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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Amazing Whirlwind of Emotions and History

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
(Review based on Advanced Reader Copy.)

You've got to respect a historical fiction novel for teens that has three pages of bibliography.

In this emotional whirlwind of a book, an American high school student--lost in despair over the death of her younger brother and the mental instability of her mother--finds herself through music and the history of the French revolution.

Andi is the equivalent of a musical prodigy, and when her brother dies, music is the only thing besides caring for her mother that keeps her going. (The anti-depressants help, but only just.) She's flunking out of her private school, and she gets an ultimatum: complete a well-orchestrated senior thesis or don't graduate. Andi's dad sweeps her off to Paris, hoping she can focus on graduation while he tests a 200-year-old heart for proof that it belonged to the dauphin, son of Marie-Antoinette. In the process, Andi discovers a hidden diary belonging to another 17-year-old girl, Alexandrine Paradis, the daughter of a puppeteer, who finds herself companion to the dauphin right before the start of the French revolution. Andi's depression continues to rise and fall, and she gets pulled into Alexandrine's story of pain, faith, and hope as Alex tries to survive the bloody massacres of her time and save the child prince. As Alex writes, "They are a truthful account of these bitter, bloody days." Andi finds herself absorbed in the past, so much so that one night she finds herself thrown into the horror of Alexandrine's world, unsure of what is dream and what is reality.

A story within a story could easily backfire or become confusing, but Donnelly pulls it off with a simultaneous grace and intensity that is impressive. Andi acts as a conduit between worlds, and her emotional responses to both are what make Revolution truly successful. Her depression is raw and tangible, not the never-ending list of adjectives some writers use to describe sadness. Donnelly makes both her character and her emotions--sorrow, hope, passion--available and accessible to readers, which is no easy task.

This is a great read for lovers of history, music, and modern-day dramas... and just about anyone else, for that matter. Highly recommended--Revolution captures the depths of depression and the heights of passion in a truly beautiful way, all the while exploring how history isn't always as distant as it may seem.


Age 14+ (some mature content)
Copyright October 2010
ISBN: 9780385737630
Available as an eBook
Image from www.goodreads.com

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