Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (October 2010)

It might do you good, you know,” my father is saying as we hit the Boulevard Peripherique. “It might take your mind off things.”
“What might?”
“A change of scenery. Paris.”
“Yeah. Sure. My brother’s dead. My mother’s insane. Hey, let’s have a crepe.”
We don’t talk for the rest of the ride.

revolutionThis is a review of an advance reader copy acquired by the publisher Delacorte Press, at ALA Annual.

Reading this book is like listening to Dennis Miller. You need a dictionary and encyclopedia handy at all times, it’s just so darn smart. And it doesn’t let up.

Revolution is separated into three parts, mirroring Dante’s Divine Comedy. Hell, being the most interesting of the three, is lengthiest. We begin with Andi, a senior attending an upscale private school in Brooklyn with the smartest and/or wealthiest kids around. Each vying for supremacy and recognition.

The more obscure our tastes, the greater the proof of our genius (p 5).

But it is clear Andi isn’t interested. Like Dante, she is passing through hell. Her younger brother, Truman, was murdered, her mother is going crazy and her father has opted out. If she doesn’t submit her senior thesis, she’ll be expelled.

To thwart this and as a last ditch effort, Andi’s father returns, checks his wife into a hospital, and whisks Andi away to Paris where she can work on her thesis, “Who’s Your Daddy? Tracing the Musical DNA of Amande Malherbeau to Jonny Greenwood.”

Using medication to survive her hell, Andi has no intention of graduating until she finds an old journal. Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago, during the French Revolution, but Andi becomes her unwilling audience when she is captivated by Alex’s tenuous position as guardian of young Prince Louis-Charles, who reminds Andi of Truman.

There are a slew of musical references that went over my head. I can’t read music either so there was a dimension I know I missed out on. But I read on, investigated what I could and ended loving it all.

There are a few moments when I thought things fit together a little too nicely, but they were fleeting thoughts and I was soon immersed in the story again.

There’s a lot going on here but Donnelly balances it all so perfectly. I haven’t yet read A Gathering Light but I will be sure to pick it up on the strength of her excellent writing here. This is certainly award worthy.

Check out the Random House discussion guide.

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