Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly - Highly Recommend

I first encountered Jennifer Donnelly's writing when my young adult book club read her novel, A Northern Light. I loved that book. I wrote in my review, "Kudos to this author for creating such an enduring character who intersects with a historical moment, yet manages to come alive all on her own." Well, Donnelly has done it again! She has created a character (this time a modern one) who intersects with a historical moment that manages to spur her on to a fresher life in the here-and-now.

Andi Alpers is a grieving teenager trying to cope with life after watching her younger brother, Truman, die on the streets of Brooklyn where she lives. Her mother has fallen apart. Her father, worried about the danger of expulsion if Andi doesn't complete her senior thesis, decides to take Andi to Paris for her winter break from school. In Paris, Andi encounters a fresh music scene of her own (and a handsome love interest), a quest for the identity of a preserved heart from the days of Revolutionary France, and a guitar case holding an antique guitar and a hidden compartment with a diary from a young girl, Alexandrine Paradis. The deeper Andi is pulled into Alexandrine's story, the deeper her despair grows along with her desire to discover the ending to the girl's story. As Alex and Andi intersect in the novel, great truths about life are uncovered. The novel holds so many intense topics: guilt, grief, justice, suicidal thoughts, revolution, love, transcendence and comfort. In the end, the riveting story comes full circle to a redemptive close, with fitting lessons gleaned from the diary, the heart, and the relationships fostered along the way.

I think Revolution is, perhaps, my favorite young adult novel I've read this year. Once again, as with A Northern Light, I fell in love with the main character. Her intense emotional fragility and her deep love of music highlighted the power of music to heal the heart and the importance of the fight against oppression. Deep emotional truths came to light through the story. I loved the girl's timidity in her relationship with the boy. I loved the dark, mysterious Virgil (I'm so glad I listened to this in audio format because I would have pronounced the name in my mine as Ver-jill instead of the very romantic French pronunciation Veer-jeel). This novel holds appeal for teenagers and adults looking for excellent historical fiction.

Jennifer Donnelly has another YA historical fiction title, These Shallow Graves. I will have to seek it out. Plus, she's written two grown-up titles I might pursue. I'm hoping she continues to work on young adult manuscripts, however, because she does such a fantastic job of blending realistic teen characters with history that transforms their understanding of the world.

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