Reviewed by Donna
AUTHOR: MB Mulhall
PUBLISHER: Harmony Ink
LENGTH: 225 Pages
RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2017
Eighteen-year-old Oliver’s troubles don’t end when he’s released from prison. He has nowhere to go, and he can’t even think about moving past his crimes while trying to survive homelessness.
Helping an elderly woman after a fall guides Oliver into at least a temporary home. In exchange for odd jobs and some assistance, he’s welcomed into a life with the old twin spinsters, and it seems too good to be true. The neighbor, Simon, certainly thinks it is. He doesn’t trust Oliver or his motives. Oliver is used to that kind of judgment, but it isn’t helping him overcome his guilt. Maybe Simon is right and Oliver doesn’t deserve happiness—or any of the other feelings stirring in a heart Oliver thought he’d closed off for good.
Oliver has two options: let the pain of his past swallow him and destroy all hope for the future, or move on to the new possibilities in front of him. Choosing to live won’t be easy, and Oliver might not be able to do it alone.
The blurb gave me the idea that this was going to be a very angsty, dark story, and to some extent it was, but the intense romance that normally accompanies such angst was absent here. Driven is a young adult tale, and though the romance between Oliver and Simon is present, it wasn’t the be all and end all when it came to relaying this story.
Oliver an eighteen year old, ex-con, streetkid is our main character. We spend an awful lot of time in his head with his depressing, self-loathing, suicidal thoughts. He feels responsible for the deaths of his father and sister, and to some extent an old man he didn’t even know, and now he imagines that his only reason for still being alive is to suffer and repent until he’s endured enough pain to atone for his sins. The joy that he experiences each time he believes he might be about to die is so unbelievably sad, and I spent a few chapters near the end of the story actually in tears. While I’m not going to attempt to call the book perfect – I’ll admit, it took too long to feel immersed in this story – the author did an amazing job of creating a character that was absolutely fascinating to me. Oliver’s torment and reactions, while suitably dramatic for a teenager, also rang true. His pain felt real to me, even though I’ve never experienced anything like he has.
The cast of secondary characters added some much needed lightness to the story: the elderly twins, the caring cop, and the cute but judgmental “boy next door”. While they all sound like well-used stereotypes the author managed to make them seem fresh and original. Having some kindness and a bit of humor on page broke up the morose thoughts that really were the focus of much of the story.
As I mentioned, Driven is very much a young adult book, and though there are references to past sexual experiences, including prostitution, there isn’t any sex between Oliver and Simon. I didn’t find the story suffered because of that lack, but then again I’m a fan of young adult stories. Those readers who don’t normally read YA but are drawn to the heavy feel of the blurb, may miss the sexual element of the romance.
I definitely recommend this book to people who prefer their teenage love stories on the darker side.