Jennifer Donnelly – Revolution
126. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (2010)
Length: 481 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction (at least in part; the bulk of it is modern)
Started: 11 October 2010
Finished: 12 October 2010
Where did it come from? From the publishers.
Why do I have it? I’ve really enjoyed Jennifer Donnelly’s other books, and the blurb mentioned parallel/intersecting modern and historical storylines, which, as we all know, is one of my favorite story devices.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 08 September 2010
both in Paris; one in the
streets, one of the heart.
Summary: Since the tragic death of your younger brother in an accident two years ago, Andi Alpers has not been doing well. She’s failing out of school, estranged from her father, taking care of her mother, and spiraling into a deep depression that drugs are no longer able to ameliorate. The only thing that is able to distract her is her music, and even that doesn’t always take the edge off her grief and pain. At the end of the fall semester, her geneticist father takes her to visit friends in Paris, where he’s been summoned to help solve a mystery that dates from the French Revolution. While she’s there, she stumbles across a diary from that same time period – that of a young girl named Alex, a puppeteer, actress, and one-time companion to the Dauphin of France. Instead of working on her senior thesis, like she’s supposed to, Andi becomes more and more involved with the story the diary has to tell. She’s struck by the similarities between Alex’s life and her own… but although she hopes for a happy ending for Alex that she’s been denied for herself, she has no idea just how closely their stories are intertwined.
Review: Phenomenal. I was initially a little bit disappointed that Donnelly’s newest book was a YA book rather than another of her Roses books – I liked The Tea Rose and The Winter Rose better than her other YA novel, A Northern Light. That disappointment, however, was very short-lived; this book was simply wonderful.
Revolution pulled me in right away and didn’t let me go until the very end – and really, not even then. I picked it up in the evening, thinking that I’d get maybe fifty pages in before calling it a night, and then I proceeded to stay up obscenely late, lost in its pages. (Of course, I was also battling a wicked case of post-trans-Pacific-travel jet lag, so the fact that I was up late probably wasn’t entirely the book’s fault, but the book certainly didn’t help, either.) Even after I finally went to bed and got up again, all I wanted to do was read; enough so that I finished the entire thing in less than 24 hours. And I’m still thinking about it, even days after I’ve finished it.
Because seriously, this book has everything. It’s got history, it’s got a mysterious diary, it’s got music, it’s got the French Revolution, it’s got some truly amazing writing about the way that real people deal with grief and loss and depression and suicide, it’s got the Paris catacombs, it’s got hope and snark in equal measures, it’s got a fair bit of romance and the slightest touch of ghost story, it’s got family drama, it’s got intertwining past and present storylines (love those!). It’s got an ambiguous and unresolved part of the ending that feels authentic, instead of like the author didn’t want to commit to a plot choice. It’s powerful and moving without ever losing the authenticity of a seventeen-year-old’s voice. It’s got interesting and sympathetic characters and not one but two crazily compelling storylines. It’s great.
In fact, there are only two even slightly negative things I can say about it. First is the issue of context: some of the diary entries are too full of expository detail to feel authentic, although since Alex states that she’s writing for posterity, I suppose we can let that slide. Similarly, it’s written in first-person present tense, which was usually innocuous but occasionally made me wonder if Andi was narrating all of the action to herself. Secondly, I’ve got a bone to pick with Donnelly about her portrayal of Andi’s father. Not all of us biologists are such humorless, joyless, imagination-free buzzkills; not even the geneticists.
My father takes the photos from me. He moves them to the far end of the table. “A human heart isn’t made of stories,” he says.
“Every heart is made of stories,” G says.
“A heart is made of proteins built by amino acids, animated by electrical synapses.”
G snorts. “Your pretty, young girlfriend, Minna – you love her with all your heart, or some random combination of amino acids?”
Dad flushes. He blusters. Because his pretty – and pregnant – new girlfriend, is twenty-five years old. “There’s nothing random about amino acids,” he says huffily, “and love – or any emotion – as much as we want to glorify it, is merely a series of chemical markers.”
(p. 71-72. As I have written on my notes-to-self-page: “Yeesh, not all biologists are such assholes.”)
Scientist-bashing aside, though, I loved it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended for those who like modern young adult novels, historical fiction involving the French Revolution, Donnelly’s writing, and really good books.
Links: Jennifer Donnelly’s website
First Line: Those who can, do. Those who can’t, deejay.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 323: “I bungle the passacaille I’m trying to play.” – the music for a slow, dignified dance of spanish origin, based on an ostinato figure.
**All quotes are from an ARC edition and may not reflect the final published text.**
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