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Revolution: Book Review

August 16, 2012

Jennifer Donnelly
Ember 2011, 472 pages

Andi Alpers is on the edge. And who could blame her? She’s angry and grieving the death of her younger brother, Truman, furious at her emotionally disconnected father, and hurt and angry at her mother’s inability to cope. She’s in danger of flunking out of school, and losing the one thing she really loves: guitar lessons with her teacher, when music is the only thing that is holding her together.

Her father decides that whisking her away to Paris with him for three weeks will solve everything. He’ll use DNA to study relics from the French Revolution and she’ll work on her senior thesis about the musical origins of a French guitar composer. So off Andi goes to Paris, reluctant and sullen. Until she finds a diary, written during the French Revolution, by a young woman named Alexandrine. In Alexandrine’s words, Andi finds both escape and mirror for her grief, solace in the pages. But the barriers between Andi and Alexandrine’s worlds begin to blur.

This book was a birthday gift from my colleague and classmate, Erika. YA historical fiction with a supernatural bent, but understated romance, and a really interesting premise. Also, musical elements, both real references and the fictional tale. Erika hasn’t known me very long, but this proves she really knows me.

Once I started reading, I was very unhappy to have to set the book down and do real life things. I stayed up late reading. There are so many elements I love:
A touch of supernatural, grounded in a possibly more rational explanation. References to music and the love of music, both real and fictional. As I read, I was reminded of Playing Beatie Bow, by Ruth Park, a time travel tale that’s one of my favorite books. The supernatural-or-not question reminded me of Tighter, by Adele Griffin, an excellently spooky ghost story I read for class this summer.

I had to laugh, though: One of the aspects of Andi’s life felt almost as otherworldly as the connections between her and Alexandrine’s past. Andi goes to a seriously posh private school for gifted, and very rich, students. She and her classmates live intense and privileged lives, writing their high school senior theses on things like international politics (her classmate Vijay can get on the phone to actual world leaders because his premise is so smart) and get interviewed by magazines for their research. That’s either unreal, or the idea of high school students doing that much intellectual work and still drinking that much, makes me feel sheepish about how much trouble I have wrangling my own homework sometimes.


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