Tatiana's Reviews > Revolution

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
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Oct 27, 10

bookshelves: ya, historical, 2010, tres-annoying, ala-ya-2011
Recommended for: fans of extra-emo YA, music
Read from October 19 to 22, 2010

I thought Jennifer Donnelly's debut YA novel A Northern Light was remarkable and well deserving of Printz Honor. I don't think Revolution is worthy of winning any major awards no matter how earnestly it tries to be original and important and how heavily it is promoted as the next big thing. I am just not sold on its merits, even though I understand my personal dislike of certain things in literature might be interfering with my assessment of the novel.

I don't have any problems with Donnelly's writing. In fact, she is very skillful at juggling multiple story lines - two POV's, past and present, history of France, music, science. She weaves them together masterfully and joins them into an excellent epilogue. The protagonists' "voices" - our contemporary Andi's and 18th century Alexandrine's - are distinct and time-appropriate. The representation of the Revolution is balanced and well researched. And yet, the book was a chore to read.

First, the moment I opened the book, I was assaulted by preppy kids' snobbishness and drugs a la Gossip Girl, never ending references to bands I know nothing about and THE ANGST. Now, I don't have anything against books about grief and guilt, but I need not to be beat over the head with constant suicide attempts, pill-popping and general nasty behavior to understand someone's pain. In literature, in such cases, less is more IMO and here the angst thing is way overdone. So, strike one - unbearable main character - Andi. The other main character - Alexandrine - is hardly any better. She is not very realistic - first she is all driven by ambition at the ripe age of 11 (yeah, right), then she is remorseful and self-sacrificing. I say, give me a break.

Second, the book is just too long and boring. It really loses steam in the middle and it was work to get to the end. Some story threads and some angsty stuff should have been edited out to make this novel more readable.

And finally, the "twist." You'll know what I am talking when you get there. It is absolutely unnecessary and a cheap gimmick. Andi should have been able to overcome her demons without it, on the strength of Alexandrine's and her own experiences.

This is the second YA novel in recent months written by a talented author, with a great premise, but spoiled by poor plot choices (the first one is Extraordinary). It is frustrating. Don't they have any people advising them?

Frankly, I am disappointed in Donnelly. A Northern Light was such a clever novel about independence and freedom and message of Revolution is simply drowned in melodrama. I am not sure if I want to read the author's adult novels anymore if cheap melodrama is the actual genre of her choice.

P.S. Further research indeed indicated that Donnelly's adult books are historical soap operas a la Danielle Steel. Adieus, Ms. Donnelly!
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Reading Progress

10/19/2010 page 36
7.0% "Didn't expect it to be so contemporary and so angst-filled..." 4 comments
10/20/2010 page 142
30.0% "I am fairly positive, this book is not nearly as good as "A Northern Light"" 2 comments
10/21/2010 page 275
58.0% "Can't wait to be done with this book. Reading it is becoming a chore." 1 comment
10/22/2010 page 300
64.0% "Final stretch. Thankfully, the pace finally picked up"
10/22/2010 page 300
64.0% "Final stretch. Thankfully, the pace finally picked up"
10/22/2010 page 400
85.0% "Final stretch. Thankfully, the pace finally picked up"
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Comments (showing 1-24 of 24) (24 new)

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message 1: by Kelly (new)

Kelly The Tea Rose is extremely melodramatic IMHO.


Tatiana Thanks. It goes off my TBR then


Molly Magro I completely agree! So refreshing to find another person who feels the way I did about this one.


Mariel I knew all the bands and still found it on the side of name dropping.


Ralph I can't disagree with this review more. I loved A Northern Light, too, but Donnelly is exploring new territory with this book. She absolutely takes risks with structure and substance, and, yes, a reader who wants ANL II might be surprised (though I'd say that her literary lyricism is still very much in force -- if you like ANL for the beutiful writing, you'll find it again in Rev).

As for the liberties Donnelly takes with time in this book, don't you think that's she's making the point that time is irrelevant to this tale -- that Andi and Alex aren't two characters living two stories at all, but rather the same character in a story that's always happening ("the world goes on, stupid and brutal ...")?? I mean, their full names are an anagram (just one of many other clues) -- that didn't happen by accident.

Donnelly is inviting us to look a little deeper than what's written on the page. I think curious and adventurous readers are doing just that -- which is why there is such a buzz about the book.

To use an analogy Andi might have come up with: To some listeners, Radiohead has become weirder and more inaccessible as their music has evolved; to others, the band has become more complex and much more interesting (and important).

I'm so happy Donnelly hasn't rehashed ANL, but rather pushed herself (and brought me) into new -- and I think richer and more accomplished -- territory.


message 6: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Ralph, I think "curious and adventurous readers" can agree to disagree about a book. Sometimes a particular book just doesn't work for a particular reader, and it doesn't make that reader a bad reader, kwim?


Melissa Pilakowski This review nails it. Thanks, Tatiana.

I appreciate much of what Ralph is saying, but for me, Donnelly is just not as strong here as in Northern Light. Teenage angst is great, but it's not well done in places--Andi says lines about sadness and pain that don't ring true, even for one with high intelligence like Andi. The "twist" Tatiana speaks of is gimmicky. It immediately turned me off.


Milly Thanks for the enjoyable and informative review! I guess this can wait at the bottom of my TBR pile.


Erika I too think you nailed it. I wanted to stop reading because of all the ANGST in the beginning. I love teen fiction and am fine with some but this book was just overkill. I think for the most part she does a good job writing in the 2 time periods. Alex and And do have very distinct voices. However, I think she could have done a better job with the diary. The timeline was confusing and unclear at times.

That said, I love Donnelly's adult books.


Tatiana I agree, Erika, the diary part could have been a little clearer.


Bette I also agree with everything Tatiana says. I loved "A Northern Light," but this one really was work to get through. A friend who works at Random House sent me an advance reader's copy because she loved it so much. I dread telling her I thought it was okay at best. Bette


Tatiana Bette, I know plenty of people who loved this novel, but for me the main characters really became the biggest turn-off.


Misfit Kelly wrote: "The Tea Rose is extremely melodramatic IMHO."

Yes but I loved it and the Winter Rose and can't wait for The Wild Rose. Thanks for the very helpful review. I'm only halfway but I'm seeing a lot of the same things as you did. I do find the comments on the Amazon reviews by Avid Reader rather strong for a casual reader/fan. Hmmmm.


Tatiana I think this Avid Reader commented on my Amazon review as well. I don't think it's Donnelly herself, but definitely someone very much obsessed with this book.


Misfit Tatiana wrote: "I think this Avid Reader commented on my Amazon review as well. I don't think it's Donnelly herself, but definitely someone very much obsessed with this book."

Whoever it is they are definitely OTT about this book. Just wait, I'll be picking up a comment myself very soon unless things change dramatically.


Annalisa I concur that much of the middle needed to be edited down. Connelly did well in setting up the environment, but then she harps too much on it (the music, the angst, the history). I almost didn't finish the book.

I think the problem with Alex is that she isn't explored enough. She's trying to review too many years. Andi keeps talking about how important her journal is, but we don't get enough out of it to make it as vital as she says. I can see how Alex changed from the 11-year-old at the beginning of the novel, but I wish it were shown to us instead of summarized.

Andi exasperated me in the twist (probably more than the rest of the book), but I did like that we got to see the time period. And I like that Connelly didn't beat us over the head with whether it was real or not. I can see how you didn't like it, but where it finally gave me that resolution I'd been waiting for, I didn't mind it.


Tatiana Good point about Alex. Maybe day-to-day entries would have made Alex more relatable? Her voice was very distant.

I had to struggle to finish it as well. I think there were too many ideas crammed into this YA story. Something had to go.


Annalisa I think so, about the day-to-day entries. Alex shouldn't have tried to sum up the revolution to us. We should get that history from Andi. If Alex had reminisced about the fireworks or the day Versailles was invaded or the day she meet Louis-Charles while she's staring at the tower where he was held, it would have made her story come alive instead of reading like a textbook history.


Angie Tatiana I am STILL waiting for this book!


Tatiana Can't say you are missing out on much, Angie.


Annalisa Angie, I put it on hold in early January without realizing how much demand there was on it and didn't get it until halfway through February. I haven't gone and checked out the threads for Revolution. I should probably go do that now that I've finished.


Angie I agree Tatiana. This book wasn't great. It wasn't bad but not great. I don't know what it was missing. I think there should've been more in the 1800s. I am glad though it wasn't about vampires and werewolves.


Danielle My feelings exactly. There's a great 300-page book in here, if only the editor had helped find it.


Kirsten Excellent review. Perfectly sums up everything I thought about this book.


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