Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Tags: YA, French Revolution, grief, music, guitar, time travel, magical realism, historical fiction


Andi’s life is in tatters. Her younger brother’s dead, her father’s a jerk, her mother’s going insane, and she might flunk out of her private high school if she doesn’t do an absolutely incredible job with her senior research project. All she wants to do is play her guitar. But on a winter break trip to Paris with her father, she discovers the diary of Alexandrine, a girl who lived during the terrifying years of the French Revolution. Andi gets sucked—literally—into Alex’s plight, reading about the girl’s futile determination to save the young last king-child of France.


I savored this book. I purposely read only a bit of it each day so that I could make it last. Jennifer Donnelly had already captured my heart with her previous YA book, A Northern Light. REVOLUTION is in many ways very different, but it is still a powerful, engrossing, and incredibly well-researched read.

At first, Andi comes off as a self-absorbed, apathetic, and emo teenager. But the book quickly becomes so much more than a typically angsty YA novel. While Andi’s attitude may get tiring at times, it is very obvious that she has been through a lot, that she has deep emotional pain that has been building for years and years. Her pain, in fact, makes her beautiful, the way she pours her soul into her music. It is an incredible honor that we get to see Andi on her healing journey.

The research that Jennifer Donnelly pours into REVOLUTION is lovingly evident. From Andi’s classical guitar knowledge to the contents of Alex’s diary, everything is incredibly well-researched and inserted into the story so naturally it almost feels like Andi’s story exists outside of the novel format.

REVOLUTION is an absorbing, interesting, and heartbreaking accomplishment of a novel. It defies categorization and should appeal to a wide range of readers. I don’t care that it took Jennifer Donnelly many many years to come out with her second YA novel: it was well worth the wait, as her future books will no doubt also be.

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - Sighhh. What a simple concept, one that I might even say has been done before--and yet how exquisite. If you hold the finished copy, the ribbon is raised and the pages have a lovely texture.

Delacorte / Oct. 12, 2010 / Hardcover / 496pp. / $18.99

ARC picked up at BEA.


  1. I read this book a while back and LOVED it! Really AMAZING book!

    Great review! :)

  2. I just finished this book and I also loved it. I really appreciated the research that Donnelly did because it was so obvious that she had done a ton in order to do justice to the topic.

  3. I have a different cover to this, an English one (you can see it on my blog). I thought this story was beautiful and I wanted to savour it too. I ended up reading it in three days, compared to my average of one. :)

  4. I've heard really great things about this book. I can't wait to read it. I'm glad to hear it's well researched.

  5. Great review, Steph Su.

    From the cover I would have guessed that this was a historical YA but it doesn't sound like it is all that much focus on the historical aspect, or maybe I'm wrong? I'm a bit sceptical to the musical element but it sounds like it's working for this novel.

    Ladybug of Escape In A Book.

  6. I LOVE this book! I have it in my bag right now (at work) and passed it on to one of my students (I teach high school). I would have passed more on, but our library only has two copies so far. My book club is meeting to discuss it on Thursday, and I'm a bit sad that I'm flying through it to finish it, but I'm loving every minute of it. It's such a great book!

  7. I've had this book for two months, what is my deal! I need to get right on it now! Great review -- I love it when a book makes you slow down so that you can make it last longer!

  8. I am currently reading this and loving it so far!

  9. Ooh, this one sounds amazing! I'm ashamed to say I haven't read Jennifer Donnelly's first offering, either. Better get on that :)

  10. This one has been sitting on my shelf for awhile, I just haven't been sure if I wanted to read it. I'll be picking it up soon after this review though! Thanks for the review :)

  11. I've heard so many good things about Revolution and your glowing review makes me want to read it all the more! Plus, the cover really is just gorgeous.

  12. I read and reviewed this boo, too - loved it so much! You review is spot on! I love books like this with multiple layers.

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha


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