Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review


Revolution is a young adult historical fiction novel. The main character, Andi, is a struggling teenager. When her younger brother Truman is killed, it tears her entire family apart. A cloud of darkness hovers over her life, and Andi blames herself for her brother's death. Her father, a successful Noble Prize wining geneticist, stays away working, while her mother goes insane by spending day after day painting her dead brother. Andi is left with just her shattered emotions, and her music. Music is Andi's escape from the pain she can't bear to deal with. Andi struggled in school, not because she wasn't smart - she was brilliant - but because of the constant pressure to do well, she rebelled and blew everything off. She hung out with the wrong crowd and didn't care about anything except music. She can be very angry, hurtful, and venomous at times. She is on anti-depressants which she misuses to smother the pain by taking too many, or mixing them with alcohol. When her dad returns from a long absence he decides to take matters into his own hands to fix is withering family. He puts his wife in a Brooklyn mental hospital, and tells Andi she is coming with him to Paris (how horrible!) until she finishes her thesis to graduate. While researching and exploring Paris, she meets Virgil, a boy who loves Andi for who she is, even when she tries to push him away. When Andi finds an old diary belonging to Alex, a girl her very age, only living during the French Revolution in 1795, her life takes an unexpected turn. Alex and Andi have a lot in common. They are both very artistic. Andi with music, and Alex with theatrics. They both are motherly figures. Andi to Truman (her brother) and Alex to Louis (the Dauphin of France). Both of these boys die at the same age. Despite the time differences they are both feisty, smart, and strong-willed. Andi ends up warping back in time to June 1795, in the same shoes as Alex. Andi learns the importance of love, liberty, and the revolution within a person.

At the start of the book Andi is a pretty dark character that I had a hard time relating too. Donnelly does a great job contemplating and complying how a rebellious teenager would react and feel to situations, but I don't know if the majority of people can relate of how she deals with pain. (Then again, this is a young adult novel) For example: She would become so engulfed in playing her guitar that she would play through the pain of her fingers bleeding.

Maybe it's because if I get a paper cut I'm whining about it for the next 3 days, let alone willful, self-inflicting pain. A little too emo for my taste.

 The tempo of Andi's thoughts are disorganized, but somehow meshes for her character. Donnelly uses a lot of musical references for Andi's thoughts and emotions, further deepening Andi's connection with music. However, I found a lot of the songs and lyrics in the book were unfamiliar. I feel like I needed Youtube up to research the songs to understand the backdrop of inspiration as I read. Much of the musical references felt forced and awkward. There are "rapping" lyrics also inserted, which I skipped over and didn't bother reading. All of the songs felt like they were more in the way, than adding to the story.

The story-line didn't quite flow. The feel of this book starts out very dark, emotional, rustic, yet mysterious. Which I really enjoyed! Then, out of what seems like nowhere it turns into a time traveling, teenage romance. The two halves of the book don't quite go together. Donnelly didn't transition the "time-traveling" scene well, it happens out of nowhere! It made the whole story turn for the worst in my opinion. I think it would have flowed better if the "ghosts" Andi had been seeing became real in present day France, rather than her traveling back to the past.

Donnelly did do a great job researching the historical background for the novel, which as a history buff myself, I really appreciate that she took so much time doing so. I learned a lot of interesting knowledge that I had no idea occurred before now! (I'm currently reading The Days of the French Revolution because of it!) I think she made the French Revolution have life, rather than reading from a distant account. It is a great way to have young adults learn about history without wanting to stab themselves in the eye over and over again.

I also enjoyed how Donnelly slowly peeled away facts about Andi's past. At the start of the book we know Andi blames herself for her brother's death, but it's not until later that we learned she was supposed to be walking with him to school when he died. It made you intrigued to keep reading, but didn't hold out too long to be exasperating. Overall, this book is well-written, mysterious, and interesting. But, between the flawed storyline and the music references it just made it a little choppy. I would recommend it, but I wouldn't put it on my library shelf to read again. 

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