Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Revolution - Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution book cover
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Hardcover

Andi Alpers is dealing with a lot of things, but they all stem from just one - the death of her brother Truman. When he discovers that she's nearly going to be expelled, her father whisks her off to accompany him on a trip to Paris. 

Alexandrine Paradis dreamed of becoming of the greats on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her into the role of her life - and one she 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. (adapted from book flap)

The appeal of historical fiction lies in the author’s ability to give readers an alternative look at history, and Revolution certainly does that. Donnelly takes the experiences of two different teenage girls – Andi, who lives in the modern world, and Alexandrine, who was alive during the French Revolution – and somehow manages to weave them seamlessly together. There’s a satisfying combination of historical facts and fictional imaginings to be had, and the book simply awed me with its beautiful prose. Though it might be hard to get into at the start, the book is fantastic and I’d highly recommend it as a prime example of historical fiction in YA.

Andi Alpers has a lot to deal with: her mother’s spiral into depression, her father’s non-participation in her life, her requirements for school, the classmates she’s forced to face every single day at her exclusive school. But the one thing that overshadows them all is the death of her little brother Truman – an event that’s left Andi feeling guilty, depressed and contemplating more than once about ending her own life (and having a few close calls). She’s suffering from severe emotional trauma, and that makes her prickly and obnoxious and a bit self-centered.

But the longer we read about Andi, we learn more about her: her passion for music, her love for her family, her intelligence and odd sense of humor. Readers realize that she’s put up a wall against any emotions in order to prevent herself from feeling the pain and the guilt – and that’s when I began to form a connection with her. She might not be the easiest main character to like, but she’s certainly one that readers will warm up to and certainly sympathize with.

I was definitely able to connect with Alexandrine. Even though we only really learn of her through the entries in her diary, she felt like a real person. Her story began simply enough, with her as the underdog fighting for a way to help feed her family. But as she began to rise up in her own life, she had to go through so many different things. Her story is fascinating, almost as much as it is heartbreaking, and I fell in love with her bravery, loyalty and intelligence. Donnelly did an incredible job bringing her to life, and I do like that she took the time to do so.

Donnelly writes both these stories with a deft hand. There’s enough detail in the lives of both girls for me to really be invested in discovering what they’d do. I was fascinated in seeing how parts of Alex’s story seemed to evoke certain emotions and reactions from Andi, and Donnelly was clever enough to keep both stories going on simultaneously.

Various tidbits about the French Revolution were inserted into the novel, which were done in a way that offered a fresh perspective (from Alex). While it’s obviously important to know the facts about it, it’s also interesting to read a fictional account of what it might have felt like for the people who were in the thick of it.

Music was another aspect of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Andi is obsessed with music and has decided to do her outline for her senior thesis on a musician named Malherbeau, who added a whole new dynamic to music with his pieces. Even though he’s a fictional musician, I was fascinated by all the other real musical artists that were mentioned in relation to him. Apart from that, we also see some original songs from Andi and two boys she meets while in Paris, which is pretty cool too.

There’s a little portion of the book that bothers me, and it happens towards the end. I thought it was an interesting turn of events, but I also questioned its necessity. It seemed a bit too fanciful for my tastes. Still, Donnelly surprised me with the turn she took with the plot, and I suppose that must count for something.

Even with its lengthiness, Revolution was a book that thoroughly delighted me. On the one hand, it tackled the story of a girl who was grieving and learning how to deal with it. On the other, it shared the inventive tale of another girl who changed the world for at least one person in a completely different historical period. The combination of these two stories, along with a shared thread of history and music, is what makes this novel unique. It may start slow, but Revolution is a well-written, well-executed novel that I’d definitely recommend to lovers of historical fiction. 

 This review was posted as part of It Takes Two.
For more information about this feature, click here.

23 comments:

  1. This book was such a revelation-an amazing work of historical fiction! It made me wish Malherbeau was real so I could listen to his music while reflecting on this book.

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    1. That's so funny, because I thought the EXACT same thing. I wanted Malherbeau to be real so bad. Instead, I ended up listening to other orchestral and instrumental music after I finished!

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  2. Sounds interesting! I like books that take two different plots/scenarios/histories and weaves them into one!

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    1. I thought it was very cleverly done! It made it have both a historical AND a contemporary feel, which could not have been easy to write.

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  3. Probably my favorite historical fiction book EVER. Well, actually one of my favorite books EVER. It's been a while -- your review made me want to read it again. Thanks!

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    1. Oh wow, really? I am so glad I was able to make you want to read it again. I liked it a lot!

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  4. I read this recently and loved it! Prior to my reading I wasn't ever very interested in the French Revolution. I'm still not super intrigued by this time period, but it feels more real to me. I think I know what portion bothered you. I went into the novel think the whole thing was a time-travel piece. That teeny portion seemed really out of place to me and I'm still not sure how to take it. What was that?!

    Great book, great review!

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    1. I think it really bothered me because it felt like it was inserted last minute, you know? If it had been a strong part of the story since the start, it would have been easier for me to accept.

      But of course, that didn't stop me from enjoying this book! It was definitely fun to read, and highly imaginative.

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  5. Not my usual sort of read but it sounds enchanting, I'll have to give it a try.

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    1. Even though I do enjoy it, I actually haven't been reading a lot of historical fiction lately. I did enjoy this one though, and I hope you do try it out!

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  6. This sounds like such an interesting book! I'm kind of curious what happens at the end but overall, it sounds like you liked this book. I like that music is an important part. Great review, Alexa!

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    1. I think you might enjoy this one! It's an interesting blend of history and contemporary, plus there's the whole musical aspect that definitely ties it together.

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  7. That (modern) girl on the cover looks like Kiera Knightly! I also kind of adore the name Alexandrine! I'm not much for historicals though but I do appreciate when an author actually develops their characters into true people you want to know about and can connect with. It's becoming rare, sadly. It's like they put that aside to make room for excitement or twists but without characters you give a crap about those fall flat. Anyways, why am I going on a rant? Lol So this sounds like a really good read for historical and music lovers! :)

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    1. I kind of had a soft spot for Alexandrine's name too, since it is so similar to mine. And this book was really great when it came to the characters! I completely agree with your mini-rant (because character development is IMPORTANT).

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  8. I'm always impressed when authors manage to pull off something like this. I can't imagine writing two stories side-by-side is an easy task! I haven't heard of this before, but I'm definitely curious about it now. Historical fiction is a strange one for me (though I have been reading more of it lately), but I hope I can check this out. Brilliant review, Alexa.

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    1. I feel the same way! It's an interesting challenge to write these two stories about two different girls and to combine them in a way that feels fluid and organic. I think Donnelly did a great job though, and I hope you end up enjoying it!

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  9. Aw, yay! I have heard so many fantastic things about this book, and I quite enjoyed her soapy adult novel The Tea Rose. I'm glad to see you enjoyed this, I definitely have to pick it up one of these days.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. Oh! I haven't heard of The Tea Rose. I think I ought to go and check it out, as the title alone intrigues me. I hope you enjoy Revolution if you get to read it!

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  10. I'm always looking for new, solid historical fiction reads. I've been considering reading Donnelly's A Northern Light, but Revolution also sounds really interesting. I think readers can still learn a lot from historical "fiction," because, really, all history is fictionalized to some degree, molded and changed to fit in the bests interests of those who win and write about it. Knowing about historical events in any capacity is important. I am particularly intrigued to see how Donnelly connects these two storylines. Wonderful review!

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    1. I absolutely love what you said about history! It's totally true, and I think that's one of the things I love most about history. It always depends on whose point of view you view it from! Anyway, how is A Northern Light? A lot of people told me I need to check that one out.

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  11. Yeah, I know the part you're talking about, and I hated that bit of the book. HATED. Everything else was A+, though.

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    1. I think I just disliked it because it completely threw me off? I mean, it all worked out in the end, but seriously, it just felt... strange. Overall though, it was a WONDERFUL read.

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  12. Revolution is one of my favorite YA historical fiction-ish books ever. And yeah, the end bit was weird, but sigh, I still loved the book on the whole. Didn't you just love Donnelly's writing style? I am so with you on this being a prime example of what historical fiction should be. I just really loved how she wrote Andi and how Andi's emotions were so palpable.

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