Taken, by Norah McClintock
I love adventure stories. In particular, I love adventure stories starring girls. There are so few of them out there that I snatch them up whenever I come across them.
Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games was one of those. Although it was a gripping book, and one that kept me interested and turning pages all the way through, that book had a love interest in it. Much of the emotional drama that so many wilderness stories evoke when it’s just a boy lost in the woods or a girl lost in the mountain pass was diverted to a lesser cause as Katniss pondered over why Petra was behaving this way or that. (Answer: ‘Cos he’s a boy. Get over it. He’s not the first and he won’t be the last.)
By contrast, in Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, there was less of that. In From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, an adventure story in its own right, there’s none of that. Consequently, I believe, the sense of adventure is preserved, and the deference that ought to be given a wilderness experience–whether that be in the wilds of a museum or truly in the outdoors–is honored.
When I found Taken, I was thrilled. The main character is kidnapped and left in a shack in the woods. The bulk of the book comprises her struggle to get out of the woods alive, and details some tricks her grandfather taught her about survival while he was still alive.
It was really nice to see a book of this nature. Although the plot left something to be desired (I’d figured out who had kidnapped Stephanie by the middle of the book), it was nice to see a female protagonist out in the woods, getting dirty, and not pining for some hero to rescue her, or wondering what that cute boy in math class would have done if she had only smiled more nicely at him. Instead, Steff’s thoughts are consumed by regret: she can’t quite believe she left her mother with the words she did, and she’s giving second thoughts to the way she treats the man who might become her step-father.
The experience of reading the book brought to mind another book about survival I read when I was much, much younger:
My brother and I both read this book over and over again, and if it’s prominent in our memories only because it was the first book of its kind we ever read, it might equally be because of the raw grittiness of the experience. Kevin hitches a ride on a truck to get away from his parents, only to discover that it’s stolen and being driven by convicts. He escapes them, only to find himself lost in the desert. The lessons his father, a military type, taught him come in handy, but I’ll never forget the way Kevin looked upon the crescent moon and thought wistfully of the way his mother described such moons: thumbnail moons.
I remember, with equal sharpness, the way Kevin said his eyes felt after days spent in the desert without water, and the way he felt when he manages to gather condensation under a plastic sheet and get his first mouthful of drinking water.
I don’t feel this way about Taken, but I did enjoy it for the sheer rarity of seeing a girl muck her way through a survival situation. It won’t stick in my brain the way that Lost in the Devil’s Desert did, but but I’d like to see more of its type.