When Cheyenne asks her stepmother to leave the keys in the car while she runs into the store for a second, she doesn’t think anything of it. But keys dangling in the ignition of an Escalade prove too much of a temptation, and in a second a carjacker hops in, unknowingly towing Cheyenne along. Too quickly to blink, she finds herself held hostage in a remote cabin in the woods, suffering from pneumonia. But that’s not the biggest obstacle she faces: Cheyenne is blind and this is Girl, Stolen, by April Henry.
When Griffin boots the Escalade, he doesn’t take a second to check the backseat, where Cheyenne is dozing. Now things are spiraling out of control and he’s stuck trying to balance the innocent girl he got into this mess on one hand, and his violent father and dangerous friends on the other. Cheyenne herself is furiously trying to gauge her situation, weighing her chances of escape against her chances of release. Held for ransom against her wealthy father, she must judge her captors, her prison, her best opportunity for rescue – all without being able to see any of it.
The story is told in alternating chapters between Cheyenne and Griffin. It’s a quick read but more because it’s tense and face-paced, rather than shallow. From the second that Griffin gets in the car, both characters are locked into a situation that degenerates minute to minute. Even as the ransom deal is put under way, everyone knows that Cheyenne isn’t going to make it safely back to her parents. But can one sick, sixteen year-old girl make it through the woods in below-zero weather, blind?
She’s a smart kid, as evidenced by the scene when she tricks Griffin into letting her go to the bathroom, then locks the door and breaks open the window. When her frantic captor breaks in, he assumes she’s made a break for the woods, when instead she’s hiding out of sight in the bathtub, waiting for him to charge off. But more than that, she’s pragmatic. She knows that she probably won’t be released alive – ransom or not – and also knows that blind escape (no pun intended) into the freezing wilderness around her is mostly likely a death sentence as well.
So Cheyenne begins to forge a bond with Griffin: feeding him tidbits about her life, separating him from her other captors, emphasizing her pneumonia and her blindness. She turns him into an asset, but never one that she would value over her own life. By refusing to give in to her situation, she enables her own escape. Her odds are huge and her chances of survival (let alone full escape) are next to nothing, but staying tied to the bed is a death sentence, and she’s not going down without a fight.
This is a great twist on the traditional hostage thriller tale, and Henry really knows how to describe a scene from a blind person’s perspective. Though readers have Griffin’s chapters to establish a setting, Cheyenne’s chapters leave you nothing but the darkness and her educated guesses at unfamiliar surroundings. She can’t be sure Griffin is telling the truth about the surrounding woods, just as she can never be sure if it is only Griffin she is talking to. It’s amazing the handicap that Cheyenne’s blindness presents, and all the extraordinary ways she overcomes it.
Girl, Stolen rates an absolute AJ on the PSA, and though it’s a fast read, it’s not for the younger folk – there’s a little violence but it’s pretty hideous. I promise you that once you pick it up, you will literally not be able to put it down until the end.