Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly: Review

Andi's got troubles. Trouble, trouble, troubles. She's a musical genius and her parents are rich. She's in her last year of school at the prestigious St Anselm's where kids split atoms in chemistry class. But her mom is having a breakdown, her dad moved away with his girlfriend and Andi is doped up all the time. After the death of her brother Truman, she checked out of life. When she commits a bunch of self destructive acts, her father hauls her off to Paris (like you do).

Her dad is the geneticist asked to test the supposed heart of Louis-Charles, the son of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, kept in a jar for the last two centuries. Andi and her dad stay with an old friend, a historian with a warehouse full of French Revolutionary artifacts. She stumbles upon the diary of Alexandrine, a young aspiring actress, who ends up in the household of the Royal Family during the Revolution. Andi becomes obsessed with her story and spends most of the time she should be working on her thesis pouring over the words of a girl who died two hundred years ago.

It was hard going for awhile when I started Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. I wanted to kick these kids in the rear end. "Oh, I'm so privileged and over educated! Oh woe is me!" Their cynicism got on my nerves. Andi has reasons to be jaded but her self-destructive behaviour was tedious. Please, put a cork in it.

Then she ends up in France and meets people who don't get everything handed to them on a silver platter. She fits in amazingly well. She still wallows in a pit of despair but it's a little easier to take now that she's away from the Pampered Pupils. Like Andi, I was obsessed with Alex's story. How would it end? Could Alex save the prince? I guess you'll have to find out for yourselves but the ending isn't all tied up neatly in a bow. Andi's problems can't be solved at the end like a sitcom storyline but she does learn how to put her losses into perspective.

Music is a big part of the story. Andi's thesis revolves around a fictional 18th century musician whose work threads through the melodies of modern artists, much like Alex's story threads through hers. It beautifully illustrates how we're all connected.

Revolution is not a straight up historical fiction. It's got a clever twist I won't give away. There are some supernatural elements that are up to the reader to decide whether or not they were real or imagined. And some striking coincidences as well. Those weren't as hard to take as the antics of her classmates (Keith Richard's guitar? Mickey Rourke? The President?) When Andi's classmates occasionally appear, I was plucked out of the story. It tries too hard to make us believe these are 'special' kids. I get it; they're a big deal.

However, I ended up really enjoying Revolution. The writing is good and it has a smart plot with interesting characters.

Highly recommended for the older teen crowd and up.

Thank you to Random House Children's Books for the review copy.


  1. I'm a sucker for books set in France, so this sounds like a book I would enjoy.

  2. I have this on my shelf. I too am a sucker for books set in France (and with some history thrown in), so even though I don't usually read YA stuff the reviews I've read make it sound so interesting.

  3. I listened to part of this on audio and got sick of the reader (I'm picky) so I quit after the third disc, but I'm still planning to read it, someday. Thanks for not giving away any spoilers.

  4. I'm glad you liked the writing.

    See, I really enjoyed Revolution, but I was also enamored with A Northern Light and met Jennifer Donnelly, so I suppose I was pre-disposed to ignore the privilege. That and well, I genuinely did love this one.

  5. I'm pretty sure the insufferably privileged kids are meant to represent/reflect the pre-revolutionary French aristocracy. It's just one of the many, many, many layers of this intricate and incredibly accomplished book.


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