Friday, November 26, 2010

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Andi Alpers is having a tough senior year. After the death of her brother two years ago, she has been self-medicating herself on anti-anxiety pills and has started to slack off in school. The only thing that keeps her somewhat sane is music; playing guitar, studying famous musicians, and listening to her iPod are the only things that Andi has going for her. But when her absent father discovers that Andi has been slacking off so much that she might not graduate, he takes her to Paris with him so she can work on her senior thesis. While in France, Andi discovers the diary of Alexandrine Paradis, a young girl in Revolutionary France who is the companion of the dauphin, Louis-Charles. Immediately Andi finds a connection with Alexandrine, who's love for the young prince parallels Andi's feelings about her own brother. But one night in the Catacombs makes Alexandrine's story come alive, and changes Andi forever.

I thought that Revolution was a magnificient novel. It takes two tough stories - Andi's grief and Alexandrine's suffering during the French Revolution - and makes them feel real. The stories intertwine so perfectly; nothing is rushed and the different tales are not choppy - it's almost as if they belong together. The reader is smoothly and surely drawn into both Andi and Alexandrine's worlds. Jennifer Donnelly did an amazing job of writing about the French Revolution, one of history's most interesting periods. I loved learning about this time in history class, and I felt like I had an even richer experience reading it in this context. There is so much detail and you feel as if you are there with Alexandrine, experiencing the horror of the Revolution and the Reign of Terror. At times the plot is slow-moving, but it allows for a lot of backstory and for the reader to learn about the Revolution.

The parallels between Andi and Alexandrine are uncanny - their names are even an anagram - and it's as if they are the same person living in two different centuries. Andi could be a handful at times, she contemplates suicide several times throughout the novel, but she actually was a sympethic character. Alexandrine was a little more likable: in the beginning very ambitious, but at the end she is self-sacrificing, her love for the the young boy Louis-Charles taking over.

As for the writing, Revolution is truly literary in every sense of the word. There are all the literary techniques involved: symbolism, allegory, allusions. There were references to Dante's The Divine Comedy throughout the book and parallels between Andi's life as a rich New Yorker and the aristocracy of the French Revolution. I could definitely see this book becoming one used in English classrooms because the story was so rich, so complex, yet so the message so simple. All in all, Revolution was an amazing novel and I recommend that everyone go and buy it.

Rating: 10 out of 10!!
FTC: I received this book through the Flamingnet Student Review Program.

2010/Delacorte/496 pages.

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