Monday, November 4, 2013

OLIVIA TWISTED by Vivi Barnes



Entangled Publishing, November 2013
Paperback
Obtained via:  publisher
Print ISBN 978-1-62266-028-5
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62266-029-2
Young Adult
*****

Vivi Barnes’ OLIVIA TWISTED is a young adult retelling of the Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist, with a few added modern day twists.

Sixteen year old Olivia has spent most of her formative years in one foster home after another.  She is a quiet girl who keeps to herself for the most part.  Her latest placement has brought her to yet another school where her computer programming skills attract the eye of fellow computer wiz kid, Z.  Z slowly, and at times reluctantly, brings Olivia into the world of computer hacking.  Although it goes against her sense of right and wrong, she can see how the wealth resulting from hacking could enable her to get out from under the foster system.  But Z has a very scary boss and he has big plans for Liv.

This reader absolutely loved this young adult modern day retelling of Oliver Twist.  Vivi Barnes keeps the same underlying themes of desperation, abuse, hope, love and abandonment found in the Dickens’ classic and puts a modern spin it.  Each chapter starts with a relevant quote from Dickens that foreshadows the events in Olivia’s life.  The criminals in OLIVIA TWISTED are a group of underground hackers instead of pickpockets and the romance between Olivia and Z is a much more prominent part of the story, but the comparisons to the Dickens’ classic are fairly obvious and really very clever.

The heroine, Olivia, has had a difficult life bouncing around with her addict mother until she dies leaving Olivia to face a future of foster homes, neglect and abuse.  Though she had obvious trust issues, Olivia still managed to retain her innocence and strength of character.  The combination made for a character easily empathized with.  Playing opposite her was Z, another orphan who was taken in by the slimy Bill, who runs a group home for gifted computer geniuses who earn their keep by hacking large corporations and those unlikely to notice some missing funds here and there.  Z’s job is recruiting and he is very good at it, finding kids with little family, exceptional computer skills and weak morals within the local high school.

What made OLIVIA TWISTED so engrossing was twofold.  First you had Olivia’s difficult foster life and her trust issues.  Added to that, you have a budding romance with a boy who she knows probably isn’t the best choice and really doesn’t trust fully.  The way the story alternates between Olivia’s and Z’s point of views really gave readers a look into what makes both characters tick.  While Z at first appears to be a snake in the grass luring the poor unsuspecting Olivia into a life of crime, as the story progresses, we begin to see that there is far more to Z than first appears and we begin to question if he will go through with the recruitment.  The lengths that Z was willing to go to in his attempt to keep Olivia from the darker side of life brought tears to the eye.  While he didn’t really see anything wrong in taking from the rich and giving to the less fortunate, Olivia forces him to see that it is still wrong and in the end he tries to free her.  What an incredible romance these two characters have without ever removing any clothing.  Vivi Barnes has to be commended for her ability to bring out her characters deep feelings and confusion without having to rely on the usual sex scenes to keep readers’ interest.

OLIVIA TWISTED has it all, interesting characters, a great storyline, lots of twists and turns, and an air of mystery and tension that never slow down.  Author Vivi Barnes is fully deserving of each and every one of the five stars bestowed on OLIVIA TWISTED.  This may just be one of the best stories this reader has had the pleasure of reviewing this year.


Reviewed by T. Barringer
tammyLRM@gmail.com

"This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book."

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