Thrive continues my foray into reading dystopian YA fiction. A few months ago Havoc, by New Zealand author Jane Higgins, jolted my senses into recognition of this wildly popular genre, which explores future worlds (ones where twisted societal developments reign and hope is generally in short supply). I can report that I have now been on a second eye-opening dystopian adventure.
At the centre of Aussie author Mary Borsellino’s Thrive is teenager Olivia. Introspective and awkward, Olivia feels lost in her life as the daughter of wealthy parents. It’s an existence where privilege, looks, and conformity are valued over everything else.
Being kidnapped and held for ransom by a gang of misfits turns out to be an unexpected gift for Olivia. Here she meets Hannah, a teenager who is totally unlike herself. Hannah lives hand-to-mouth, reads banned hard-copy books like John Wyndham’s 1951 post-apocalyptic classic Day of the Triffids and conceals herself from those she doesn’t trust behind a red rabbit mask.
When Olivia is rescued and returned to her family she has trouble letting go of Hannah. She also can’t give up her new appetite for books. It isn’t long before Olivia is fleeing her stifling surrounds in search of a life less ordinary.
‘From the depths of factory oppression to the dizzying heights of vigilante rooftops, Olivia travels the margins of society, where the misfits gather and build homes for themselves out of whatever they can get their hands on – and fight to make a life worth living.’
Olivia is an engaging heroine, but I must say that by book’s end, I wanted to know her better than I did. Her relationships with the young people around her are definitely interesting but as a reader there were times when I wished more depth of feeling would come at me from the page. One example is a fleeting reference made late in the book to Olivia’s sexuality. I really felt this could have been an important thread in the story had it been explored. It may have also helped frame Olivia’s sibling-like relationship with Sam, who is one of the key characters.
The book has a kind of staccato feel to it, and for the most part I think this jumpy style works well with the broken and often bleak world Olivia and her loosely-formed tribe of revolutionaries inhabit. A couple of times though I yearned for a bit more flow, or perhaps follow-through.
On the plus-side I really did enjoy Thrive. There were many parts where both the writing and the story simply soared. The author’s interweaving of references to classic novels and literary fairytales was beautifully done,and this made them both poignant and important to the story being told. Olivia’s period as a masked vigilante known as the Candy Butcher who delivers nourishing soup and clever words to those starving in the streets is electric.
If you’re a dystopian/post-apocoliptic YA enthusiast this one is definitely worth a read.