I read Oliver Twist when I was in sixth grade, but haven't read it since (because, let's be honest, it may be an exciting story, but it's rather a dull read). But I still love the story Dickens created, and was over the moon when I heard that Laurie Langdon was writing a retelling - one where Oliver was a girl. And now that I've read it, I'm pleased to say that it didn't disappoint.
Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, and that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get. When Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in places he least expects, his curiosity is piqued. Why is a society girl helping a bunch of homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew? Jack finds himself wondering if going legit and risking it all might be worth it for love.
Olivia Twist is an innovative reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale Oliver Twist, in which Olivia was forced to live as a boy for her own safety until she was rescued from the streets. Now eighteen, Olivia finds herself at a crossroads: revealed secrets threaten to destroy the “proper” life she has built for herself, while newfound feelings for an arrogant young man she shouldn’t like could derail her carefully laid plans for the future.
I first read Oliver Twist for sixth grade literature. It was long, dense, and filled with half-page long sentences in nineteenth century English that rambled on about details that did bring out character but that I could are less about. I enjoyed it (enough that I was the Artful Dodger for Halloween twice), but it took me about a semester to finish it.
Olivia Twist took me one and a half days of reading as much as I could because I just didn't want to put the book down. It was gripping, and kept me wanting to find out what happened next. I've been anticipating getting to read this book for almost six months now and have had to wait an agonizing two months since it was published before I could get my hands on it. But it was well worth the wait.
I was a little disappointed at first, because I wasn't expecting a primary plot to be romance - I thought it would be more like a thirteen-year-old Olivia learning to navigate the world of upper-class society. But after I got over that fact, I enjoyed this book so much. I don't read romance that often, but this one I enjoyed.
Olivia. Langdon's characters jumped off the page and really came to life for me and I really cared about their struggles and what they were going through. Olivia was relatable and a likable character, and I liked how she was headstrong and opinionated even after all she'd been through. I loved the little orphans - Archie and Brit and all of them.
Jack. I think Jack was the one who completely stole my heart. Like I mentioned before, Dodger was one of my favorite characters when I was younger, and I was really looking forward to how Langdon would write him. And I wasn't disappointed. Jack had the wit and the charm of Dicken's Dodger, but was a character who could stand on his own. He was clever, but he often made questionable choices. Despite that, I cared for him and wanted him to come out alright - and in the end, he does have a great character arc.
The retelling. I loved how Langdon took the original story and added her own twist (pun not intended). The story is similar and yet it's not. It takes place after what we think of as the end of Oliver Twist, when the kids are about eighteen years old. However, certain parts of the plot occur in this timeframe, like the appearance and conflict with the character Monks. These sort of changes helped make this story more than just a retelling, but make it a story in its own right, and kept me guessing about what elements of the original would come to play here.
Oliver! The references to the musical thrilled my thespian-self, even though I know very little of the songs.
The emotions that came with it. I think this book made me laugh out loud at least five times, and there are some really witty lines or scenarios that made me crack up. At the same times, there were times I was on the edge of my seat, heart pounding. Langdon made me care about what happened and how it it happened.
The romance. . . I got used to the idea of love triangles, but it still kind of aggravated me that not only did a love triangle play out here, but there was some secondary character pairing. I supposed this is a genre convention that I've just never come to like, but the way it plays out just right annoys me because it barely ever does play out like that. And the "falling in love at just about first sight" cliche.
The fast ending. Most of the pacing was satisfactory, and the story had enough time to develop well without dragging. But the ending - maybe the last fifth of the book - felt a bit rushed, and I kind of wished that there was a little more time for the final conflict and the resolution to play out.
A bit of content. This book was a lot cleaner than it could be, I'll give it that. But at the same time, there were some romantic actions that were morally questionable, and it did go past gentle kissing.
I had to wait for a while to get my hands on Olivia Twist, but the book was so worth the wait. It was an exciting read, but at the same time, it was well-written and it has more merit to it than just thrill. I loved the characters and how Langdon brought together old and new details to create this new work. It was one of the best books I read last month - and one that I would definitely read again! Four stars.
What about you? Have you read Olivia Twist? What about Dickens' original story? Talk to me - I'd love to hear from you!