Thursday, December 14

Books I Wish I'd Read Sooner: Revolution by Jennifer Donnely

Every now and then (maybe more often than not) I totally miss the boat on a stellar YA book, and when I finally discover it for myself I wish I'd read it sooner. In the case of Revolution by Jennifer Donnely, I'm tempted to blame the blurbs I'd read, which, combined with something about the cover art on our school library's copy, really gave me the wrong impression of this book - I was thinking that time travel would be a major piece of the plot. It's not that I don't like time travel, but I had an Outlander hangover at the time. Spoiler alert: there might not be any actual time travel involved. I'm so glad I gave Revolution a chance, because it's now one of my all-time favorites.

Not only did I overcome my wrong impression about the structure of the book, I was also almost turned off by its opening scene - our narrator, Andi, is doing drugs with a bunch of pretentious rich kids with ridiculous names who she doesn't even like. If I know I probably couldn't keep a book in an eighth-grade classroom library, I'm a lot less likely to stick with it. But I did, and thankfully Andi left that uncomfortable world fairly quickly - for a combination of reasons I won't spoil, her father forces her to accompany him on a work trip to France (poor kid, right?).  I ended up connecting with Andi for a lot of reasons - I could, after all, write my own book about an artistic high achiever who deals with depression and almost self-destructs after losing a family member in December. Andi's grief over her younger brother's death is keeping her from moving forward, and her father is hoping the trip to France will help her clear her mind and finish the work required to earn her high school diploma.

"Every heart is made of stories." 
- Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution

Andi's father, a genius genetic scientist, and his colleague, a historian, are studying the preserved heart said to belong to Marie Antoinette's son, Louis XVII, who was imprisoned in a tower following the French Revolution. Andi finds a diary written by a girl her age during the Revolution and most of the novel's historical fiction element comes through the diary entries she reads. Everything I know about the Revolution comes from Les Miserables, so I learned a lot from the rich historical detail Donnelly includes in the story.  I loved the French setting, my heart ached for Andi's Revolutionary counterpart, Alex, and I was rooting for Andi and her sweet new friend Virgil. Donnelly's teen characters speak with a Gilmore Girls level of clever and sarcasm, and when the story does break away from dialogue, her prose, in Andi's descriptions of modern-day Paris and Alex's passionate diary entries, is lyrical and lovely

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