Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House
High school senior Andi Alpers is busy grieving over the death of her bother and failing out of her private school in Brooklyn, finding her only happiness in her music, when her father decides that she must accompany him on a trip to Paris. While in Paris, her father is kept away by his work – he’s a scientist testing the DNA of a preserved heart thought to have belonged to the son of Marie Antoinette – so Andi is free to roam about the city. She is supposed to be beginning the work on her senior thesis when she comes across an old red journal. This journal was written by a girl named Alexandrine, companion to the young prince Louis, the same son of Marie Antoinette whose heart Andi’s father is studying. Andi is captivated by the diary, and she comes to find connections between her own life and Alexandrine’s experiences she never could have expected.
Would you believe Revolution was my first Jennifer Donnelly reading experience? Well I’ll tell you for sure, it won’t be my last. I’ve been meaning to pick up her books for ages now and finally spotted a copy of this one on audio at my library, so I grabbed it right away. I’m very satisfied with that decision because the book worked remarkably well on audio. The narrators, Emily Janice Card (Andi) and Emma Bering (Alexandrine) did a wonderful job bringing these characters to life, and I thought both of their voices really worked for the characters they were portraying.
As for the book itself, I absolutely enjoyed it. The story kept me on my toes and I was just as desperate to find out what would happen to Alexandrine and Prince Louis as Andi was. I definitely saw connections between the two girls’ stories, and it was fun to listen as Andi gradually began to see these connections too.
Andi herself is the kind of character who is difficult to like, but eventually she did win me over. She is a spoiled and petulant teenager in the beginning, treating her father horribly and wallowing in her own self-pity instead of focusing on more important things, but as the story went on I began to see things more clearly from her point of view. She couldn’t see anything through the grief she was suffering over her brother’s death, her father had basically abandoned their family in favor of his work, and her mother had become almost unable to take care of herself due to her own suffering. While Andi was a major brat in the beginning of the book, she was bratty and self-involved for good reason, and her character did grow on me as I listened further. Also, it helped matters that she had quite a transformation in her own right over the course of the book, which made me like and respect her even more.
There was one aspect of the book that was mildly confusing for me and I’m still not sure how I feel about it (THIS IS A MINOR SPOILER), which was the time traveling thing. I sort of felt like it came out of nowhere, I wasn’t expecting it at all and I’m still not sure if I think it fit in well with the rest of the book. I actually enjoyed that part of the story, but I didn’t like how there was never any explanation of why and how Andi was able to do that. It almost seemed like a too convenient, too easy way for Donnelly to resolve both girls’ stories. However, as I said, I did enjoy that section and once I forced myself to stop asking questions and just go with it, it became very fun for me. But still – I remain confused. (OK SPOILER OVER)
Overall, I really enjoyed Revolution and will be reading more of Donnelly’s books very soon. I love historical fiction for teens, and this one was not only satisfying YA, but it was impeccably researched, well-written and interesting historical fiction as well. Highly recommended.