Juxtaposing the modern day struggles of a teen girl with the plight of an 18th century young woman, Revolution is the perfect blend of contemporary YA and historical fiction. But while it is marketed as a “Young Adult” book, I think that definition is misleading. Revolution is only “YA” because its main characters are teenagers. Yet adult audiences as well as teen readers (and traditional YA readers) will both find things to love about this book.
Revolution tells the story of 17-year-old Andi Alpers, who is struggling with the death of her younger brother, her mother’s mental breakdown and her father’s emotional breakdown — all the while refusing to deal with her own depression beyond popping a few pills every day. (And even the pills aren’t completely working, as Andi has a few too many close calls with the ledges of high buildings). What’s more, she’s on the verge of being expelled from her very prestigious private high school in the midst of her senior year. When her father drags her with him to Paris over winter break, insisting she complete work on her senior thesis project (her only saving grace to stay in school), she discovers the diary of a girl from the French Revolution. The more Andi reads about young Alexandrine, her relationship with the royal family and her role in the war, the more Andi becomes obsessed. Until one night in the catacombs of Paris the two worlds — though centuries apart — come together in a terrifying and powerful climax.
Donnelly impeccably combines these two vastly different worlds into one story so that it becomes difficult to tear them apart. Her writing is delightful — from beautiful phrasing to a clever mastery of contemporary lingo and unique pacing. Likewise, her storytelling is masterful. Donnelly has woven together layers so brilliantly that it seems easy (even though we know it isn’t). Similarly, a great deal of research went into the story — from the history to the music to the mental illnesses and social standings of certain characters. The payoff is evident in every page of the book. Revolution simply would not be what it is without the combination of Donnelly’s lovely writing, beautiful storytelling and diligent research.
There simply aren’t enough words for me to adequately describe how much I loved this book. Just as Andi becomes obsessed with Alexandrine’s diary, I have become obsessed with Revolution. I want to explore the themes and histories mentioned in the book. I want to go back and reread my favorite passages. I want to know what happens after the last page and what happened before the first page. More than anything else, I want to spend more time with these characters and more time in the places described within the book. I don’t want to leave them.