Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

From the Unabridged Compact Disc editionRevolution 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.


21 thoughts on “Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly”

  1. I enjoyed Revolution too, but I just wanted to add that the book is somewhat misleading from a historical point of view. As a French reader, I was a little bit put off by the extremely negative portrayal of the Revolution – we love our Revolution, we are proud of it! The book almost seemed to support monarchy over the ideas of liberty and equality, which was odd to me. Yes, what happened to the little prince was sad, but generations of French kids starving under the monarchy was even sadder! Just my two cents 🙂

    1. That’s an interesting point, and I didn’t think of that, Annie. I don’t know a whole lot about the French Revolution but I can see how the author may have shed a bit of negativity on it. Thanks for bringing that up!

  2. I have this book on my shelf and I must get around to reading it. This is your first of hers and I *still* haven’t read any by her. 🙂 Glad to hear that everyone seems to be in agreement with this author, though. That’s pretty impressive.

  3. I have quite a few books by Donnelly on my shelves, including this one, but have not yet read them. This book has gotten incredible press and sounds fantastic. I am not one who is crazy about angsty teens, but I am willing to overlook that in order to get into this story. This was a wonderful review, and I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the book so much. I will have to let you know what I think of it when I am done!

    1. Awesome! Glad to hear I inspired you to (maybe) move it to the top of your list. I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

  4. Great review! I also agree that

    it would have been nice if Donnelly had explained how Andi could time travel.

    Still, I think this book was really well-written. I’d recommend picking up A Northern Light by Donnelly as well. That is a great book.

    1. Ugh, yes the time travel thing. How strange. Oh well. I have seen A Northern Light around a lot, will definitely look into it soon. Thanks!

  5. I really liked Revolution but had a problem with the whole time travel thing. I thought it was unnecessary and actually hurt the story. Great review.

    1. I’m still up in the air as to whether it helped or hurt the story. I’m tempted to say it helped, but that I wanted it to be explained a bit better.

  6. I haven’t read any of Donnelly’s books, yet but I have two of them including Revolution, here to read. I’m looking forward to it, too. I enjoyed your review and I’m glad that you liked this book aside from the minor issue. I’m wondering what I’ll think of that!

    1. The time travel thing is truly a small part of the story… but if you aren’t expecting it, it’s very jarring. If you know going in that you will find it, you may find it easier to deal with. Let me know what you think when you get around to reading it!

  7. I was surprised when the time travel happened, and in fact I think the book could have been great without it. But I tend toward charity on the question of time travel. I love time travel books and wish I could have one a week. 🙂

    1. LOL I like where your head is at. 🙂 I like time travel too, but I tend to err on the side of wanting to understand what’s going on… so when I didn’t get an explanation for it, I was left feeling uncomfortable.

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