Andi Alpers, one of the protagonists of Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, is a guitar prodigy attending a tony private school in Brooklyn, but she’s haunted by the loss of her brother Truman, her mother’s subsequent breakdown, and her father’s absence. When she has decided not to write her senior thesis, which will prevent her from graduating, her father, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, takes her with him to Paris, where he is helping his historian friend G with a project—they are testing the DNA of a heart G discovered to determine if it belonged to the lost king Louis XVII, the Dauphin of France, who died in the last days of the French Revolution, imprisoned, mad, alone, and orphaned. Andi’s father hopes that access to primary sources and his strict guidance can help Andi make some progress on her thesis, which concerns the musical influence of eighteenth century composer Amadé Malherbeau on modern music. G gives her a guitar discovered in the catacombs, and Andi finds a diary hidden in a secret compartment. The diary belongs to Alexandrine Paradis, a performer hired by the French royal family to entertain the young Dauphin. As Andi reads the diary, she becomes entranced by Alex’s story. While in Paris, she also meets Virgil, a Tunisian musician, and forges a strong connection with him. One night when he takes her to the catacombs, the world of Alex’s diary suddenly becomes real when Andi discovers herself transported to the last days of the French Revolution.
I cannot describe how much I loved this book. I said in my last post that a gauge of how much I like a book is whether or not I can put it down. I didn’t want this book to end. I put it down only to prolong the pleasure of reading it. I could easily have finished it off in a couple of days if I hadn’t done so. The strongest gauge of how much I love a book is when I wish I had written it myself. I don’t know why I feel that way—I suspect I want the book to belong to me even more than it does if I’ve read it. Jennifer Donnelly is an excellent writer. She brings the life of a 21st Brooklyn teenager to life in ways I’ve seen few young adult authors do with as much honesty and realism. She also brings Revolutionary-era France to life in sharp-relief. The invented parts of her book fit so seamlessly with the historical aspects, that you will find yourself Googling references, unable to tell what is real and what is invented. Andi and Alex are likable, real protagonists, and I found myself falling in love with the characters. Donnelly managed also to kindle an interest in an era of history I have previously not been as interested in—the French Revolution. I know you’re thinking “How could I not have been interested it that?” I don’t know! I sure can’t figure it out after reading this book, but I know I want to read more now. This novel isn’t just one of the best historical fiction YA books I’ve read, or one of the best YA books I’ve read. It’s one of the best historical fiction books I’ve read of any stripe. Whether you think of yourself as interested in France, the French Revolution, or even music or not, you will enjoy this book. What’s not to love in a book that mentions both Jeff Buckley and “Ten Years Gone,” my favorite Led Zeppelin song, in nearly the same breath as Bach and Beethoven? My recommendation: READ IT!
Here’s the book trailer, if you’re interested in learning a bit more about the book:
Rating: (I wish I could give it six stars. Out of five.)
I read this book for the Historical Fiction Challenge and for the YA Historical Fictional Challenge. I now have 13 books left for the Historical Fiction Challenge and 14 left for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge.