Week 10, Part 2–Revolution

All I can say is wow. Wow wow wow.  Jennifer Donnelly’s book Revolution is absolutely fantastic.  This fine work of young adult fiction is an example of the quality of writing to which all YA novelists should aspire.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0385737637&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrIt is a story within a story. Story the first: Andi is a troubled high school senior at a prestigious prep school in Brooklyn, one where every student is told they are a genius and are therefore held to rigorously high standards.  Her brother dead, her father errant, and her mother mentally unstable, Andi feels that there is nothing left to live for, and is apathetic about everything in her life, save one thing: music.  When her father returns after hearing news of how bad life is for Andi and her mother, he takes her away to Paris, where he is doing work with a friend and where he hopes he can keep an eye on his tormented daughter.  In Paris, Andi finds a diary hidden away in a secret compartment in an ancient guitar case.  The diary is that of Alex, a young girl who lived during the French Revolution.  Here begins story the second.

Alex is a player, her family a troupe of actors who struggles to find work in the period of political unrest that is France in the late eighteenth century.  When her antics make the young, sad prince Louise-Charles, son of King Louise and Marie Antoinette, laugh, the royal couple takes her on to entertain their children.  As the turmoil grows more heated, Alex comes to love Louise-Charles, and is as protective and jealous of him as if she were his true mother.  When the royal family comes to danger and Louise-Charles is imprisoned, Alex takes on the identity of The Green Man, and sets off brilliant displays of fireworks to remind the ten-year-old prince that he is not alone.

Andi becomes increasingly immersed in Alex’s story, until she somehow actually enters Alex’s world of eighteenth century France.  Whether this time-warp is reality or a drug-induced hallucination, the reader is never given to know.

Ok, so it’s a long book and there’s a lot going on, hence the long synopsis.  But, though the plot is creative and fascinating, that’s not what I really loved about this book.  There are several things that really set Donnelly’s writing apart for me.  The first is the intense emotion in the book.  One thing about young adult writing is how raw it is.  Often times an writer for adults seems more concerned with making creative, deep, or unique analogies and similes, and in the process fail to actually convey the emotion.  Donnelly does not make this mistake.  The agony felt by both Andi and Alex is deep and powerful, as is the love they feel for those dear to them.  Also, I love the web of interconnectedness that everything in this book belongs to.  No detail is too insignificant to be included in the grand picture.  Donnelly even includes something analogous to this in the book–Andi’s senior thesis.  Her thesis is something she refers to as musical DNA, which basically means that certain musical themes can act as a gene in human DNA does–it gets passed down from one composer/musician to another, influencing the generations to come. Andi focuses on one composer (who lived during the time of the French Revolution–interconnectedness) who started using a certain chord in his work that was previously considered taboo.  Due to his influence, this chord began to appear more and more frequently in quite unexpected places, being passed down from generation to generation, until it reached the present day (in the form of a little band called Radiohead, among others).  It’s really cool reading all this research, knowing that everything is connected and that things will eventually resurface in unexpected places.  And this “musical DNA” represents perfectly what happens in the novel, between all the characters and the little details–everything is either a parallel or has some influence on another part of the story. Brilliant!

Ok, enough raving.  I highly recommend this book.  It’s an absorbing read, and though it’s pretty long for a YA novel, once you’re immersed in it you hardly realize how long it is.  Andi and Alex are both beautifully written characters that I feel you will enjoy reading about, and possibly identify with.

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