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Review: Revolution

March 19, 2011

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 472
Pub Date: October 12, 2010
Format: Library book

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.–Goodreads


While reading Revolution, I was awestruck. Donnelly spins an intensely tragic, raw tale of two girls in two different times, but whose stories are the same. Both are hurt, angry, and desperate in a way that I hope to never know. Both want to act, want to make a mark, and want to go out with a bang. I couldn’t get enough of it. I was racing through this book, praying my lunch breaks at work wouldn’t end so that I didn’t have to stop reading. But, of course, they would end.

So last night, I canceled my plans so I could go home and finish this book. (I’m not joking about that.) I read and read and read, and then, about 100 pages from the end, something happened. All of a sudden, Donnelly was using my LEAST FAVORITE narrative technique–the historical time travel.

I know what you’re thinking–‘But, Bethany, did you not read the summary of the book? It plainly states that “the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.”‘ Yeah, I got that, but I didn’t think it was going to be literal. I mean, Andi is crawling around in the mothereffing Parisian catacombs while reading a diary from the French Revolution. That’s pretty terrifyingly present if you ask me.

Anyway, after spending so much time and energy and emotion with Revolution, I found myself getting angry. The book had been so informed and smart  and tonally solid and heart-wrenchingly beautiful that I didn’t think it could go wrong. But when I got to the part where Andi enters the catacombs and starts talking to the “hot goth guy,” I found that a conversation I’d had with a co-worker was coming true–she asked me how I was liking this book and I said, “I love it. I’m a little obsessed with it. But I’m afraid it’s going to go to a weird time-travely place, and I really, really don’t want it to go there.” And as I sat there, at 1:00 AM, devouring this book, I realized that that’s EXACTLY where it was going.

I was pissed.

I called my boyfriend and RAILED against it. I cussed the book in English, French, and maybe Pig Latin. He said, “Wow, you must really like this book to be so mad about this. Just calm down and finish it.” [Mr. Bethany is sort of great.]

So that’s what I did. And as I kept reading, I realized that while Donnelly did use the hated historical time travel technique, she also did something different with it, something that left it open to interpretation. So I’m going to interpret it as NOT historical time travel, and that makes me a much, much happier Bethie.

Overall, this book is fantastic. It’s beautifully crafted, extremely well-researched, and has a V for Vendetta vibe to it. So, if that’s your thing, or if you’re a historical fiction nerd and Francophile like me, then you will adore this book. But I’m warning you, this book is not for the faint of heart (or stomach)–Donnelly spares no disgusting detail when describing the conditions of the French Revolution and there are a couple places that were a little hard for me, the girl with a History major and French minor, to get through. But hopefully that won’t stop you from RUSHING to get this book. And if you do, clear your calendar. You won’t be able to put it down.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2011 11:09 PM

    I think the (maybe or maybe not) time travel is underscoring a fundamental point of the book: Andi and Alex are the same character in one sad story that has always and will always happen (the world goes on, stupid and brutal …). They have too many similarities to be coincidental … and their names are even an anagram. I think Donnelly is making the point that time is irrelevant, and it doesn't matter who's in what time period …Anyway, nice review. I LOVED this book, too.

  2. March 21, 2011 10:45 PM

    I loved this book and reviewed it as well. I was angry when I got to the time traveling part too. This book is amazing and I'm glad you liked it too:)

  3. March 19, 2011 4:50 PM

    I also love how she left it open to interpretation and I came to the same conclusion you did. She didn't time travel, she had a crazy dream that's all! Lol. Anyway, I reviewed this book a little while ago too and you should check out what I had to say about it. :)http://sandrathenookworm.blogspot.com/2011/03/revolution-by-jennifer-donnelly.html

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