Sunday, 22 October 2017

Jennifer Donnelly – Revolution (5/5)

“It’s time to start the revolution, baby!”


YA Drama

This is the book for you if you like:
-          - Stories about struggling with suicidal ideation
-          - Magical Realism
-          - Some history infused in your fiction

Summary: (blurb)
Andi is broken. She is failing school and failing her life. Since the death of her brother, all she cares about is music. Taken to Paris by her estranged father,  she makes a discovery there that could transform everything. Hidden in the compartment of an old guitar case is a lost diary from Revolutionary France…

Alexandrine is a street performer who is trying to save a young life from the devastation of war. She writers her deepest thoughts in her diary, hoping that one day someone will read them and understand.

These two girls, though centuries apart, are tied together by more than just the diary. As its words transcend paper and time, Alexandrine’s past becomes Andi’s present and lives are changed for ever.

First sentence:
Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, deejay.

Thoughts on covers:
I love how prominent the key is on most of the covers. I really think the third (the original) cover misses the mark here; because while yes, this is a story about two girls centuries apart, I feel like it’s much more a story about finding your place in this world, finding the key to your existence, hence giving the key, next to having an actual role in the story, a symbolic meaning that ties in with the whole book.

The title was interesting enough for me to pull the book from the shelves, so it certainly grabs your attention.

Why did I read this book?
I found it at a book fair. The title grabbed my attention, and the blurb promised a protagonist struggling with life, music and a hint of time travel. These are all things that I love to read about, so this truly seemed like the perfect fit for me.

Andi, our main character, only cares about two things: music, and her mother. With the death of her brother heavily weighing on her, it's really the only things she can afford to care about, and even those are just barely enough to help her hold on. It's the moments where she's playing that you can really see her character shine through: creative, inventive, enthusiastic. She was so real. I felt connected to her from the get-go.

I also really loved Alexandrine. This Parisian heroine from the time of the Revolution has one thing on her mind and one thing only: the boy that is locked and mistreated in the tower. Her insistence to be there for Louis-Charles in any way she can, even at the risk of her own life - how can someone not love a character like that? Donnelly managed to make it make sense as well; this wasn't some random interest in a random little boy, this was familial love without sharing the same blood.

Revolution starts in New York, but is really mostly set in Paris, both current Paris and the Paris in the time of the Revolution. I don’t know anything, really, about France at that time, and this book really managed to get me interested in it. It all felt so real.

General opinion:
Donnelly has divided the book into three parts – hell, purgatory and paradise. That ‘hell’ is the longest part tells you all you need to know about the heavy atmosphere of the story. Struggling with suicidal ideation myself, Revolution was an almost therapeutic read. The despondency that is bogging down Andi is written so realistic that it wasn't hard at all to connect to her. The way she goes from passive recklessness to active suicidal planning was very true to life.

I hear tires screeching. I turn and see a car bearing down on me.

Everything inside me is screaming at me to run, but I don't move. Because I want this. I want an end to the pain. The car swerves violently and screeches to a stop. I smell burned rubber. People are shouting.

The driver's on me in an instant. She's crying and trembling. She grabs the front of my jacket and shakes me. "You crazy bitch!" she screams. "I could have killed you!"

"Sorry," I say.

"Sorry?" she shouts. "You don't look sorry. You-"

"Sorry you missed," I say.

This was not an easy read, at all. Donnelly doesn't pull any punches, doesn't sugar-coat any of this. I had to really set time aside for this, but I am so glad I did.

While I definitely wouldn't categorise this as a romance (the romance is really too much of a B-plot for that), it is one of the most romantic YA novels I have ever read. Instead of wasting time on love triangles and with only the slightest miscommunication, the way Andi and Virgil connect and especially their late night/early morning phone calls are one of the most romantic things ever written.

Will I read other books from this author?
Definitely! This is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Overall rating: 5/5

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