GUEST REVIEW: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
October 12, 2010
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.
PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.
There’s one thing you need to know before I even begin writing this review…I completely underestimated this book. Revolution was far darker, far more emotional, more heartbreaking than I could have ever imagined. I’m still reeling, but it was a wonderful read.
Never before in YA literature have I encountered a character as broken as Andi. She’s an empty shell of a person, with few friends, absent parents, and a broken heart. The first hundred pages or so were hard for me to get through, because Andi’s point of view is just so bleak. Ever since the death of her little brother she has lost the will to live. The only thing keeping her going is her medication–which she has been abusing: too little and she can’t get out of bed, too much and she starts seeing things that aren’t really there, and a balance between the two is becoming harder and harder to find–and her music. Andi’s entire life (what’s left of it) revolves around music, which is something her scientist father doesn’t understand. She’s always been more like her mother, an artist. The only problem is that her mother is going through a breakdown of her own, and is headed straight for the hospital. And after checking his ex-wife in for treatment, Andi’s father unilaterally decides that they’re going to Paris to stay with friends of his while he works on his latest genetic project.
Andi doesn’t want to be in Paris. Andi doesn’t even want to be alive. But it is there that she finds something that gets her through her days–a diary written by a girl her own age during the French revolution. As she becomes immersed in Alex’s story, and starts living through that heartbreaking time through her eyes and experiences, Andi is given purpose. But as Alex’s life spirals into danger and darkness, the lines between fantasy and reality start to blur, and Andi finds herself in way over her head.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a history OR a music buff, but the way Donnelly intertwined the two was just so compelling, I couldn’t stop reading. I have never really gotten a good grasp on the French revolution before, but I’ve never been good at remembering names and dates out of a textbook. This book brought the history of the time to life, and even though the author wove together fact and fiction, I find myself wanting to learn more of what happened back then.
Normally in my reviews I talk about the main character’s relationships with the other characters in the novel. This novel was different since the focus was more on the relationship Andi had with herself, and with a girl who she had never met, and who had been dead for 200 years. This is all about Andi looking for a way out of life, her unexpected search for the will to live, and how she started looking in the first place.
Revolution was such an excellent read, and it was far more than what I was expecting. There was layer upon layer of story interacting and reacting with each other, weaving together in a gorgeous tapestry of history and music and heartbreak. If you have any interest in the time, or if you’re heading to Paris anytime soon, you’ll want to pick it up, because somehow Paris, both now and back in the days of the revolution managed to become a character in and of itself.
Incredible story, beautiful writing.