Performancing Metrics

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Book cover of Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Jennifer Donnelly’s latest book, Revolution, is an exhilarating and unsettling novel that kept me reading until the early hours of the morning and then slipped into my dreams as I slept.  It’s a beautifully written mash-up of history, music, French culture and personal redemption, and though it’s a YA novel, I can see it working well for many book clubs and reading groups.

After an unthinkable tragedy, high school senior Andi Alpers has basically checked out on life.  She’s about to be expelled from her prep school, she’s self-medicating on anything she can find, and the only thing that interests her is her guitar.  When her dad drags her to Paris to shake her out of her funk, she becomes consumed by a mystery dating back to the French Revolution.

Donnelly builds the mystery around the story of 10-year-old Louis XVII, Marie Antoinette’s son and one of the most infamous victims of the Reign of Terror.  Paris – both modern and 18th-century – is more character than setting, and the city is vividly brought to life on the page.  Donnelly also tackles contemporary anti-Islamic violence in France, and sets it all amid funky music clubs and Paris’ catacombs (which I never even knew existed).

I don’t love one of the plot twists about three-quarters of the way through the book, but I’m not sure that Jennifer Donnelly could have comfortably resolved the book without it. 

Revolution is not an easy read, and at 500 pages it’s not a short one either.  It’s disturbing and fascinating, and it shouldn’t be missed.  There are some funny moments, and there is definitely romance, but the heart of the story is Andi’s own personal revolution and her acceptance of a life different than the one she thought she wanted. 

Other books by Jennifer Donnelly: The Wild Rose
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