In November of 2005, Portland YA and mystery author April Henry was watching the nightly news when she was captivated by a story about a blind teen-aged girl from Sandy, OR, who was in the backseat of her parents’ car when it was stolen. Lucky for the girl, the carjacker let her out a few blocks later, but Henry’s mind was already spinning: “What if the accidental kidnapper hadn’t let her go, but kept her? What if the thief was a teenager, too? What if he panicked and drove her home? What if his dad was a minor criminal and ran a chop shop? What if they were going to let her go—until they learned her dad was rich?”
Henry’s resulting novel, Girl, Stolen, was published in October and is already in its fourth printing. It was just chosen as a Best Fiction title for Young Adults by the Young Adults Library Services Association.
Henry tells us that she was recently able to track down the young woman who inspired her story through the Oregon Commission on the Blind, and the two have been corresponding. The woman, Heather, is now 24 and is studying to be a Braille proofreader. “It turns out that Heather thinks it’s cool that her experience was turned into a novel,” Henry says. “And I was amazed to learn that in her free time, Heather is pursuing her new ambition—to write novels!”
As an aside, Henry tells us she went to the Guide Dog School for the Blind in Sandy, to do research, because she figured her character would own a dog (although it turns out Heather doesn’t). “The instructor put a blindfold on me and then brought me a dog and harness, and told me to put the latter on the former,” she says “It’s actually quite difficult, but I finally managed. I was really proud of myself and went to pat the dog – only to realize I had harnessed up the butt end!”