Release, has such a multitude of definitions when applied to this story, completely wide open to individual interpretation. Did Ty and Gemma find their own personal metaphorical release? That’s entirely up to you, the reader. We urge you to read Stolen first, then dive headfirst into Release and judge for yourselves. It’ll be intense!
‘We love what we come to know and fear, don’t we, Ty, even when we know it’s not good? We don’t see anything else. Perhaps there’s no other way to love.’