Review: Revolution

Review: RevolutionRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Delacorte BFYR on October 12, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Time Travel
Pages: 472
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

From the privileged streets of modern Brooklyn to the heart of the French Revolution, 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.

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.

If forced to give an overall statement on this book, I suppose that it was good and I liked it well enough. Really though, I have to break it down into quarters, because I found the book to be very uneven. Some sections I hated and others I really thought were clever.

The opening of this book was amazingly similar to Adios, Nirvana, which I read a couple of months ago: a self-destructive guitar player wants to follow their sibling into death, because they feel responsible for it having happened. There is definitely some Gossip Girl in their too, what with the spoiled prep school kids who skip school, do drugs and weave a tangled web of who has dated (or hooked up with) whom. This section was awful. I hated Andi (and I never came to like her much) and almost everyone else. The star of this section (and my favorite character in the whole book, even though he makes only cameo appearances) is her best friend Vijay. He is a genius, who is calling every potentate imaginable for quotes for his thesis and actually getting them. He also comes up with the most hilarious nicknames for his mother.

The next chunk focuses more on Alexandrine’s diary and is, to me, much more interesting. This follows more along an Iain Pears for teens type of line. The diary entries are really interesting, as is the historical focus. I was a little confused by the order of the entries and could not figure out how it had been constructed, as the first ones were further ahead in time than the middle ones, but oh well. They may not be in the order they would be most likely in a historical sense, but they do make a logical progression weaved into this story.

The third part is really frustrating again. For one thing, Andi gets super mad that they guy she’s been dating in Paris was kissed by another girl, even though the French kiss all the time. She runs off and almost commits suicide…again. Then she hits her head on a rock and the plot goes somewhere absurd. I know what Donnelly was trying to do here, but I really think it’s over the top. And obvious. I don’t want to say what happens to avoid spoilers, but you’ll probably know.

The last section, the epilogue, was to me reminiscent of what Dostoevsky did to Crime and Punishment or J. K. Rowling did to Harry Potter 7. Everything has been terrible through pretty much the entire book, until the chapter before the epilogue, but her future is made of sunshine and rainbows. She is suddenly completely happy without the drugs and no longer feels guilty for her brother’s death (which is absolutely absurd by the way, by which I mean how Donnelly staged his death). In addition, her mother’s all better too and she has a fantastic new life in Paris with her boyfriend. It all feels saccharine, especially after the story was so dark. It also feels a bit like what made a lot of the difference was the boyfriend (which is gross).

That came out more negative than I perhaps intended. Though flawed (obviously), Revolution is a good read once you get past the first part. Once the diary entries began, I became intrigued to discover the answer to the historical mystery within its pages and thus did not want to stop reading anymore. Definitely a good teen novel for historians!

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