|Photo taken from Goodreads|
Publisher: Delacorte Press
"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. "
This is not a mere time travel novel. Yes, the past and the present parallel each other in this book, but that is not the main focus - it's the revolution that takes place within the characters' lives. Both Andi and Alexandrine are wounded artists - Andi struggling emotionally because of the death of her younger brother, Truman, her mother's descent into insanity, and her father's indifference and ignorance of his daughter's plight. Because of this, her performance in school has suffered that gets her father concerned about her academic future as she was tested to be a genius when she was younger - her father being a scientist, putting premium on intellect rather than emotion. Alexandrine, on the other hand, deals with a million troubles - poverty, a lack of promising opportunities to showcase her talent on the Paris stage, and a burgeoning French revolution among other things. Both girls channel their hurt and through their art - music and acting respectively - both flawed artists who try to come to terms with their lives, Andi with accepting what has happened, and Alexandrine with finally realizing the significance of loving another human being other than herself and putting the happiness of another person before hers. This premise is so skillfully written that readers would find themselves drawn into these girls' worlds, empathizing and sympathizing every step of the way.
Another striking detail is the use of real-life historical events and personalities in order to create a more credible narrative that has chapters set in the French Revolution. The blending of fact and fiction is so seamless and almost indistinguishable that a reader not very well acquainted with that particular time in French history would be tricked into accepting every historical detail in this book as real and not tampered with.
This story is mostly narrated by Andi, and that narration showed a progression from downright gloomy and despairing, to hopeful and optimistic. Peppered with sarcastic quips one expects from a jaded teenager, the narrative's voice can be classified as a consistent portrayal of a real teenager's way of speaking and storytelling. However, other chapters are narrated through journal entries written by Alexandrine that adapts a dated voice that captures a reader's expectation of how a young woman in the old French world would speak.
One would note, however, that Andi's way of speaking during her time in France seemed too 'American' in that although it was understood that her conversations with the French were already translated to English, the nuances and idioms of typical French language were not present in the translations. Some reviews showed this to be inexcusable, I found this considerate. Why? As a book of young adult fiction, this would obviously be read by a younger audience and they like a more straightforward presentation of a narrative, rather than wading through tall grasses of vague 'translated' French to English conversations.
Simply put, this is a great book.