Thursday, May 5, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Genre: YA historical/ contemporary
Pages: 472 (hardcover)
Published: October 2010 by Delacorte
Recommended: absolutely everyone

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.

My Take: 

Brilliant.  That's the word I would use to describe this book above all others.  Revolution is the most gripping book I've read all year, and without a doubt one of my very favorites.  The historical element blended in perfectly with the edgier feel of modern-day Brooklyn and Paris, one of my favorite cities and one which fascinates millions of people, which doesn't hurt.  

Andi was a troubled, struggling character I think any teenager-- heck, any person-- can relate with.  She's a talented guitarist and brilliant musician who escapes from the pain of losing her brother Truman and losing her mother to a mental hospital by absorbing herself in her music and those of her favorite artists.  I loved all of Andi's references to artists and songs and lyrics, and was surprised by how close our eclectic tastes are.  She's also a rebel, much like Alex-- the eighteenth century French girl whose diary Andi finds concealed in a guitar case while in Paris with her father, forced to work on her senior thesis project.  Alex and Andi are both artists, they both believe so strongly in the power of words and acting and music, respectively, and they both are desperate to save two different boys who have become the focus of their entire lives and whose tragic fates haunt them every second of the day.  Alex would do anything to rescue the young prince Louis XVII of France, her charge and beloved friend who is alone and dying in a tower where the revolutionists cruelly locked him away and threw away the key.  But the boy who haunts Andi's dreams-- her brother Truman, who died at the hands of a madman in Brooklyn-- is beyond saving now.  It's only that Andi cannot so easily let go of the past, nor her conviction that Truman's death was entirely her fault.

  I knew about Louis XVII, the ten year old Crown Prince of France who was practically walled-up alive in a tower after the French Revolution when the monarchy was overthrown.  But it takes book like this to make even the most tragic and stirring pieces of history come alive to us modern readers.  The parallels between Alex and Andi's lives were amazing-- subtle and expertly crafted, yet unmistakably they are the same girl, even separated by a few hundred years and the chasm between poverty and upper-class wealth.  One really cool thing I noticed that I don't think is a spoiler, just an observation: Andi's full name Diandra Xenia Alpers (yeah, what a mouthful) is a perfect anagram of Alexandrine Paradis.  I also loved the parallels to Dante's Inferno, with quotes from the classic and the fact that Andi's Parisian love interest Virgil is, well, named Virgil (like Dante's guide in the Inferno).

Virgil wins the award for Favorite Guy Character I've Read About In A Book so far this year.  Being a dedicated rapper and songwriter who performs in cafes and pubs, he shares Andi's incredible passion for music and the two of them couldn't have more chemistry.  It was refreshing to read about a teenage couple who hang out and goof off and talk about things like music and their families and futures, rather than playing the roles of star-crossed, anguished lovers who are so common in YA today.  Loved, loved the message, the history, the time travel moments, the musical references, Andi and the other characters-- I became very attached to them all.  I know a lot of people read this amazing book as soon as it came out, but if you haven't yet, just read it!  I had high expectations, but those expectations were literally blown away.  I'm off to seek out Jennifer Donnelly's first book...  Here's The Ramones's "I Wanna Be Sedated", one of the many songs Andi references in Revolution.  I really like this song-- fits her attitude when she first arrives in Paris.  :)

The Ramones - I Wanna Be Sedated .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine

Overall Rating: 5/5 all around


Audra said...

I haven't read any of Donnelly's books yet but have seen rave reviews for Revolution -- clearly I need to start with this one!

Brandileigh2003 (Blkosiner's Book Blog) said...

This sounds great, thanks for the awesome review.
Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

I just adored this book! Fabulous review, Kat! I thought this was perfection :)

Jenny said...

Wow, what a brilliant review Kat! I've heard nothing but good things about this one and I hope I get a chance to read it soon. I'm always fascinated by books that have historical elements, so I'm really looking forward to this!

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