Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Photo taken from Goodreads

 Book Info

Title:  Revolution 
Author:  Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Language: English
Format:  Paperback
Pages:  472 pages
ISBN-13:  978-0375989506
Source:  Purchased, Celina's Books and Mags


From Goodreads:

"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.

Good books beckon to a reader and get them engaged until the last page.  Bad books seduce readers but fall short of their promises.  Great books, however, do all of the above, except fall short of their promise - they do not promise anything at all and no reader would mind.  Why?  Because who needs promises when a book just surpassed all your expectations and more? 

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly is about two young women:  Andi living in modern-day Brooklyn, and Alexandrine from Paris in the time of the French Revolution.  Both girls are in a midst of a revolt, the difference is that Andi's is from within her self while Alexandrine's is that of the historical kind.  

So begs the question:  Is Revolution a good book, a bad book, or a great book?

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.

As for the characters, they were not difficult to love - or hate, depending on the circumstances.  When I say love or hate, it means that the characters do not have difficulty in eliciting in me an appropriate emotion and reaction to their personalities and actions.  Andi, a poor rich girl, may sound like a cliche in the beginning, but once you get to know her, it is not difficult to feel for her and understand her pain as her issues are not as superficial as other teens.  She has real problems and really deep sadness that a 'simply divine skirt from Chanel' cannot solve.  Alexandrine, on the other hand, with her conniving and scheming, also gets under your skin without much effort, once her transformation to a deeply-caring young woman becomes complete.

Simply put, this is a great book.


If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way.

Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions.  


  1. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Nina your soooo mean! I have been dying to read this one and you just made it so much worse! Screw my book-budget i'm ordering this one like NOW!

  2. Khadija: Hahaha! And they say bloggers don't sell books :D

  3. I've wanted this book ever since it came out! My book buying ban ends this week so perhaps I'll go buy it.

  4. I usually avoid YA fiction but I think I'll make an exception with this one. It sounds so interesting to pass. Thanks for the review. It's great!

  5. Ash: Great timing! Now yo can get to read this too.

    Playing.Librarian: Yes, it's too good to miss, glad you liked the review :D

  6. I love this book so much. I read it for the first time on a whim and since then I have read it uncountable times. I listen to the audiobook to help me sleep. It has a happy ending, but it shows that happy endings don't come easily. It shows that depression isn't all sitting alone and crying. Virgil truly likes Andi for who she is and Alex is such an amazing character. Her depth pulls me in every time I read the book. I honestly wish that a book would be released just of Alexs' diaries. I would buy it! I love the ghosts, the sarcasm and the music. I would (and do) recommend this book to anyone that asks for a recommendation.


I just have to tell you, ARGH feeds on awesomeness, so if you can, drop him some awesome here, and I promise to give some awesome back :D

Right now, because of my really busy schedule, I'm cutting back on receiving awards. So until further notice, me and ARGH would not be accepting awards. But thank you for thinking of us, we really appreciate it!