Thursday, July 28, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Random House/Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 12, 2010
Pages: 472 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it in a used bookstore

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.


I might as well warn you now that I think my review is awful. I've got no clue how to put how I feel about this book into words that make sense and really get across how I feel about it, but I did the best I could. Please don't be afraid to tear me apart for this one. I love contsructive criticism.

Ever since the death of her little brother Truman, Andi has been in a downward spiral. Forced to spend wither break with her father in Paris while he does some work on what's believed to be the heart of Louis-Charles, the lost king of France, Andi has to work on her senior thesis so she doesn't flunk out of school. Upon discovering a diary hidden inside a guitar case, she becomes desperate to learn more about Alexandrine Paradis, the young woman who wrote the diary and lived during the French Revolution. As she reads more of the diary, Andi seems to improve and even make some friends in Paris, but the story begs to be finished, bringing Alexandrine's and Andi's worlds together.

Andi is a very angry, damaged narrator--no sunshine and flowers here. Slowly, she starts climbing up from rock bottom because of the people she meets in Paris (like Virgil, a Tunisian rapper that wants to get out of his neighborhood and make it big; I loved the development of their relationship), the story in Alex's diary, and what her thesis research leads her to. Her actions at the beginning of the novel are over-the-top, like the drugs and parties, and I felt like it was the same way with her feelings about Truman sometimes (only sometimes). Her growth is subtle and by the end of the book, she's doing much better. Some of the supporting characters in Andi's life get a little bit of the spotlight too, like Virgil and Andi's dad.

On the other hand, Alexandrine feels a little unrealistic. Driven by ambition and using the prince by the age of twelve? That strikes me as strange. It could be excused by some readers due to the setting and the pressure put on her, but that doesn't work for me. Nonetheless, her story as the Green Man setting off fireworks for Louis-Charles and a companion to the young prince is a good one. Her narrative voice has distinctive differences from Andi's and yet they're so similar in being scarred, unhappy narrators with a deep connection to a younger boy.

First-person present is far from my favorite narration style, but it worked well with Andi's narration style. Sometimes, the writing started breaking up. Into fragments. Just like this. To be dramatic. A little irritating, but not too horrible Then the book, specifically Alexandrine, gifted me with this quote, which will surely join the exclusive club of my favorite quotes: ""I had done this--made the sad prince laugh. Made his grieving parents smile. None but me. Think you only kings have power? Stand on a stage and hold the hearts of men in your hands. Make them laugh with a gesture, cry with a word. Make them love you. And you will know what power is (Revolution, p. 144)." Revolution was very well-written, to say the least.

The heavy amount of research done for the novel shows. From music to life during the French Revolution and beyond, you don't need to see the lengthy bibliography at the end of the book to tell that a lot of work went into making Revolution authentic. Sure, I'm not a good judge on whether or not the author is pulling all the talk of music out of her butt or if that was really how it was just before and during the French Revolution, but I didn't spot any glaring inaccuracies. The story of these two girls, so similar and different, was just as addictive to me as Alex's story was to Andi within the book, and she was pretty obsessed with that story. I regret it took me so long to read this book, but other books required immediate attention and got in my way.

I've been dying to get a copy of Revolution since it came out in October 2010 and my stressing over it was worth the wait. I got a book that was equal parts good contemporary and good historical. It's got flaws in being over-the-top and a little unbelievable , and it's not OMFG GOOD, but it's still good and worth the read if the blurb interests you at all.

4 stars!
What am I reading next?: Clean by Amy Reed