by Jennifer Donnelly
hardcover, 472 pages
Published: October 12th 2010 by Delacourte Books for Young Readers
Goodreads | Buy It | Reader's Guide
Goodreads | Buy It | Reader's Guide
*As always, my reviews may contain spoilers, so please read at your own risk!*
My Review Breakdown
FINAL SCORE: 21/25 = 5 Cupcakes
MY RATING: POSITIVELY ENTICING!!!
WHY I WANTED THIS BOOK: I read Jennifer Donnelly's adult novel, The Tea Rose, and knew I had to give her young adult novels a try. Revolution has also won a ton of awards (A School Library Best Book of the Year 2010; Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production Honor 2011; Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction 2010; Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! for Honor book 2011; YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011; Indies Choice Book Award for Young Adult 2011; Voya Perfect Ten 2010; ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults 2011.) and historical romance/fiction is one of my favorite genres as well as I've always enjoyed learning about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution.
STORY/PLOT: This is a very unique twist on weaving the present with the past, and Donnelly does it seamlessly. There are so many mini-stories interwoven into the main storyline and it's all done almost magically. We begin the story with Andi so depressed and on the edge of suicide, popping anti-depressants like candy; so distraught over the death of her ten-year-old brother, Truman, which she believes was her fault. Upon realizing that Andi is in no shape to be alone after checking her mother into a psych ward, Andi's father, famed geneticist Lewis Alpers, takes Andi to France with him where he'll be working with an old college friend, G, to test a heart to see if it is that of the lost prince of France, Louis-Charles. Andi is determined to finish her senior thesis outline and introduction so that she can fly home to Brooklyn ASAP.
While in France, Andi meets Virgil, who finally begins to unravel her pain and get to her heart. In between playing gigs with Virgil and his friend, Jules, Andi reads an old diary that she found hidden in a secret compartment in a guitar case from the 18th Century that G and his wife Lili have found - and that the key her brother Truman found and that she now wears around her neck, opens the lock to the secret compartment. She also spends her time working on the thesis which takes to her the library (where we get some comical scenes with the librarian, Yves.) and to Malherbeau's house.
The main interwoven story is with Alexandrine Paradis - Alex - who is a stage actor hired to keep the dauphin (prince) Louis-Charles entertained and happy. The story picks up with Alex right in the midst of the French Revolution and when Louis-Charles is taken to the Tower and imprisoned, she becomes the Green Man. This is a very interesting story line and while I had some trouble with the visualizations, as I think about it more now that I have finished the book, I keep thinking back on Alex's story more than Andi's. I feel like there was decent amount of closure to Andi's story but that there needed to be more of Alex. Maybe had her journal entries been tweaked differently, it might have satisfied me more.
CHARACTERS: Andi Alpers is an amazing main character. She is so full of hurt, and sadness, and anger and with Donnelly's amazing writing style it's easy to sympathize with Andi, to feel all of her raw emotions and even the tiny triumphs she experiences later on in the novel. The fact that she's this horribly troubled, flawed character who's so close to ending it all but then realizes that there's so much more in life. That there's so much love and kindness and caring in the world. That the world doesn't have to be the place that Andi's made it out to be after the loss of her brother; her mother's mental fragility, and the strain between herself and her father.
I did have some trouble with Alex's character. Towards the end it was easier to align myself with Alex but there was just so much going on with her character in her journal entries that I had trouble fully developing her in my mind.
Virgil is great - he shares Andi's love of music and even though we don't see very much of him, the scenes that he is in, he steals each and every one of them! I heart Virgil! The scene where he sings My Friends by Red Hot Chili Peppers to Andi just stole my heart!
Vijay Gupta was a nice comic relief, and I loved the terms he came up with to describe his mother: Momzilla, Mombie, VietMom ... haha! Classic!
While reading the book I didn't know that Amade Malherbeau - focus of Andi's senior thesis, and 18th Century composer - was fictional. The development of his character is so wonderful! I woke up this morning after finishing the book late last night and jumped right to Google to research the characters and some of the events that took place in Revolution.
WRITING: Donnelly's style, though this is a young adult novel, is very adult. She has a very simplistic way of stating the facts in short, quick sentences that pack a whopping punch! Each word she writes is jam packed with thought and emotion, and this book is very dark which makes it a tad difficult to read because it almost depresses you by bringing you down to the level of despair, emptiness and sadness that Andi is feeling.
I had some trouble with Alex's journal entries though; as they were confusing and jumped back and forth between the past and present. There wasn't any punctuation to distinguish where characters were speaking; so it was just one long paragraph/page and very fast moving. There were a lot of characters too that had to be remembered and kept straight as well. Mainly with Alex's journal entries is where I had difficult visualizing late-1700's France during the French Revolution. I have minimal knowledge other than basics that most people retain from high school history class about Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI so using that knowledge I could mostly piece together everything happening in Alex's France with what information she was giving us in her journal. The fact that I felt like I was learning while reading was also a plus.
Visualizing Andi's world was very easy, and between Brooklyn, Paris in the twenty-first century and Andi's eighteenth century France were easily distinguishable and it felt like I was right there alongside her. The descriptions are so amazingly wonderful and something that Donnelly is a pro at.
The one thing that I love about Donnelly is that she can intertwine so many different themes into her books and comes out sounding like an expert on the topic every time. From the musical history to DNA research, Donnelly masters the lingo and jargon perfectly in Revolution.
ENDING: The last hundred pages or so get kind of ... crazy. The ending was decent enough, above average even, and doesn't end abruptly but still left me kind of wondering about things. Through this whole nearly five-hundred page book Alex, through her journal entries, is trying to save the prince, Louis XVII from capture in the Tower after his parents - King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette - are guillotined. She is the Green Man - at night she dresses in boy clothes and blows off fireworks for the prince so that he knows he's not forgotten - that she remembers him, and she's there for him, trying to save him from torture and death. The last journal entry is smeared with blood and ends mid-sentence so Andi doesn't know what's become of Alex. This is when Andi joins Virgil in the Catacombs for a party where she gets lost and ends up following a bunch of Goth kids - who actually end up being part of a Victims' Ball - a gathering back in 1700's France where people got together and wore red ribbons around their necks to give the appearance of where their necks would be cut if killed via guillotine. Andi then "becomes" Alex and finishes Alex's "life" or "story" so to speak. This is what is confusing for me. Why did Andi "become" Alex? What made this occur? Was it just a dream? Hallucination?
COVER: The cover isn't one of the stronger points to the novel, but we aren't supposed to be judging books by their covers, now are we? It's simple with two females - one supposed to be twenty-first century Andi, and the other eighteenth century Alex. The red ribbon and key tie their stories together.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This book sparked something inside of me - considering I stayed up until past 3am to finish it - and I suddenly found myself Googling about the French Revolution and about the characters in the book. Unfortunately, Amade Malherbeau is a fictional character, yet a majority of the characters; however, are not. From King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to the Duc d'Orleans and Robespierre, there is a lot of history to learn from Revolution.
FAVORITE QUOTE: There is only one thing I fear now - love. For I have seen it and I have felt it and I know that it is love, not death, that undoes us.
READ THIS IF YOU LIKED: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, Die for Me by Amy Plum