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I Know My First Name is Steven: The True Story of the Steven Stayner Abduction Case by Mike Echols Review

Title: I Know My First Name is Steven: The True Story of the Steven Stayner Abduction Case

Author: Mike Echols

First published December 1, 1991

351 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780786011049 (ISBN10: 0786011041)

Rating: 4.16


In the early 1970s, the Steven Stayner case shook the nation, as the seven-year-old boy was kidnapped and held captive for seven years by a convicted child molester. Enduring unspeakable abuse, he was forced to forget his own name and live as his captor’s “son” until he finally made a daring escape with another kidnapped boy.

Now, in a shocking twist, the true story continues as Steven’s own brother, Cary Stayner, confesses to being the notorious Yosemite Killer. This updated account is a gripping and heart-wrenching tale of survival, family bonds, and the devastating impact of trauma.

Editoral Review

I Know My First Name is Steven: The True Story of the Steven Stayner Abduction Case by Mike Echols is a non-fiction book that recounts the harrowing tale of Steven Stayner, who was kidnapped at the age of seven and held captive by his abductor for seven years. The book was first published on December 1, 1991, and it sheds light on the psychological and emotional aftermath of abduction, as well as the inadequacies of the legal and social systems to address such crimes.

Author Mike Echols was a journalist who covered the Stayner case extensively and gained unprecedented access to both the Stayner family and the perpetrator. The book is written in a journalistic style, with careful attention to facts, chronology, and interviews with key players in the case.

Echols’ prose is not particularly flashy or poetic, but it is clear and efficient, allowing the events to speak for themselves. The main plot of the book revolves around Steven Stayner’s abduction and captivity by a pedophile named Kenneth Parnell.

Echols describes in chilling detail how Parnell manipulated and brainwashed Steven into thinking he was his father, and how he subjected him to sexual abuse and physical torture. The book also covers Steven’s eventual escape and his struggle to reintegrate with his family and society, as well as the legal trial against Parnell.

One of the book’s strengths is Echols’ empathetic portrayal of Steven and his family. Echols clearly spent a lot of time with the Stayners and gained their trust, which allowed him to delve into their emotions and motivations.

The book is not just a catalog of events, but a nuanced exploration of how trauma affects individuals and families, and how they can find healing and strength despite unimaginable circumstances. Another strength is Echols’ thorough investigative work.

He uncovers previously unknown details about the case, such as Parnell’s other victims and his methods of luring children. He also exposes the failings of the justice and social welfare systems that failed to protect Steven and other children from Parnell’s predation, and how those failings contributed to Steven’s prolonged captivity.

The book’s weaknesses are few, but they do exist. At times, the narrative can become repetitive, especially when describing the abuse that Steven suffered.

Echols also skirts some of the more uncomfortable questions about the Stayners’ behavior, such as why they did not report Steven missing for so long, or why they did not seek counseling for him sooner. However, these are minor issues that do not detract from the overall impact of the book.

In terms of its cultural significance, I Know My First Name is Steven remains a seminal work on the subject of child abduction and sexual abuse. It set a benchmark for investigative journalism and paved the way for other journalists and authors to tackle similar cases with sensitivity and rigor.

The book also raised awareness about the prevalence of pedophilia in our society, and the need for better prevention and treatment programs. Overall, I highly recommend I Know My First Name is Steven for anyone interested in true crime, investigative journalism, or psychology.

It is a gripping, well-researched, and empathetic account of a tragic story that deserves to be remembered. I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5, and urge readers to approach it with an open heart and mind.