Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

I have read several historical novels recently and thought I'd keep up the trend with Revolution which a former co-worker had strongly recommended to me. It is very long for a YA novel, which I worry will be off-putting to some teens, as it's a great book, and a pretty fast read even at this length.

Andi has been miserable. Ever since her little brother Truman was killed in an accident she witnessed in their Brooklyn neighborhood, she has been just barely holding things together. Her artist mother has not been so lucky, and so Andi is also on her own. Eventually her high school calls her father in Boston to warn him of her imminent expulsion due to failing grades. When he arrives, he has her mother committed to a mental hospital and takes Andi with him to Paris where he, a Nobel-winning scientist, is going to help a historian friend, G, who is trying to prove if a preserved heart, rumored to belong to the lost prince Louis-Charles, son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. While in Paris, Andi works on her senior thesis about a renowned classical guitarist and composer, tries to mend her broken heart, embarks on a romance with a young taxi driver and rapper, and attempts to reach detente with her father. She does not succeed at all these things, though she is helped along the way by the diary of a French girl in 1795, Alex.

I think the beginning part about Brooklyn could have been much shorter. Since we never really circle around to those characters (except her best friend who she talks to throughout), that whole part could have been summarized and we could have begun with Andi going to Paris. However, I say that as if the book were way too long, which it did not feel like to me. The story clipped along at a good pace. I learned a lot about the French Revolution which I did not know (always a bonus for me). I do wish the subject of Andi's biography, the classical guitarist, had also been real so I could have learned even more, but that might truly have been overkill. I will admit that Ms. Donnelly did get me in one regard - I thought I'd figured out a clever twist, but it didn't come to pass, so her red herrings in that regard were particularly effective. As for the ending, a friend recently said she didn't find it satisfying, but it worked for me. Perhaps because it was pretty realistic. Which means it didn't have a big huge amazing change, not everything in Andi's life got fixed, and one temporal twist had a little bit of a cop-out ending to it (personally it's a twist I'm not overly fond of so I was perfectly fine with how it resolved.) I actually prefer that. I don't like an ending where every little thing is tied up in a bow - that's so unrealistic. But I know many others prefer those endings. I think a lot of teens prefer more realism. They feel like adults are always trying to shield them from the real world, so I think this will work well for teens. The history lessons aren't too pedantic, and Andi's problems are very realistic. I've read some reviews that say she's whiny, but I'll bet I would be too if my little brother had been killed. I think it's pretty cruel and ignorant for anyone to think they'd hold up better in Andi's situation without having gone through it. Her loss was enormous, and therefore so is her grief.

Enjoyable and thought-provoking, this is a great book for teen girls. This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I bought this book at the Friends of the Library book sale.


Julie P. said...

I can't believe I haven't gotten around to this one yet. It looks so good. But I do think the length might be one of the reasons I haven't picked it up.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Greta review - I need to get tot his one soon.