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Thrive by Mary Borsellino

Title: Thrive

Author: Mary Borsellino

Genre: Crime/Dystopia

Publisher: Clan Destine Press

Published: 1st June 2015

Format: Paperback

Pages: 230

Price: $19.95

Synopsis: In a time and place where the gulf between the haves and the have-nots has grown painfully wide, Olivia lives a life cushioned with abundance.

Until the day she is kidnapped and held for ransom by Hannah, a girl from a very different kind of life.

Olivia discovers a taste for things not commonly condoned in her world: black-market books, daring friends, wild creativity.

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.


In a near-future dystopia, the world is heavily divided into two classes – an upper class that is heavily sanitised, where every aspect of their lives is heavily monitored and controlled. There are also high expectations on what beauty should be and how people should act. This is the world that Olivia inhabits – until she is kidnapped and held for ransom. She discovers a world inhabited by another group of people who have been cast aside because they cannot thrive in the society Olivia lives in. These margins are where Olivia runs to, working in factories, in the black market, trying to make life worth living.

This is the crux of the novel – what makes us human, and what gives us the drive to live. How do we live in a world where everything we do and have access to is so heavily controlled that at some point, it is no longer questioned? Where the status quo is just as it is, and nobody has any way out of the world they find themselves in? These questions push Olivia into what she does and shows her the other side of the world that is a harsh reminder of the relics of inequality and what people will do to get what they want. The desperation of those who are limited in what they can do and thrust aside by society opens up a world of possibilities for what can be done to find your way in the world.

It is dark and gritty and doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of a distinct and very unfair class system that takes away people’s humanity and what makes us human. Olivia’s rediscovery of the world through books and movies, and television shows she sees underground that are quite old by the time she sees them shows her that the world she knows is not all there is – and that is why we read. To experience and learn about worlds and lives that aren’t our own, that are beyond our experiences. To understand that we are not alone as well, and that everyone has a valid story. Everyone sees the world differently and whilst that may not always be wrong, we need to understand that there are multiple ways of understanding and knowing the world. Power comes from knowing these differences and using the bits of each that work to create a new world and unite people.

It is not a happy book – but that’s okay, because not every book needs to be full of smiles and rainbows and sunshine. It is a book that is unsettling and hints at a world where the arts are undervalued – where nobody has tried to fight for them. In this sense, it mirrors the way things are going in the arts world at the moment – lack of funding, or an unwillingness to fund has meant closures and loss of income and could mean we lose a generation of artists and performers, and writers. If this happens, we will be poorer for it, and books like Thrive show what can happen when this goes too far and the government is allowed to dictate the types of stories we are allowed to engage with.

An intriguing story for readers aged fifteen and older.

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