In 1838, Charles Dickens wrote the classic tale of Oliver Twist; a story of an orphaned child, who endures hardships at a workhouse before being sent to an undertaker, and escaping to join a band of children pickpockets.
In 2013, a woman by the name of Vivi Barnes has retold this story for a new generation and a new gender, in a book called Olivia Twisted.
The goodreads synopsis of this book reads: Tossed from foster home to foster home, Olivia’s seen a lot in her 16 years. She’s hardened, sure, though mostly just wants to fly under the radar until graduation. But her natural ability with computers catches the eye of Z, a mysterious guy at her new school. Soon, Z has brought Liv into his team of hacker elite — break into a few bank accounts, and voila, he drives a motorcycle. Follow his lead, and Olivia might even be able to escape from her oppressive foster parents. As Olivia and Z grow closer, though, so does the watchful eye of Bill Sykes, Z’s boss. And he’s got bigger plans for Liv …
I will start with the first major difference between Oliver Twist and Olivia Twisted. The plot setting. In Oliver Twist, the children are pickpockets on the streets. In Olivia Twisted, the children are computer hackers. They find their ways into accounts of corporations and give back to the people who need it. When two of the teenagers discover Olivia's knack for computers and hacking, they begin attempting to recruit her to their world.
When we first see our heroine, Olivia, she is being dropped off at, yet another, foster home. This time things seem like they might work out. It's a nice family, though very strict, who genuinely seem to care about her. However, as the story progresses, we learn some things about the family that are very unsettling.
Which leads me to my first qualm with the book. There were two plot lines completely rushed and dropped from the story. At one point, Olivia goes to a night club and something happens to her drink. She assumes she knows who the culprit is and she confronts him, only to believe his story. This problem, as well as that particular character, almost become non-existent. The other plot line is the foster parents. The secret the foster father holds becomes a major story changer, yet it seems to almost disappear without a good resolution. I could argue that these two problems alone cause the story to fail, but Barnes writing and character development keep the plot moving forward and it is almost possible to overlook these faults.
Now, onto the characters themselves. Olivia and Z have amazing chemistry for a YA novel. Many young romances in novels are cringe-worthy, as the characters rarely know one another and spend the entire book doing things they really shouldn't do, in order to be together. The love we see between Olivia and Z is not like that. The entire book is spent focusing around Z trying to bring Olivia into his world, while still protecting her. There is very little affection until much later in the book and even then it is subtle and sends a very good message to the young readers about waiting and getting to know someone before rushing into serious relationships.
I don't expect much from retelling of classic stories. Normally, they are very disappointing and not worth reading. However, that is not the case with Olivia Twisted. Barnes has taken a story known to the ages and modernized it for the younger generation. It's a glorious retelling of a magnificent story that opens up the world for a whole new group.
Olivia Twisted releases on Nov. 5.
Christy Howell is the author of the Eloquentia series