The thing I remember is that the chemist floor had a large black scuff near the counter.

I don’t remember a knife.
I remember something cold on my neck, which could have been a knife or could just have been his long cold fingers pressing in to me. But it was the scuff I remember best. I was thinking, ‘Someone should really clean that.’
And then we were in the car.
And then we were gone.

Tully becomes a hostage when she is abducted on Christmas Eve. Her ordeal lasts 24 hours.
Or so she says…

black dog books, Australia

Book Design Award

Forget the old adage. You can judge a book by its cover. The Australian Publishers Association has released the shortlists for the best designed books for 2009. How to choose? Here are the contenders for the ‘best designed YA book’, but there are a number of other categories, including some gorgeous covers.

This YA category looks at the whole reading experience: cover, font, layout, illustration – the works. So good to see designers acknowledged. Sometimes we can be guilty of thinking that a book just is. So congratulations, designers. You make reading the physical pleasure that ebooks can never emulate.

Hostage (Karen Tayleur). Black Dog Books. Designer – Regine Abos Design


After being hit by the twist in the final pages of Chasing Boys, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Karen Tayleur’s latest release Hostage, and wasn’t disappointed. It’s irritating when you can’t put a book down and Hostage held me captive. More twists and turns than a bowl of spaghetti kept me glued to the page as Tully’s story unfolded. Her story to the police, (marked by date and time) didn’t always match her memory – or did it? And what about Tully’s recollections of people and places in the past? Were these also blurred by time.

Where does reality stop and the story begin? Is there a difference? Parcels of information in chapter-sized chunks are presented like clues in a detective mystery. It took the entire book to put the full story together. Just as Chasing Boys left questions lingering, Hostage kept me guessing.

Seemingly unrelated threads have been masterfully tightened to form a delicate net. One Tully couldn’t escape and neither could I. Was she a hostage in an abduction? Who could she really rely on? As I visited the many places she had lived, the layers of her short life took shape. Deja vu kicked in with the last words on the final page. I couldn’t believe the author caught me out again. The entire story turned on its head and I wanted to start reading the book again – immediately.

Be warned. This book can’t be put down and there’s no point flicking to the last page for a shortcut to the punch line. You won’t ‘get it’ unless you read every page of Hostage.

Karen Tayleur’s Chasing Boys was reviewed in Issue 2 of The Reading Stack.

– Jo Burnell

Like the cover – where the world is flipped upside down – nothing in Hostage is as it seems. It begins with Tully being taken hostage by a boy from her school during a chemist scene gone wrong. From there you witness Tully’s life and childhood, what really happened while she was hostage in the car and also what’s happening in the interrogation room at the police station.

It’s not a story of terror, outwitting and escape. It’s an unexpected story of one girl’s life – where she is and how she got there and where she is headed. It’s addictive and unassuming and probably not at all what you think it will be. Which makes it a compelling and stunning read.

Told in snazzy, strangely addictive, bite-sized chapters, it seamlessly zooms backwards and forwards in time. It has a languid pace, where you slip into the story but with an undercurrent of urgency that keeps the pages flipping and flying past.

Using a clear, fresh prose, atmosphere is evoked that draws you in and keeps you in the scene. The dialogue is straight up – adding authenticity and a layer of depth and soul to the characters.

The characters are stark, whittled down throughout the book – exposing their fears and flaws, hopes and strengths, secrets and dreams – successfully burrowing their way into your heart.

And then – when I was least expecting it – Tully shares a story – and I learnt about Sasha – and, mate, I felt such an ache. It’s tear-jerking stuff. It’s powerful.


Raw, poignant and gripping, Hostage is a book that will hold you fast, keep you guessing and break your heart – maybe, just a little… This is a thinking person’s YA – complete with character growth, a touch of bleakness, triumphing hope and unexpected friendships, it’s a beautifully told story that will resonate long after the last page has been read…

…speaking of the last page. Argh, I missed some clues! It’s a bit of a doozy and I so need to go back and figure out exactly what the final memory means. Did I mention that there’s twists and turns and clues and stuff? It really kept me guessing – love that!

Tully has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – and that is never truer than on Christmas Eve when she is at the pharmacy counter at the same time as a thief, wanting to hold the place up. Suddenly Tully is a hostage, a knife at her throat, thrust into the getaway car for a wild ride. But as the ride continues, Tully befriends the driver, Griffin, who she has known in passing previously, and confronts her troubled childhood.

Hostage is a face-paced psychological and physical journey, taking place in the space of a day as Tully and Griffin revisit the settings of Tully’s childhood, and the reader is privy to the tumultuous events of that childhood. With the past – both more distant and recent – revealed in enticing slivers, and through a mix of first person reporting, third person narrative and snippets from Tully’s ‘memory tin’, the reader is carried briskly through the story needing to keep turning pages and find out what has happened – and what will happen.Fascinating.

– Reviewed by Sally Murphy

Hostage tells the story of Tully, a girl who is abducted from the chemist on Christmas Eve. It begins with Tully being taken into the police station in the early hours of Christmas Day and being questioned over what really happened. The rest of the novel jumps between Tully’s story, recollections of her childhood and what really occurred.

I loved Karen Tayleur’s previous YA novel Chasing Boys, and Hostage was just as wonderfully written. The language and tone in Hostage was genuine; often in books for teenagers it’s obvious the author is a grown-up, but the way in which this novel was written was so realistic that as I read I felt as if Tully really was telling the story herself. The jumps between present day and Tully’s memories were seamless, and her memories in particular were incredibly authentic.

There were so many details in Hostage that really made the novel, including the snippets from receipts and notes in Tully’s memory tin. Tully recalls moving around a lot, and I loved that I knew all the places, and lived in some of them (in and around Melbourne) – this gave the novel a really strong sense of setting, for me at least. I loved the fact that a character from Chasing Boys made a brief appearance, and that the main characters from that novel were also mentioned (I love a bit of character crossover!).

Tully was a character that I had trouble liking until near the end of the novel, but I think she was meant to be that way; she’s been through some tough stuff in her life, and as a result she puts on a stubborn front… a remarkably realistic and superbly written novel. I’d recommend Hostage to older teenage girls.

– Hey Teenager of the Year, Steph Bowe

I think I mentioned earlier this year that a trend was emerging in my reading – I’ve been drawn to books about missing and lost girls, girls who are kidnapped or who mysteriously vanish. It’s a bit scary that my reading list in this subject now falls into double-digits for the year. I think that’s why I was pleasantly surprised when Hostage didn’t follow the format and style I had anticipated (I thought it was going to be a sort of YA Eleven Hours)

I really liked the character of Tully and the fact that she’s not necessarily your typical teen girl protagonist. She’s this great mix of toughness, bravado and a bit of a smart-mouth, and yet still vulnerable and sympathetic. I also really enjoyed the flashback and memory sequences, which were insightful and well-executed. Despite Tully’s unreliable narration, there is such a strong (and at times, painful) sense of realness to these memories, that it really helps endear her.

The other aspect I especially enjoyed whilst reading Hostage is the way that Karen Tayleur plays with the roles of captor and accomplice, and the malleable nature of truth. Whilst I was left with unanswered questions at the end of the novel, the sense of uncertainty works and I liked that Tayleur kept me wanting to read on (I read the novel pretty much in one sitting – I found it hard to tear myself away).

Hostage isn’t exactly an easy read (I mean this in the best possible way), but I appreciated the fact that it didn’t necessarily follow trend or genre expectations. Whilst the slightly unconventional format may put some readers off, I feel that Hostage is a fresh and touching road story for fans of contemporary young adult fiction, who like a challenge.

– My Girl Friday blog

Black dog continues to publish gritty young adult fiction with Karen Tayleur’s Hostage. It tells the story of Tully, a troubled teenager, who lives with her grandfather and aunt. Her mother’s whereabouts are unknown, to Tully at least. On Christmas Eve, Tully is taken hostage during a robbery at the chemist. Although the time that Tully is kidnapped spans less than a day, there are frequent flashbacks to her past.

The story is told in first person present tense by Tully while the flashbacks are in the third person past tense. Tully’s prized possession, a tin which contains treasures from her childhood and information about others, features holds the key to Tully. Some of the tin’s contents appear sporadically throughout the text as stand alone items. This mode of presenting the story is original and reveals Tully’s story gradually and would add spark for more mature readers. Less confident readers may find this presentation distracting.

The writing is fast paced and the teenage voice of the confused and vulnerable Tully is very convincing. The reader is kept guessing to the end about the reasons for Tully’s kidnapping and the motives of her kidnappers. The story wraps up quickly and I must admit I did not see the twist coming.

However, to me, the strength of the story lay in the flashback portrayal of Tully’s relationship with her alcoholic mother and the dislocation and uncertainty that her mother’s way of life meant for Tully with constant and sudden moves and the insecurity that follows due to numerous broken friendships and eventually the inability to build friendships. My heart ached for Tully.

– Vikki Stanton, Buzz Words

Zip zapping its way through time, Karen Tayleur has written a story that intriguingly follows Tully’s past and present as she’s recollecting the events of her abduction and life. What you might expect to be a dark, foreboding book instead becomes a tale of retracing one’s roots and sorting through the disjointed fragments of her past.

The sum of its character driven parts equal one great ride. The protagonist is incredibly real if only because of her flaws. I particularly loved the interrogation scenes in which Tully must endure both the investigating cop and her crotchety aunt. Her voice is strong, her perspective both jaded and incomplete but the journey is life changing… A compelling and well-written tale of dubious teens, home truths and getting the answers you seek.

– Persnickety Snark Blog

Turkish Edition Cover

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