. Athena's Books: Revolution...Then and Now
Monday, February 7, 2011

Revolution...Then and Now

Since February is officially Madame Tussaude month (YA novel by Michelle Moran) at Simply Yours, I figured I might as well include a few other YA historical titles for this month with the first one being Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.  It appears to be quite a hefty read, the kind that would be perfect for those snowed in frozen days of February.  Can you believe even deep South Texas, over here by Mexico, got hit by freezing conditions? And mind you that people down here already drive like maniacs, so you can imagine how many of us would do out-and-about without even having any driving experience whatsoever with ice on small little bridges that really aren't bridges.  And school was closed on Friday throughout the Valley (as we call it down here)!

Well, I took this home with me last Wednesday and did a pretty good read of it, but will admit I read through some parts really fast because although the storyline is intriguing and I adore historical fiction,  the book has to get me here...at the core of my heart...for me to devour every line and re-read lines and passages or just give it a very thorough reading.  Ok, so this book didn't get me there but nonetheless, it is a book I recommend for anyone who loves to read.  I just don't have time to devour all books.

Summary from Publishers Weekly:  Donnelly (A Northern Light) melds contemporary teen drama with well-researched historical fiction and a dollop of time travel for a hefty read that mostly succeeds. Andi Alpers is popping antidepressants and flunking out of her Brooklyn prep school, grieving over her younger brother's death. She finds solace only when playing guitar. When the school notifies her mostly absent scientist father that she's flirting with expulsion, he takes Andi to Paris for Christmas break, where he's testing DNA to see if a preserved heart really belonged to the doomed son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Andi is ordered to work on her senior thesis about a (fictional) French composer. Bunking at the home of a renowned historian, Andi finds a diary that relates the last days of Alexandrine, companion to (you guessed it) the doomed prince. The story then alternates between Andi's suicidal urges and Alexandrine's efforts to save the prince. Donnelly's story goes on too long, but packs in worthy stuff. Musicians, especially, will appreciate the thread about the debt rock owes to the classics.

First, I applaud Jennifer for tying in the French Revolution with a contemporary story.  This, folks, is not easy to do at all.  If you write or read historical fiction, you know that most of it takes place in the past.  If the past merges with the present, does that then bring in fantasy elements?  Is there such a thing as Fantasy Historical Fiction or Fantasy Historical Revisionist Fantasy?  Hmmm...but I think this is what Revolution is, and I think what I'm writing for Awake falls under this, as well.

Overall, the book is an enjoyable read and about the one thing I'm not crazy about is the portrayal of upper-class, super rich teenagers as people with major snob "disappeal" (the opposite for appeal).  Do all the upper-crust teens drink alcohol before school and go through daily living with the apathy, drugs, and plain old debauchery?  That turned me off little bit, and with this, the book began the path away from the core of my heart. 

I do feel empathy for Andi (the main character) and her inabilty to cope with the loss of her brother.  This is a very realistic portrayal of a teen, or any other person, and helps to explain her downward descent into extreme teenage wasteland.  What I like better is that there was  no quick fix for the relationship between  Andi and her father and Andi and her mother.  Not all can be fixed between father and daughter just by a few weeks of living in Paris.

But I could have used a lot more of Andi and Virgil, a Parisian outsider and cab-driver and major love iterest.  We romance lovers want more of this stuff all over the place, especially if we are reading historical fiction.  Plus this is the French revolution, this is Paris...I mean the possibility for a lot of swoon action is endless!  That's just me of course...there is still plenty of romance and this is not promoted as a Romance Historical Fiction. 

Well, I suppose my review did not end being so "mini" afterall, but it still counts since this is like a 500 page book.  This is as "mini" as I could make it. 

The Good:  The plot is engaging with the old and the contemporary merging together (but at times it seems too forced); Andi (the main character) is a young lady with depth and realistic family and relationship issues beyond what's implied in the numerous skull rings she wears on her fingers; Alexandrine's diary from the French Revolution (she is a young girl during the French Revolutio and Andi finds herself caught up in Alexandrine's words) is an old/fresh technique providing a story-within-a-story framework which hasn't really been part of contemporary writing for a while .   Very unique! Enjoy!

The Bad:  nothing!  Hey, you try writing this stuff!  It's hard!

The Ugly:  nothing!  Paris?  Absolutely not.  Maybe the portrayal of the upper class, rich kids...they are portrayed as ugly...but Revolution itself has no "ugly" parts...

P.S.  I love the book cover and the title, but I think it promises a little more than what I actually from cover to cover.  I can see how Andi is having her own significant conflict, but I want more revolution to take place and more connection between past and present.

Next time,



abeautifulmadness said...

I see this book everytime I go to the Bookstore, but I never end up buying it. I don't know why, but I'll have to read it sometimes, it seems like a good book.