Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Publisher: Wednesday Books
First Published: January 7, 2020
Genres: Mental Health Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
That’s how long I was kept captive.
Locked in a room with a bed, refrigerator, and adjoining bathroom, I was instructed to eat, bathe, and behave. I received meals, laundered clothes, and toiletries through a cat door, never knowing if it was day or night. The last time I saw the face of my abductor was when he dragged me fighting from the trunk of his car. And when I finally escaped, I prayed I’d never see him again.
Now that I’m home, my parents and friends want everything to be like it was before I left. But they don’t understand that dining out and shopping trips can’t heal what’s broken inside me. I barely leave my bedroom. Therapists are clueless and condescending. So I start my own form of therapy―but writing about my experience awakens uncomfortable memories, ones that should’ve stayed buried. How far will I have to go to uncover the truth of what happened―and will it break me forever?
This book is a difficult one for me to tackle because I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Jane Anonymous is a page-turner, detailing the abduction and captivity of a seventeen-year-old girl named Jane. The story moves between alternating timelines between her life in captivity and now, after her escape. Jane struggles to cope with the circumstances of her abduction and comes to the truth of what happened to her as she begins reconnecting to her family and friends. The pacing of the novel is quick and it’s easy to blaze through the pages.
Jane is unstable, lashing out and acting irrationally, devoured by fear. She is obsessed with a fellow captive and is reluctant to move on. She feels pressure from friends and family to “heal” and return to normal life. She displays all of the behaviors of a clinically depressed person, harming herself and pushing people away. It would make sense for someone that has spent several months in captivity, but what struck me as unusual is that there isn’t much difference between Jane’s character in the past and in the present.
Even on day one of her captivity, she was acting like someone who had been locked up for months suffering from severe mental illness. Despite having a surprisingly large number of comforts provided to her in captivity including daily meals, a full bathroom, her favorite clothing brands, and an abundance of snacks in her room—she immediately starts harming herself and living in squalor. It struck me as odd that she spent more time acting insane and obsessing over another male captive than trying to find a way out. It could be argued that maybe she was being drugged, but she was instantly enamored and jealous over this other person that it was ridiculous.
The setup is obvious from the get-go and many of the “twists” can be seen from a mile away. I get it that the author was attempting to depict Stockholm Syndrome, going so far as to directly state that this is Jane’s issue later on in the book, but it felt unrealistic. Besides the fact that Stockholm Syndrome is a highly contested classification of illness, it felt like every possible symptom listed on Wikipedia was checked off the list. There was so much drama and focus on Jane’s mental illness that it felt a little exploitative to me.
The novel did seek to show another side of the story though, of the difficult path toward recovery over time, and I think that this was a good choice. The novel can serve as a cautionary tale for young adults to watch out for stalkers, and how a traumatic event like the abduction or death of a child affects more than just the victim. Even when a victim is rescued life does not return to normal overnight, and it takes time to find forgiveness. The book may not have been for me as an adult, but I can see it appealing to its target audience as a heart-pounding thriller.
“For me, the memories wove a quilt that suffocated any possibility of goodness.”
Trigger Warning: Violence, Imprisonment, Child Abduction