Book Review: Revolution

By Jennifer Donnelly
Published By: Ember
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
Genre: YA Fiction/Historical Fiction
496 pages
Buy it at Indiebound, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. 
Source: purchased by reviewer

I'm not sure I can sum up the plot of this novel in a few sentences, but here's my attempt: Andi Alpers, a jaded, sarcastic, and mildly suicidal teen living in New York City is forced to travel to Paris with her estranged father and finds a long-lost journal belonging to a teenage caretaker of the young prince Louis XVII of France, son of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, who will die while imprisoned and suffering from extreme neglect. Once the journal is discovered, the book shifts between Andi in modern day Paris and Alexandrine who is smack dab in the heart of the French Revolution. With a main character who you instantly love and want to root for, an interesting and unique premise, and a supporting cast that adds layers and depth, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly is well worth your time.

Andi is a wealthy, privileged girl in all the material ways, but not in the most basic emotional ways. Her younger brother Truman has recently died, her artist mother is coping as best she can (which is to say not at all), and her father is a Nobel Prize winning geneticist who spends more time with DNA than his family. Her love of music and her daily guitar lessons are the only thing getting her through her days and even that isn't enough at times. Once her mother has an honest-to-goodness breakdown and is institutionalized, Andi is forced to accompany her father to Paris. It is here, against the backdrop of the French Revolution (which is tied to her father's work), that she finds the journal that drastically changes the story. (Side note: I didn't love the journal entries, but they are integral to the plot and worth slugging through so you get the rest of the story.)

Andi is the absolute BEST part of the entire novel, but the cast of supporting characters is probably the second best thing about Revolution. Andi's best friend Vijay is hilarious, supportive, and a fantastic foil for her. Her sort-of friend Kyle is written incredibly well and when we find out why their relationship is so tenuous it is completely believeable. The supporting cast in Paris is where Donnelly shines though - we meet a rapping taxi driver, her father's eccentric friends, and even the gatekeeper jerk at the library is interesting and adds to the plot. It sort of makes me wish Donnelly would write with a male main character because she does such a good job with them. Except that - I'll say it again - Andi is the absolute BEST part of the entire novel. I instantly loved her and the wit, sarcasm, and self-loathing she is written with is relatable and intriguing.

Revolution is not a book I'd normally pick up. The premise is odd and complicated, it's historical fiction which I don't normally gravitate toward, and it can't be summed up in a sentence - or five. (My attempt in the intro to this review doesn't even come close to doing this book justice.) But when the kids at Book Club picked this for our first read of the school year, I was hopefully optimistic - and then I saw the cover. I hate being one of those people, but I love book covers and this one simply doesn't do the book justice, so please don't judge the book by the cover I've posted. The cover of the hardback is better, and the cover of the UK edition is beautifully simple. This whole girl on fire thing isn't relevant or suitable in my opinion. So don't let that sway your decision to read - or not to read - this wonderful book!

 Final Word: An interesting premise with a good mix of historical and modern plotlines and though the journal entries aren't my favorite, they are totally worth it to get to know the fantastically written Andi Alpers.

Summary via Goodreads:

From the privileged streets of modern Brooklyn to the heart of the French Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.


  1. I really loved this book. I liked the juxtaposition between the present and the past, plus I love the setting.

  2. Sounds like a very interesting book!


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