Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly: Steph’s review

Posted November 12, 2010 by paperrdolls 2 Comments


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.


Lyrical. Raw. Fluid. Funny. Depressing. Uplifting. Accurate. Terrifying. Transporting. Comforting. Healing.

I am not exaggerating when I claim that Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly is the single most perfectly crafted YA book in existence — as in ever. Everything about it is brilliant: the writing, the research, the clever turns of phrase, the modern lingo, the pace, the plot, the characters, the central message and the ending.

Donnelly masterfully unites two plots from vastly different time periods — modern-day Brooklyn and Revolutionary France — but by the end, weaves them into one seamless, flawless climax and denouement that feels honest and appropriate.

I won’t lie — this book requires much out of its readers, both emotionally and intellectually. The deep, jagged emotions of the young, broken narrator grab readers by the shirt front and won’t let go, even after the final page. For those who tend to take on the emotions of whatever book you are reading, be prepared for a journey to the dark side of love. It won’t be pretty, but it will be worth the effort.

Intellectually, the history and culture of France comes alive – quite literally – with one well-researched concept, figure and event after another. If readers have a small knowledge of French history and language ahead of time, they will appreciate the depth of the book. However, readers do not need to know a thing to enjoy it. Donnelly does an expert job of keeping the reader invested, even with references to things and people — and music — that readers may not understand.

And finally, Revolution is a love letter to music of all kinds. Andi, our narrator, is a guitar prodigy, a clever alternative to the stock piano virtuoso. That difference lets Donnelly incorporate several centuries of guitar music, from the Baroque to present-day rock and alternative. It’s all in there and the obscure references fly so fast, readers may need to duck and cover. But it works. It’s practically a desk reference for musical DNA.

Revolution had been labeled YA, but I hope it transcends that label. Not doing so would rob many adults of an utterly amazing reading experience.


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