Thursday, November 04, 2010

Review: Revolution

Jennifer Donnelly
2010; Delacorte Press; ISBN 978-0-385-73763-0 (hardcover)

Historical Period/Events: French Revolution; Music in the 18th Century

Summary: Two years after the death of her little brother Truman--a death she feels responsible for--Andi Alpers is in freefall.  She's on various substances (some legal, some not) in order to get through the day, she takes care of her mother who has gone crazy in the aftermath of Truman's death, and she's about to get kicked out of her exclusive Brooklyn private school.  The only good thing in her life is music: playing her guitar and having music lessons with her teacher.  To try and get her back on track, her absent father forces her to accompany him to Paris, where Andi is expected to complete the outline for her senior thesis on the eighteenth-century composer Malherbeau.  In Paris, Andi gets drawn into the historical world of the French Revolution, thanks to several reasons--but most of all to the diary she finds, of a girl named Alexandrine who becomes devoted to Louis-Charles, the last French dauphin and the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  These threads--Alex, Louis-Charles, Malherbeau, Truman, and Andi--will get drawn together in unusual ways, leading Andi to learn that while the cruel, horrible world may go on, she does not. 

This weighty novel, focused foremost on the grieving process, shows us an intriguing modern-day teenager.  While Alexandrine remains a character on the page, Andi lives and breathes, drawing the reader into her story.  Andi's struggle to deal with Truman's death is the thematic foundation of Revolution, and it is a slow, hesitant journey for Andi from hell to paradise.  The world-weary Andi slowly sees that just because the world is cruel and unfair, she cannot give in to the cruelty.  With leisurely pacing, Jennifer Donnelly lets Andi's story unfold, peppering the story with well-rounded characters and secondary themes of art vs. science, family dynamics, and young romance.  This novel is bound to find an audience among intelligent teens.

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