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BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

512 pages, Paperback

First published October 12, 2010

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About the author

Jennifer Donnelly

27 books7,445 followers
Jennifer Donnelly is the author of thirteen novels - Poisoned, Stepsister, Lost in a Book, These Shallow Graves, Sea Spell, Dark Tide, Rogue Wave, Deep Blue, Revolution, A Northern Light, The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose - and Humble Pie, a picture book for children. She is a co-author of Fatal Throne, which explores the lives of King Henry VIII's six wives, for which she wrote the part of Anna of Cleves, Henry's fourth wife.

She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.

Jennifer’s first novel, The Tea Rose, an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century, was called “exquisite” by Booklist, “so much fun” by the Washington Post, a “guilty pleasure” by People and was named a Top Pick by the Romantic Times. The Rose trilogy continued with The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose.

Her second novel, A Northern Light, set in the Adirondacks of 1906, against the backdrop of an infamous murder, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book. Described as “rich and true” by The New York Times, the book was named to the Best Book lists of The Times (London), The Irish Times, The Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and the School Library Journal. In 2015, TIME Magazine named it one of the 100 best young adult books of all time.

Revolution was named a Best Book by Amazon, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the Chicago Public Library, and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. The audio edition was awarded an Odyssey Honor for Excellence.

In 2014, Jennifer teamed up with Disney to launch the bestselling Waterfire Saga, an epic series about six mermaids on a quest to rid the world of an ancient evil. The first book in the series, Deep Blue, was released in May, 2014; the second, Rogue Wave, launched in January 2015; the third, Dark Tide, came out in October 2015; and the fourth, Sea Spell, is scheduled for release in June 2016.

In November 2015, Jennifer released the historical novel These Shallow Graves, which received starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Shelf Awareness, and was named a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Jennifer worked with Disney again in 2017, when she published Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, an original story to accompany the blockbuster Beauty and the Beast film. Lost in a Book expands on the classic tale, exploring the growing friendship between Belle and the Beast as well as Belle's ordeal within the pages of Nevermore, a magical book from which she narrowly escapes.

Jennifer returned to historical fiction with Fatal Throne, a book about Henry VIII and his six wives published by Random House/Schwartz & Wade in 2018. For this project, Jennifer joined six other authors (Candace Fleming, M.T. Anderson, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, and

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Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 65 books167k followers
September 11, 2013
Before I say anything else, let me get this out of the way: Jennifer Donnelly, don’t read this.

I know that she might be, because even though authors often say they do not read their reviews, I am an author and have secret knowledge of author-behavior and know that this means that they often do.

This is not a bad review, but I don’t want Jennifer Donnelly to read it because I want one day for us to sit together at a conference and be best friends and talk about dead people, prose, and minor chords. I don’t want anything to get in the way of that, much less something as untidy as her looking at me and thinking of this Goodreads review and hissing “I’ll show you ambitious, Stiefvater.”

So Ms. Donnelly (Jennifer, really, because in the future, we’re friends, or at least fond peers), please stop here.

All right, so I never understood by what reviewers meant by “ambitious.” I assumed it meant the reviewer was a condescending jerk. I hope that is not me. Because I’m going to say it. This is a big, sprawling, ambitious novel that has its eye on a lot of different things. Before I read it, people told me it was a fantasy, and an edgy contemporary about grief, and a historical romance. It is none of those things, but it is some of all of those things. It tells the story of Andi, a present day grieving Brooklyn teen, and it tells the story of Alex, a pyrotechnic teen living during the French revolution, and it also tells the story of a dead prince’s mummified heart, and it also tells the story of a French composer who seems to like both Beethoven and Radiohead, and the story of a rapping taxi driver with a heart of gold.

It’s this book’s ambition that keeps it from being absolutely perfect. It tries for all of those things, and some of those things it nails, and some of them made me make my mouth small. But it’s also its ambition that makes me okay with its imperfection. Because the reason why I have so many things to talk about and pick apart is because it gives me so many things to talk about and pick apart. It’s a glorious thing to pull back the layers. In many ways, I think it’s a great readalong with CODE NAME VERITY — another ambitious book with lots of layers to pick at.

What else do I want to say about this book? Because I want you to pick it up — I want everyone to. I want writers to, because I think it will make them better writers, and I want readers to, because I think it will make them better readers. I want everyone to, so I can have someone to talk about the cleverness of it, right down to the title. I want to talk about how wise it is when it comes to war.

I suppose I will say this, then: stick with it, in the beginning. Andi is in a terrible place, and she is not the easiest person to like. That’s the point. And I’ll say: ignore all the covers. They are all ridiculous and none of them is remotely interesting until after you’re read the book. What else? Probably ignore the cover copy too. It is not that it is a lie — it’s just that it’s untrue. It doesn’t reflect the reading experience at all.

Here, in fact. That’s a good way to end this thing, whatever it is, because it surely isn’t a review. I will finish with the cover copy I would write for this book instead:

Andi Alpers is a sad and terrible person after her younger brother dies. She goes to a snotty school that makes her sadder and more terrible. Her father, who is a geneticist, brings her to France to be sad and terrible there while he analyzes a crusty old French heart to see if it belongs to a sad and terrible French princeling. She finds a happy and glorious old guitar from the revolution, and a sad and terrible journal from selfsame time period, and also meets a happy and glorious rapping taxi driver with a heart of gold. There are kisses, decapitations, house parties where house = catacombs, and a lot of classical guitarists playing a lot of minor chords.

My work here is done. Jennifer Donnelly, are we friends yet?
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,386 reviews11.8k followers
October 27, 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!
Profile Image for Ralph.
6 reviews
November 3, 2010
This book is staggeringly good. It is literary and lyrical like "A Northern Light," but edgier. I think Donnelly takes more risks here: in characterization (Andi is a handful, to say the least), subject matter (the horrors of the French Revolution are at times excruciating to read) and structure (contemporary and historical plot lines are mashed together -- which, of course, is the point: the world goes on stupid and brutal, just like it always has).

What I'm most struck by is how nuanced and layered this book is. It is chock-full of weighty little references and associations and foreshadowings that -- at least for me -- don't always fully reveal themselves on the first read. Take Max R. Peters, the madman in Brooklyn raving about revolution. He's obviously Max Robespierre, which means ... well, let's see: The spoiled kids in Andi's school are the pre-Rev French aristocracy? (I think so.) Modern-day Bklyn is Revolutionary Paris? (Maybe.) Truman is Louis Charles? (Of course!)

And the Inferno parallels: The three sections of the book. The guide Virgil (driving a cab labeled "EPIC RIDE," naturally!). Alex's last name. The catacombs. Seeing the stars. I'm sure many more exist; I haven't found them yet.

And of course the anagram: Diandra Xenia Alpers = Alexandrine Paradis. They aren't two girls with striking similarities, they're the same character! Their story is one story and it exists throughout time and independent of time. Which, I think, is why Donnelly allows time to run in both directions in this book; it is irrelevant to the tale.

Donnelly cites James Joyce as her all-time favorite author. He was the master of these little loaded references (Ulysses overflows with them), and his influence on Donnelly can be felt in Revolution's little gems. (Hmm: he also took big literary risks ... created challenging characters ... and dispensed with the constraints of physical and temporal reality from time to time. But that's a subject for another essay!)

What a book. Five stars aren't enough.
Profile Image for Annalisa.
524 reviews1,343 followers
August 10, 2016
Beginning to end, I hated the main character. Hate is a strong word and I didn't feel that strongly about her, but I didn't sympathize with her one iota. I kept thinking of that saying "a lack of planning on your part doesn't make for an emergency on my part." With Andi it isn't so much a lack of planning as much as a lack of awareness of other people or the world around her or the consequences of her actions that got her into trouble and garnered no sympathy from me. I get that she's grieving over her brother's death, but that doesn't excuse her from abusing the rest of the world. And when she wasn't being obnoxiously self-centered, she was obnoxiously dense. There were several times where it was so obvious what was going on and it gets annoying when the main character doesn't follow. Since the book has a fantasy and/or hallucinogenic quality to it, I could give her a little leeway, but it got old.

I didn't quite believe her high school crowd either. I know it's private school and the best of the best, but it was over the top. Maybe I could believe the intellect of a Harvard graduate party, but not high school kids (especially when Andi is so dense later in the book). Gratefully, the books moves to Paris and I didn't have to invest too much in characters I didn't believe. I can't say the same about the music though. A little dropping of band or song names or lyrics to add some ambiance is good, but this gets over the top. It dragged down the story and made it a chore the read (that coupled with a protagonist I didn't care to follow).

So why did I keep reading? Besides Donnelly's writing, The French Revolution, baby. I read this at the same time I was listening to A Tale of Two Cities. Not that I needed any encouragement to want to learn more about the French Revolution, but Dicken's story certainly helped. Donnelly did her research and I enjoyed the facts she sprinkled throughout her novel (and am grateful that she actually did a ton of research for a historical novel).

At times I had a little trouble visualizing Alex's character. For the most part she was spot-on for her time in history (and I am so critical of historical settings), but occasionally she rang untrue. Maybe it was too many conflicting emotions or the snippets of time passing that had me working to follow her. Her diary waxed a little too poetic of a teenager starving through the massacres of Lady Guillotine. Okay, she had Shakespeare memorized and sometimes it's the harshest conditions that bring out the most beauty, but it was a tad over the top for me. What I wanted out of her journal was a connection to her plight, her angst at not being able to save Louis-Charles, not a detached history of how she was involved in the revolution.

The good news is that despite there being two different POVs that are both teenage girls, they feel and sound so differently that even if I weren't reading journal excerpts, I would have had no trouble distinguishing between them. I think Donnelly used present tense with Andi's story to differentiate them even more, but it was unnecessary and I wished she hadn't. I often found myself rewording sentences to past tense.

I also had a little trouble buying into the coincidence that Truman's key would unlock this mystery for Andi. Donnelly saves it from being too contrived with an off-handed comment that the key could have been a standardized key like so many of it's age, but it was a little too convenient. Or is it supposed to destiny? Some twist of fate that tied Andi to Alex and Truman to Louis-Charles?

I liked that the twist that this all builds up to (I expected it early on in the novel) isn't answered black and white but left for interpretation. There is enough about it that bothers me that its open-endedness saves me from having to overanalyze its flaws. It didn't go quite the way I was expecting, but I enjoyed how it tied everything together and how real it made the French Revolution, both for Andi and me. And in the end, I loved the lesson Andi got out of it. It's what saved the book for me. Up until that point, I could have gone either way with Andi's story.

"Oh, dead man, you're dead wrong," I tell him. "The world goes on stupid and brutal, but I do not. Can't you see? I do not."
334 reviews174 followers
September 12, 2011
EDIT ON 9/13: Gahhhh, I want to read this book ALL OVER AGAINNNN.

Original Review:

When I found out about Revolution, I positively went mental with excitement. Jennifer Donnelly had me utterly in love with her writing and characters in A Northern Light(ALL OF YOU NEED TO READ THAT BOOK! IT'S AMAZING! Ahem), and Revolution sounded absolutely amazing. It didn’t hurt that it snagged glowing review after glowing review, which only whet my wanting for it.

And then...when I finally was able to attain it, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get into the story almost after halfway. But then again, it's such a grief-heavy book, see the gist of the beginning--

Andi’s lil’ bro Truman died two years ago, and she’s been drifting along through her life ever since, leaning on her music as her pillar of support. Her dad, a Nobel-prize-winning scientist, had been absent from home before, but hasn’t been home now for four months. Her mother barely speaks anymore, just paints portrait after portrait of her dead son.

Andi’s despair was done pretty well, actually, and I did get her pain, but the beginning was just so…bleak and hopeless, really, that I felt really, really deflated. I mean, I have this sort of mad-author-crush on Ms. Donnelly, and I was expecting too much out of the book from the get-go, I suppose. But still, Andi’s cynicism and bland outlook at life was fairly compelling, as you can see from these quotes:

"I don’t like hope very much. In fact, I hate it. It’s the crystal meth of emotions. It hooks you fast and kills you hard. It’s bad news. The worst. It’s sharp sticks and cherry bombs. When hope shows up, it’s only a matter of time until someone gets hurt."


"I’m super quiet as I head into the bathroom. I don’t want to wake my father up. I can just imagine that conversation.

Hi, Dad! Four-thirty? Is it really? Well, what do you know. What am I doing? I’m going out. With who? Oh, you don’t know him. I just met him myself. Where are we going? Good question! I have no idea."

But then the story picked up, when Andi’s dad forces her along to Paris so she can complete her senior year thesis. Meanwhile, he, a DNA-specializing dude, is conducting an experiment to find out whether this heart--a real, actual heart--that's been preserved for so long belongs to Louis Charles, the son of the slain King Louis XVI.

Somehow, Andi stumbles upon the diary of Alexandrine, a young woman living during the French Revolution who has a personal connection with Louis Charles (she's sort of like his nanny). I can’t really say the diary entries had me entranced much—at least not during the beginning parts. I was actually so confused I almost gave up on the book, since I couldn’t quite comprehend for a while that the events in it were not in chronological order. (I know, I know, I’m exceedingly dim sometimes.) But once I got that, it was pretty smooth from there. I didn’t really feel like I knew Alexandrine or her family all that well, though. And I was pretty irked by how there were no quotation marks for the dialogue in the diary entries! It wasn’t THAT jarring or confusing, but, well, a bit inconvenient, I suppose. In the same way, I didnt really feel as if I got a sense of who Andi was before the tragedy. I was told she was a straight-A getter, but I'd liked to have it shown a bit.

Anyway, before I go into my thoughts on the French Revolution, I think I’m going to have to mention Virgil, Andi’s dread-locked love interest. Normally dreadlocks are a total no-no in my guy-guide, but hell, this dude pulled them off like nobody’s business. He was hot. And fun. And cool. And sympathetic. And a great kisser. And basically all-round awesome. He is now officially on my All-Time Fave Hotties. Hell yeah. I mean, sure, some of his raps were a bit lame and all, but there’s so much music in him. Like, take this scene, for example:

"He starts rhyming. He’s got one song about Africa. And one about New York. One about cabdrivers. His best friend, Jules. And his neighborhood. He’s got one about Paris, his city, the city of his dreams. He raps about driving around it all night long; and al the night people he meets; and then stopping at Sacré-Coeur, high above the city, to watch the sun come up. I hear him in his songs. His dreams and his fears. His braggedy-ass rapper’s shtick. His kindness and his anger. I hear his soul in his songs, and I could listen to the sound of it all night."

His and Andi’s banter was adorable. See:

"(Andi): “…Are you going to tell me where we’re going?”

(Virgil): “Sure.”


“We’re going to the most beautiful place in Paris,” he says.

“Cool,” I say. “I love that place.”

He laughs and I decide to stop asking."

I still understood though, why Andi chose to push him away. This excerpt shall speak for itself, methinks:

"My phone rings. I pull it out of my pocket and look at the number. It’s Virgil. I put it back. He returned my iPod. I don’t need anything else from him. Boys let you down, but music never does.

I take a deep breath, and try once more to play the passacaille without mangling it. One note, just one note. That’s all I need. But it’s hard tonight. So hard that I stop playing. And look up at the sky instead. It’s black. No moon. No stars.

Hello, darkness, my old friend."

Also, the twist in the end…I didn’t really see it coming, although I’d read reviews where the reviewers expressed their dislike of it. My personal opinion on it is…well, I actually liked reading it. I understand that it was a bit…far-fetched, obviously, but I guess it was the only way to make Andi realize the importance of Alexandrine’s sacrifice for her beloved brother-like Louis Charles.

And now for the French Revolution. Man oh man, I was NOT expecting the book to be that gruesome. I mean, well, duh, we all know how horrible the FR was, but still. Pretty much the whole book takes place in Paris, and the contemporary version wasn’t really described much, to be honest. But even in the sparse insights we do get, we get to see its darker side. And after reading Anna and the French Kiss, which was as pro-Paris as a book could get, I wasn’t really prepared for such brutality. Especially not the brtuality in the older-days. I’m pretty sure I’ll be having major guillotine-related dreams for a while. I’m actually amazed and utterly disgusted at how terrifying and inhumane the world can be at times. How extreme coldness and starvation and abject life conditions can drive people to such desperate measures.

Seriously. Here’s an excerpt from Alexandrine’s diary that absolutely Tore. Me. Apart:

"They dragged him away. He was only eight years old.

I was in a hallway when they took him. Near the room where the family dined. I had just come up from the kitchens with their dinner. The guards knocked me aside as they tore him from his mother. I fell. Food went everywhere. Dishes shattered. The tray clanged against the stone floor.

I remember little of that, however. What I remember is Louis-Charles’ face. His eyes were red with weeping. He looked back for his mother but could not find her. He saw me instead and reached for me, and I reached for him. For a second we clasped hands. There was terror in his eyes, and sorrow and innocence and something else—something I wish to God I had not seen, for it has doomed me.

It haunts me always, that instant. It tortures me. I wish I could go back and undo it. All of it. From the very beginning. I wish my family had never gone to Versailles. I wish the king’s carriage had never stopped in the town square. I wish I’d never heard that little boy’s laughter. I am not afraid of beatings or blood anymore.

I’m not afraid of guards or guillotines.

There is only one thing I fear now—love.

For I have seen it and I have felt it and I know that it is love, not death, that undoes us."

But at the end of the day, as Andi and Alexandrine put it so well…

"It goes on, this world, stupid and brutal.

But I do not.

I do not."

I am blown away by this book. I don't even know what to rate it with. I mean, this author put so much research (all that history! all that musical info!) and time into this book it couldn't be more evident. It's so, so different from her book A Northern Light, that I couldn't believe the same author had written it.

I just really think Revolution should be a requirement for every living being to read. I hope you'll agree once you read it, too.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,083 reviews17.3k followers
September 13, 2017
This book is undoubtedly one of the most creative I have ever read. Revolution is a genre-bending masterpiece with two likable heroines and a twisting plot that never stops moving.

By genre-bending, I truly mean genre-bending. This book is one part contemporary, one part suspense, one part speculative fiction, one part scifi, and one part historical fiction. It doesn't matter what genre it is - it matters just how great the blend is. The plot is fascinating, with twists and turns and story threads that are only pulled together towards the end. In the end, however, perhaps I'd class this as a contemporary, because the focus here is on character development.

There are two heroines here, present-day Andi and 1700s teenager Alexandrine. These characters are both so developed and interesting in their own ways. Alexandrine is ambitious and driven; she goes out for what she wants, even if she has to break a few necks along the way. Andi is incredibly angsty for a good deal of the book, yet her arc is so well thought out that it's hard not to empathize with her and love her. Andi has severe depression, which she combats through her music. That aspect was great.

I did take issue with the slight anti-medication tilt this book took; with the severity of Andi's depression, medication shouldn't be shameful. However, I loved that she's never really "cured." The narrative around her depression doesn't end in it being fixed, or in her being better suddenly.

It's quite hard to explain exactly what about this book is so brilliant. I suppose it's best summed up in that I have never read anything like this before, and I doubt I ever will again. Highly recommended.

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Profile Image for Heather.
284 reviews13.9k followers
November 11, 2015
How does one pen a review for such an exquisitely layered work of art? Revolution reads like sadness feels. It’s throbbing, aching, raw, desolate and poignant. In short, it’s lovely and extraordinary in scope.

Revolution is a juxtaposition between two 17 year old girls set worlds and over two centuries apart. Nevertheless, these girls are bound by their love of music and a tangible guilt they both feel as a result of their own perceived selfishness. Andi and Alex each provide an astonishing portrayal of a haunted soul struggling for redemption.

Andi lives in present day Brooklyn. When her grief for her deceased brother, Truman, isn’t coercing her to numb herself with anti-depressants, Andi struggles to keep her head above ground and her suicidal thoughts at bay. If it weren’t for her guitar, Andi feels as though she would cease to exist. When news that she is failing school reaches her noble prize winning father, he whisks her away to Paris. He hopes the time away will provide Andi with a revived sense of direction. If nothing else, he will be able to keep a watchful eye on her to ensure she completes her senior thesis. It is in Paris that Andi discovers an antique guitar case, complete with a secret compartment containing the long lost diary of a girl who calls herself Alex.

Alex lives in Revolutionary France. As the daughter of a poor, unknown playwright, Alex must earn her way by reciting Shakespeare, Virgil and the lot. A simple twist in fate secures Alex the position of caregiver to the dauphine, Louis-Charles. However, the country is in an increasing state of unrest, and Louis-Charles is the very representation of power and oppression. Struggling with her own desires and the ever increasing love she feels for the dauphine, Alex will have to make a choice that helps change the course of history.

Andi blew me away with her unapologetic tale of self-destruction. Her loss touched my heart, and her love of music was palpable to the point of becoming its own character. All the same, it was Alex’s story of betrayal and redemption that kept me turning the pages. Each of these girl’s lives are filled with loss. They have been exposed to the volatile and often brutal side of human nature, and yet each continues on without knowing what they move toward. Revolutionis vibrant and surprisingly candid. Filled with dozens of tiny little nuances, it dazzles the mind with its vivid and seamless depiction of a disheartened modern day girl who collides with the all too distant past. There is undeniable beauty in the gutter, as Donnelly shows us all to well. Meticulously researched and thoughtfully penned, Donnelly proves herself to be a truly gifted writer. All in all, this was a wonderful book to get lost in.
Profile Image for Ashley.
1,602 reviews140 followers
December 10, 2010
Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly is a vivid and captivating book filled with feeling. If you haven't yet read anything by Donnelly, I seriously think you are missing out, and I strongly recommend you fix that. Now.

Revolution is the story of Andi, an intelligent, talented girl who should have her whole future ahead of her. She's always been smart, has done well in school and is a gifted musician- able to play guitar and write her own music. But, her younger brother died in an accident about a year ago and Andi blames herself. Overwhelmed by grief and guilt, Andi loses focus on everything but her music. Her mom is immobilized by grief, scarcely able to function, and her dad, who has never been around much, retreats even further.

When her father forces her to accompany him to Paris, as a way to rescue her slipping grades, Andi is angry and can think of nothing more than getting back to New York. But then she discovers a journal, hidden in a guitar case that might date back to the French Revolution, and her world changes.

I was blown away by this book. The writing is intense and powerful, and Andi's pain practically screamed from the pages. Her depression and detachment from life was so real, and so perfectly portrayed that I found myself experiencing everything right along with her. But even more than just experiencing it with her, Andi was so well written, and so real a character to me that I found myself knowing how Andi would feel or react to a situation as it happened, before we, as readers, were given her reaction. I knew her. I don't think I've ever felt such a strong connection to a character before, but it was thrilling.

The only thing that really reaches Andi is her music and this is where she goes when life becomes too much for her, often playing her guitar until her fingers bleed. She is constantly listening to music, both classical and contemporary and she lets that heal the outward hurt. Nothing can touch that empty place inside her, but she seems content to let that fester, although that 'contentment' might be more a side effect of the anti-depressants she eats like candy than anything real on her part.

It was powerful watching Andi struggle between life and death, both metaphorically and realistically. There is more than one aborted suicide attempt, and they start right at the beginning of the story. She isn't sure if she wants to die, but she also isn't sure she wants to continue living.

Her experiences in Paris help to open her eyes to life, and help her to understand that although her grief will always be a part of her, it does not have to completely define her. Both the journal she discovers of a young girl living through the French Revolution, and Virgil, a boy she met while joining a local band for a few songs help to bring Andi back from the depression she's been drowning in.

I liked the sections with the journal. It was well written and engaging, but Alexandrine was never a real person for me the way she was for Andi, and the way Andi was for me. I don't mean to be derogatory toward them at all, because they are an essential part of the story, and still beautifully written. But, they were always sections of a journal, fascinating, but removed from me. I doubt I would have paid as much attention to this if my connection to Andi hadn't been so strong.

Virgil was wonderful. Although he doesn't have a lot of actual face time throughout the story, he is in no way a minor character, but neither is he the focus of the story, which was nice. (I'm a little bored with the books right now that seem to be all about the romance, even when other points should be more important. Virgil was great and I enjoyed watching their relationship develop. It was pretty realistic. They met, and are attracted to each other. Andi does think about him a lot over the next few days, but isn't obsessed, and doesn't believe herself to be in love. He's just on her mind, because it's a new-almost relationship.

This book was almost perfect. The only reason I'm not calling this book Basically Amazing is because of climax. It's the part of the summary that reads, "on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present."
Take from that what you will/what you can. I won't spoil it for you. I had my thoughts on what that might mean when I picked up the book, and was a little disappointed to realize which of my theories was correct. It didn't work quite as well for me as the rest of the story.

However, Andi is one of the strongest characters I've ever come across, and this is most definitely a book I'm going to have on my 'keep forever' shelf. It deserves to be read again and again, because I imagine there will be new things waiting for me every time.
Profile Image for Ashley.
1,058 reviews13 followers
February 8, 2013
Ugh, this book. Such a cool premise, such terrible execution. The main character was a raging bitch. A summary of this girl and her characteristics: whine whine whine, angst, whine, NO ONE UNDERSTAAAANDS MEEE!!1!, hipster music tastes, poor me I'm rich, my dad doesn't UNDERSTAND ME!!, I have a genius level IQ and go to a prestigious private school and have opportunities that most people would rip their fingernails off for and BOY DOES IT SUCK, "I almost killed myself because I couldn't cope with my sadness" - ACTUAL QUOTE. Jesus Christ the girl was a bitch. Her brother died because she took off to get high with a guy she liked. Really. And now she blames herself for his death, as well she should, but it still does not take away from the fact that this girl is still a raging bitch with super first world problems. Her mother has to be committed to an institution because she cannot cope with the grief of losing a child - and yet her daughter, our wonderful protagonist, is contemplating killing herself. Gee, girl who claims to love her mother, ever consider what that would do to your mother? Her "emotionally distant" father, who has left her family (don't blame him, I'd leave them, too), returns and whisks our main character off to Paris, which, of course, she hates. How dare her rich father take her on vacation to Paris? How dare he demand she do her schoolwork and try to accomplish something with all the opportunities that were handed to her? (Opportunities that the evil poors don't deserve.)

There was a lot of demonizing of the poor in this book - especially in the sections about the Revolution. Yes, Andi understands the paaaaaaain of those poor rich douchebags who got themselves guillotined because they were too stupid to realize that their unsustainable world was crumbling before their eyes. The author makes it worse by having Andi, the protagonist, slum with a group of poors in Paris, one of whom, a genius rapper (yes, he's such a genius that we're forced to read pages of his eye-roll inducing lyrics), turns out to be her love interest. They have zero chemistry, and Virgil, the rapper, has zero personality. He's into our main character. He drives a taxi. He's from a bad (read: poor) neighborhood. That's pretty much it. He does nothing but exist to be kind to our narrator, who spends all of her time being a raging bitch. Who travels through time, apparently, which literally comes out of nowhere 400+ pages in.

The only interesting character was Alexandrine, who is from the past. You don't meet her until 100+ pages in, and she's only there for less than 50 pages altogether. But even she goes into "raging entitled bitch" territory eventually.

This book was just...not good. I will give the author another chance with the book "A Northern Light" which is supposed to be better. I hope.
Profile Image for Lyndz.
108 reviews345 followers
March 18, 2012
This is a hard one to review. There were parts of Revolution that I liked and there were parts I had a hard time looking past. I was hoping it would end better so I could sneak out a higher rating, but it didn’t.

First off, let’s start on the positive side; Jennifer Donnelley’s writing style was enjoyable to read. I liked her ability to take 2 different stories, -one from present day and one from the 18th century French revolution- and blend them together seamlessly and keep the flow and the interest going. I liked the musical aspect of the book; I liked the references to lots of different styles of music and bands/composers. I am going to have Norwegian Wood stuck in my head at least for another week. – I am not sure how I feel about that.

I really like historical fiction, and so I thought that element would really make this story unique and fun. But, I had a hard time considering this truly even a marginally historical novel when 2 of the 3 major historical characters in the book were completely fictional; Alexandrine Paradis and Amadé Malherbeau.

I could not get past the fact that Andi; the female protagonist in the modern-day story, came off as self-centered, whiny, and just plain bitchy. I didn’t like her at all and I had a hard time relating to her.

There is this really bizarre plot twist at the end that left me more irritated than anything else. I didn’t see the point and it really ruined the whole 18th century atmosphere that had been so carefully created.

In the end, I cannot bring myself to give this more than 3 stars. Too bad too, because I thought it had potential.
Profile Image for Vee_Bookish.
1,275 reviews280 followers
September 11, 2020
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📗 This book is incredible, the writing is lyrical and it's one of the best examples of how the trope of someone reading a diary from years ago can truly work. Andi and Alex are both powerful characters and I enjoyed every moment I got with them - which is likely why I hated the ending so much.

📕 The ending... over three quarters of the way through the book the story takes a turn for the bizarre after a trip to the catacombs leaves Andi in a very different Paris, abandoning a major plot and one of it's characters for another that has been in the background for rest of the book. After loving the rest of the book as much as I did, this was extremely disappointing.
Profile Image for Janina.
214 reviews526 followers
May 27, 2011
This is actually a very hard review for me to write. Or, more precisely – it is actually very hard for me to make up my mind about this book.

What I loved:
- The French Revolution not as a political event that shaped nations and changed history, but as an event that shaped people, affected them personally and changed their lives. The French Revolution looked at from a different side, from the perspective of someone who was close to the king – loyal, but not for political reasons. Alexandrines story was captivating and achingly sad – a bittersweet ‘love story’ in a way, but without the happy ending. Together with Andi, I desperately hoped that there would be some kind of solution, but sadly, what’s in the past can’t be changed now.
If you like personal accounts of historic events, this should be for you! I am not a historic fiction fan myself, but this story was just great. It has definitely made me interested in reading more about this revolution that has had such a great effect on our world as a whole, but especially on the people of France.

- Andi’s love of music and the important role it played in her life – not being able to play an instrument or hear music the way she does, it was great to discover and feel her dedication and admiration through Donnelly’s words.

- Virgil. Sigh. Definitely a contender for my fictional crushes list ;).

- The way things turned out at the end. Not perfect, not happily-ever-after happy, but just right.

- Paris. The atmosphere Donnelly created just felt so similar to my personal experience and if Rémy’s actually existed, I would love to spend some time there. The parts that played in the Paris of the late 1700s had a very real feel to them as well. I could sense the desperation and the hope the people felt. I could imagine the dirty streets and the bloody raids. I could see the splendour and gold of the royal palaces on one side, and the misery and hunger the common people lived in on the other. It almost was as if I was there myself, and I think that’s the greatest compliment you can give in cases such as this!

What I found weird and/or annoying:
- Andi moping around the whole time at the beginning. I mean, I got it, she was hurt and she felt guilty. She didn’t want to live anymore. But she was extremely whiny and made sure everyone noticed how much she suffered in this I-don’t-care-about-you-don’t-you-dare-care-about-me way that annoyed me to no end. This got a lot better as the story progressed, but the first couple of chapters, she was actually very hard to take.

I am finding it hard to make up my mind if I should let those 50 pages around the end destroy the great experience reading this book was for me. On a total account, I have to say that the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. Despite its size, I finished the book rather quickly. When I put it down, I was always looking forward to picking it up again (with the exception of the before mentioned chapters at the end). I would recommend it for history fans and history sceptics (like me) alike. And I’ll definitely be reading more by Donnelly. All in all, I would say I loved the book. Still, some of the stuff that happened towards the end leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
Profile Image for Morgan F.
512 reviews465 followers
December 13, 2010
Andi Alpers, a troubled Brooklyn teen, is always one step away from the edge. The only thing keeping her going over is her love of music, but even that doesn't seem enough at times. Two years ago her younger brother, the glue keeping her family together, died. Now her mother, a talented French painter, is suffering from a psychotic break down, and her father, a workaholic scientist, refuses to acknowledge his old family while he lives a new life. Andi is content with flunking out of her prestigious liberal high school, but her father, in a rare burst of parental concern, forces her to come with him to Paris so she can focus on working on a project that might save her grade. Her father is called to Paris because a colleague of his, a famous historian, needs his help in identifying a shriveled up heart encased in crystal that might just belong to the young Louis XVII, the son of King Louis XVI, who was guillotined in the French Revolution. While shifting through some artifacts, Andi discovers the long-hidden journal of Alexandrine, an aspiring actress and companion to young Louis, who is struggling to save herself and her charge. Whilst reading this diary, the fates of the two young women are woven together, and Andi will come to discover that internal revolutions are just as affecting as external ones.

I loved this book. It was lovely. The writing was beautiful, lyrical, and intricate. Andi was intriguing and relatable. Sometimes her constant negative attitude, especially towards the beginning, could become bothersome, but she was extremely interesting. Her sarcastic comments were often funny, and she had a lot going on underneath the surface. Her feelings, as well as her love for music, seemed to transcend the page. I loved Alexandrine too. Although she was in the book less than Andi, her role in it was just as vital. One thing I loved about this story was how everything connected. I could mentally see the puzzle pieces coming together, and it was a thrill to watch everything unfold. Also, I learned a buttload about the French Revolution, but it never seemed like I was reading a text book. I can tell Ms. Donnelly did her research, and it was very in-depth and well-done.

The only thing I did not like were the hints of the supernatural. To explain myself without giving away to much of the plot, I will say that this book is a lot like the movie Happy Feet. I do not mean to allude that there were dancing penguins in the streets of Paris. But, you know how towards the end of the movie, the plot does a complete 360, and the film is no longer about cute tap-dancing birds, but rather some heavy-handed environmental message? This book is kind of like that. Towards the end, it took a really sharp turn, and I'm not sure whether what happened was real or not. I mean, I guess it worked, but it shook me out of the story for a little bit. That's what kept me from giving this novel 5 stars.

Anyway, I recommend this book. I recommend it to fans of A Northern Light. I recommend it to fans of historical-fiction. I recommend it to those interested in a more personal look at the French Revolution. I recommend it to music lovers. And I recommend it for anyone looking for a satisfying, thought-provoking read.

An awesome read that will stay with me. I have a feeling it will help me when my history class studies the French Revolution next month.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,748 reviews1,214 followers
January 24, 2011
Wow! This story, two intertwining stories actually, was very effective storytelling. It was a fabulous way to tell a historical fiction story.

It’s about two young women in their late teens, Andi who’s living in the 21st century and Alex who’s living in the 18th century, during the time of the French Revolution. We learn about Alex as Andi is reading her diary.

Does every main character in young adult books have to be extraordinary to be interesting to the reader?! When I first started this, that was my gripe. But, I like that Andi, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, has a genius level IQ, is an accomplished musician, speaks French fluently, is well educated, and independent and resolute, knowing her own mind, is willing to work hard, and is also seriously depressed and grieving. I’m assuming her psychotropic medication was helping her depression enough so she could function as well as she did.

Alex’s story is also fascinating. Through it I learned quite a bit about the French Revolution. (I am not as well educated as Andi, it seems.) Though fictionalized, of course, I got a wonderful and slightly different perspective on Marie Antoinette. When I was back in the 18th century, everything was just as vivid as in the other story/today’s world. Anybody who has any fascination with guillotining will get their fill here; those descriptions were quite vivid.

The stories are psychologically sophisticated about depression, human relationships, and human nature too.

I did guess the “mystery” that’s a part of this book, and fairly early on, but that did not at all detract from my enjoyment of the book. The entire story was gripping; as I read on & on, it got harder & harder to put down the book.

In addition to Andi and Alex, music (and a variety at that!) is another main character that shines in this book. I love how the author was able to incorporate music (musicians, instruments, specific pieces and songs, and music’s importance) throughout the entire book. She did it brilliantly. There were also at least a dozen other characters that were wonderfully presented.

I cared about Andi and Alex and most of the other characters too. I got very invested in them. At one of the saddest moments, capable of sending the reader (along with the main character) into utter despair, I got one of the biggest laughs from the book; that was an amazing feat. It did not at all feel manipulative, but rather true to life.

At first I wasn’t so sure I liked a long portion toward the end, but I ended up loving it. While open to interpretation, I enjoyed my take on it and I think it’s the one that’s meant to be taken; I’m happy with how I understand that part of the plot. For some time I was afraid this would totally disintegrate into a pedestrian teenage love story, but I was pleasantly surprised.

There are quite a few notable quotes in this book. I added at least one to my quotes and could have added several. There is (for me) a powerful message about how healing oneself can often best be accomplished by being there for and helping someone else.

The notes on sources and bibliography at the end of the book are sufficiently extensive that it’s obvious how much research went into writing this book, as much as for many non-fiction books. It showed!

4 ½ stars

Edited to add: This author is able to describe and write about depression remarkably well!
Profile Image for Aoibhínn.
158 reviews208 followers
April 8, 2013
Andi is broken. She is failing school and failing 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.

After reading The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly and absolutely loving it, I decided to read another one of her books. I had high expectations with this book. I thought the synopsis on the back of this novel sounded interesting but as soon as I was introduced to suicidal Andi and her obnoxious drug addicted friends I knew I was in for a long read! Around page 60 or so the novel moved to Paris. I thought things would pick up then but I was wrong. There was just another hundred pages of Andi moaning about how her life was so unfair. Sigh. Then we got to Alexandrine's diary entries. These were interesting at first but soon they became tedious and annoying. Alexandrine's narrative sounded far too modern for someone who lived during the 1790's should have sounded. Alexandrine and the other 18th Century characters dialogue just sounded so forced and wrong and the diary entries were so boring! At times during the diary entries it felt like I was reading a history text book rather than a fiction novel. The last 100 pages of this novel were completely absurd and far-fetched. The time travelling twist in the plot was very confusing and irritating. Was it all in Andi's head due to the amount of drugs she's been taking? Or is this a time-travel novel? I had no idea! It was such an abrupt and strange shift in the plot. I honestly think the author must have been high on drugs herself when she wrote this part of the book.

The novel was very depressing and it wasn't particularly well-written either. I didn't enjoy it at all. Finishing this novel was torturous. The only reason I finished this novel was for a couple of reading challenges I'm doing. If not for that I would have threw the book away. The only good thing I can say about it is that it was well-researched. The author obviously spent a lot of time researching Music and the French Revolution.

None of the characters in this book were very well developed. The main character of Andi was so extremely unlikeable that I didn't care whether she lived or died. I prefer strong female characters in the novels I read. Andi was just far too weak and whiny. She was just a nasty, selfish, stupid, anti-social, spoiled bitch. The supporting characters weren’t much better either. I really didn't like any of them. They were all one dimensional and flat.

In the acknowledgments at the end of the book the author thanks her mother for stopping her from throwing the first draft of this novel into a lake. I think that was bad parenting! I don't know how this awful book managed to get passed the editing stage and get published at all. It really is truly terrible. Don't bother reading it. You'll only regret it.

One Star!

NOTE: This is a YA novel but I’d worry about teenagers reading this novel with the main character Andi popping pills like they were M&M’s and the author almost makes suicide sound romantic in this book.
Profile Image for Misha.
369 reviews669 followers
May 30, 2021
This is the sort of book that makes me go "WOW!" In fact Revolution is one of the 2 books this year, that left me speechless.

Being a book lover , I have liked some books, loved some of them. Every now and then comes along a book that makes me realize why I love reading so much. Revolution , for me , is that sort of a book.

Revolution is about two young girls, living two centuries apart - Andi and Alexandrine.Andi is a high school senior at a super exclusive school. On the surface she has a perfect life - money, world-famous father, life of comfort and wealth. But the reality is different. She is still tortured by the guilt of having been responsible for her brother's death.

Alexandrine, on the other hand, is living in the time of the French Revolution, one of the bloodiest , most violent times in French history. She is a spy and living on the tenterhook of danger.

When Andi discovers Alexandrine's diary, it starts a journey to self-revelation.
It doesn't take long to realize that the "revolution" described is not the French revolution , despite it playing a major role in the story. The revolution is about changing oneself, its about self-discovery (see the quote below).

Andi's only comfort is music. Its through the music that she discovers the diary. And thus starts the "revolution , as two lost young girls , living two hundred years apart connect through music and the words in the diary.

The description of music, its beauty and the effect it has on Andi is breathtaking. I like music but have never been so passionate about it. But while reading this book, I could almost feel the emotional and spiritual connection that Andi had with music.

The writing is absolutely beautiful. It made the story, the characters , the setting come alive.When a book has paragraphs and more paragraphs, lines and more lines, that I can read and re-read and even remember , that's when I know that the book is going to stay with me. And believe me, Donnelly's writing guarantees that you will go back and re-read some lines again and again. Yet everytime you read it, they will still touch you and move you the same way.

I felt so deeply for both the characters. I got so deeply involved - I could feel their fear, hurt , pain.
I was blown away by the details and description of the French Revolution. Jennifer Donnelly truly makes history come alive with powerful words that makes the reader feel the horror, see the violence unfolding in front of their eyes. I can imagine the amount of research and work that must have gone into not only the details of the French Revolution , but also the music.

One of the most powerful points that this book makes is that its never too late to discover oneself, its never too late for anything, no matter how much life lets you down.

Revolution is incredibly sad and yet incredibly beautiful. Despite the grim atmosphere throughout the book, there is also hope and optimism -there is always a ray of sunshine at the end of the storm.

I had a major test the next day and I am usually obsessively cautious about avoiding the last minute panic. But while I read this book, I actually forgot about the test and yet didn't regret it a bit.

There are not enough words to describe this book. Just read it and find it out yourself.
Revolution is an unforgettable book totally worth your time.

Favorite Quote:
"Life’s all about the revolution, isn’t it? The one inside, I mean. You can’t change history. You can’t change the world. All you can ever change is yourself."

Revolution is an exquisitely written book that is worth reading and remembering.

Yes! To every person , no matter genre you read.

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December 23, 2021
I cried. not physically but mentally since I. AM. NOT. SOFT. This book destroyed me. This review might be the worst review I've ever written because I don't know what the fork to think. This is an all-time-favorite. I get that Andi can be a frustrating character but I just love her so much. Throughout the book, I just wanted to give Andi a hug (I hate hugs so idk how and why I felt this). She didn't deserve what happened to her and I felt so bad for her. When Jennifer Donnelly added Alex into the plot, the book became 10x better! I recommend this to anyone and everyone but please look into the trigger warning before reading!
Profile Image for Parvathy.
202 reviews46 followers
August 5, 2012
4.5 stars

Someone once told me that people tend to like tragedy more than happily ever after stories because it is more realistic. That got me thinking Was it true? Are we really satisfied when a book or a story ends in tragedy? When the guy doesn't get the girl or when things end in the worst possible way. Think about Shakespeare. He is more famous for his classics like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear than his As you like it, All is well that ends well and many of his other plays were the good defeats evil and the characters have a happy ending. When a book is happy it will not stay with you and torture you for the rest of your life. It gives you fleeting moments of happiness and just fades away into some dark recess of your mind. Tragedy makes you think about what could have gone differently? Tragedy makes you hope, believe that things could have gone differently only if ......

So it would come as no surprise that this book which is centred around a very disturbed young women set in a very tragic time in history aka the French revolution managed to impress me. View point is a very curious thing. When you are a lowly clergy you look upon the nobility with their vainness and vanity, as the most despicable, heartless and cruel human beings that has ever walked this earth. Those who dab themselves in perfume and eat out of a silver platter while your family has barely enough to survive, no one could blame them if you decide to rise up. When you are royalty on the other hand, born and raised like one is it surprising that your viewpoint cannot go beyond the four walls that surround you. Are you to be blamed for the way you were raised and for getting the things others don't get. In this book you have a character who is on the verge of ending her life because of a tragedy she could not prevent. She blames herself on the basis of all the "if only's" that she can think of and wish for a different outcome every day. This very same young woman discovers a diary left behind by a girl roughly her same age who lived and died in the year 1795 in the middle of the French revolution which contains details of her acts of defiance for one small child, she loved more than anything whom revolution marked as a pariah and condemned to a tragic death. The child is non other than the Lost King of France Louie X VII and the diary gives an insiders account of the French Revolution from the point of view of the King and his family. See them not as the monarchs that brought about the downfall of France but as a family trying to stay alive and together. Louis-Charles as an innocent 8 year old boy who was born in the wrong family, at the wrong time. Can you fault any of them for there actions? Is their no end to the revolution? Does characters like Robespierre, Hitler, Napoleon or Mussolini bring about revolutions or is it people like us? These are some of the questions raised by the 17 year old girl who keeps an account of her life so that someone would some day find it and see the revolution for what it is and these are the very same questions that lead a 21st century young girl to follow the same path.

The level of details and the historical research put forth by the author is outstanding and the bibliography is a testament to the effort put in. I have always liked Jennifer Donnelly's characterisation and writing style. She goes into elaborate details about the world she creates keeping monotony at bay and with just enough material to transport you to that time. Being a fiction book if you ask me to describe it in one word I would say realistic. Not the story itself because there are things in there that seem way to convenient and some that would never happen in the real world but the premise itself is what I like to call realistic, the French Revolution background with the severed heads and the guillotine, the streets and gutters of Paris overflowing with blood, the orphans in the street and women pressing their handkerchiefs to the necks of guillotined victims to make souvenirs, all make for a gruesome and realistic picture of this world which is very hard to get out of your mind. Highly informative and remarkably written this book is one keeper that will earn a spot in your bookshelf.
Profile Image for Michelle.
Author 26 books1,469 followers
January 12, 2011
This book had me at "Hello." Andi's voice was so heartbreaking, so powerfully real, that I was in her world from page one. The melancholy undertone carries through the entire book, even when Andi wasn't thinking about the personal tragedy that decimated her family and her own peace of mind.

But while this was at times so sad it brought me to tears, it was ultimately a story of hope, inner strength, and the healing power of love. A story, as Donnelly herself said in an interview, that is "...about the internal revolution. The one inside. The one that we human beings all go through as we try to make sense of our world and of its tragedies.”

One of my very favorites of the last 12 months.

Profile Image for lucky little cat.
546 reviews102 followers
May 13, 2020
The historical part rocks. But the rest of this Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette-era-ish novel doesn't hold up so well to rereading. The present-day narrative makes you go "Hunh? Every adult in Andi's life is mean, clueless or insane with grief?" Yeah, that can happen IRL, but add in that the guitar-playing prodigy is swept unwillingly off to Paris by her mean, old genome-sequencing genius Dad on a work trip where of course she w/in, like half an hour.

Ya just gotta figure Donnelly had fun writing this one and roll with it.
Profile Image for Mariel.
667 reviews1,048 followers
October 25, 2010
"Oh, dead man, you're dead wrong," I tell him. "The world goes on stupid and brutal, but I do not. Can't you see? I do not."

That line is the best part of the whole book. The problem with this book is that the ability to understand what message is being told is easier than taking that intimacy inside of you and making it your own heartbreak. You know what they say about forgetting what you learned immediately after the test is over? You didn't really earn it. Experience can beat all, and it doesn't have to be your own. Some real bodily fluid loving is missing here.

I read Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution in mostly one sitting (um bedding) because I'm down with the flu. On a normal health day I might have slugged through it because it's kinda boring in a lacks any urgency sense. I appreciated what Donnelly did with a lot of it, but there's something missing from it. I always felt removed. Maybe I just feel bad already...

Teen-aged Andi is prescribed medicated and self-medicated for the past two years of her young life. Picture your stereotypical cynical disaffected youth. Not quite stereotypical, to the credit of Donnelly. The problem was that the storytelling voice relied too much on this disaffectedness (the pretensious art school kids arguing the merits of A Flock of Seagulls made me laugh out loud. Still, who cares if they play dress-up?). I can analyse it and take Andi as more than that, only she sure as hell presents herself that way in the narrative, and at those times I really wanted more. Hers isn't the kind of depression that I can relate to and take inside me, but I can understand it. She blames herself for the death of her beloved brother, Truman. Mom has checked out (and checked into a looney bin), and Dad bailed years before (and not fast like a band aid). It's the feeling of being let down that moved me the most, rather than unimportant relations with her fellow teens (that she cared that the school hated her over the Queen Bitch was silly- enough to leave the country!- considering that it was set up that Andi is beyond caring about that. Huh). The wearing anger to wear I'm not able to get into so much, but the sadness that it's a fact of life her father easily moves on to a new family? It's the doesn't have to force it sadness that was moving. "What is owed me?" by the rest of the world is harder to do. I couldn't get into how easy her new relationship with Virgil is, at least beyond surface stuff of cuteness and liking good music. On paper, I get it that it's easier with those who don't owe you anything (unlike your mom and dad). See, I wish the drugs had been left out of it. The numbness felt more like feeling killing exposition (for this reader) than it did state of being. The drugs come into play when it is time to gloss over the emotions, but doesn't feel like looking up at the world from the bottom of a swimming pool, as these stunting drugs really do. Andi is perpetually suicidal. Yet I never feel the helplessness of that, or her self-hatred. (Not even the reassuring fallback plan kind. Not even cry for help or punishment. It's just delivered information, period.) She doesn't connect to anyone at all apart from knowing her favorite musicians. Andi's favorite music is my favorite music (I have more favorites, of course, but there wasn't one artist mentioned that I don't love to bits). So why does she immediately take to the journal of revolutionary French teenager Alexandrine? There was nothing in those pages that was not (and much, much more) already in the lyrics of her favorite songs (I know because I've heard 'em all). (They sure as shit weren't as good as Morrissey or The Beatles.) I wish I'd felt the connection more than her telling the reader that she was riveted. Or Virgil's cute butt... (who doesn't like a cute butt? Okay...) Too Fred Savage in The Princess Bride enthusiasm for me, before it gets to the "good stuff". (Why do I always think of him?! I think of all telling and not showing as The Wonder Years bad narration. "And we both knew that..." "Really? She doesn't look like she cares.") (I've said this in another gr review, but I'm Kevin Arnold in real life. "yeah, sure" and then overanalysing everything in my head. "Really? He doesn't look like he cares.")

Picture it, Sicily. It was 1924 and a beautiful young peasant girl made a wonderful pizza. Her name was... Mama Celeste. Oops, I mean: Picture it, Paris, France. It was 1795 and a plain actor girl had ambitions... She wanted to be Hilary Clinton behind Bill... Whoops, I mean she wanted to charm the young Louis-Charles, and through him the world... Andi feels responsible for the death of her little brother. Alex blames herself for not being able to stop the brutal death of the young prince, whom she grows to love as a brother. It's hard to play the roles you set for yourself, let alone the world wants you to play, and then know how to go on pretending after the worst has happened.

When I was about Andi's age I was friends with a depressed Czech Au Pair girl, Lucia. We shared a love of shoe-gazing music and she'd tell me how much she hated watching other people's kids. (I still have some of her mixed tapes. Bands like Ride, Lush, Cranes and Swervedriver are on it. They made her sadder, unlike me, who felt better listening to sad songs.) I have no idea what happened to her. She was really depressed, even more than I was. (The last I heard of her was a post card from home, in 2000. It was of a Madonna and child.) Alexandrine's relationship with the young dauphin reminded me of that, for some reason. Alexandrine's journal is also too much telling. (Donnelly credits actor Gabriel Byrne for answering her questions about acting. I love Gabriel Byrne. That's cool!) I could understand how she wanted to play other parts to be someone else. Like with Andi, it is text book depression and not taking me inside that need to be in another's skin.
Anyway, I was listening to Radiohead in those teen years, same as Andi, and I still needed the relating to my friend to understand my own troubles with sadness. I wish I felt it more than that, though... Don't rely on me for this stuff, authors, 'cause I'm still confused.

I wanted to high five Andi when she started playing guitar like John Frusciante. I knew she was going to be a fan of his, too. (Probably likes Jim O'rourke too!)

Something I felt was to Donnelly's credit was that Andi's being from an affluent family (mama went to the Sorbonne. Dad won a flippin' Nobel) was not an issue. It wasn't even contrasted to Alex's situation in the Revolution. The haves versus the have nots. Something I believe strongly is that it doesn't matter what anybody else has, what anybody else goes through: heartbreak is heartbreak and nobody's negates anybody else's pain. I despise it when people tell you someone else has it worse as if you're supposed to feel smaller (these people always whine endlessly about their own problems, I've noticed). Anyway, I liked that. Not that it didn't bore the shit out of me to read about the rich people. I didn't agree with Alex that no one would want such beauty destroyed. There's beauty everywhere. There's beauty in destruction. It's just not familiar to me, I should say. I can relate to Alex's love of acting and Andi's music. I couldn't relate to feeling owed, or what has to be, other than just wanting emotional well-being.

Andi's breaking it down of history for her dad's fancy friends was great. I remember explaining the French revolution to my seventh grade class as this: "They just wanted to turn the tables."

They already had it... Sometimes you need the good music to tell you what you already had. Or a long lost journal dealing with the same old shit.
Profile Image for summer.
248 reviews300 followers
August 27, 2016
”I am not afraid of beatings or blood anymore. I’m not afraid of guards or guillotines.
There is only one thing I fear now - love.
For I have seen it and I have felt it and I know that it is love, not death, that undoes us.”

Holy shit. What did I just read?

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly goes right up there with novels like I Am the Messenger, A Northern Light (also written by her), and Jellicoe Road. And trust me, I do not honor any book with as prestigious a rank as this.

I really do not know how I will find the words to describe my endless love for this brilliantly constructed novel, so I will make a list to organize my thoughts - similar to what I did with my review of On the Jellicoe Road.

But first, a bit about the book. The story follows Andi - a music-genius-depression-addled girl, dealing with grief brought on by the death of her younger brother, Truman. Her dad pays little attention to her, or so it seems, and her mother is on the verge of insanity - her paintings the only tether she has. Needless to say, her life kind of sucks.

(Fear not, this is not a woe-is-me, plea for sympathy kind of novel. It is much more than that.)

In the midst of all this shit, her father decides to embark on a trip to France with Andi. There, she meets a talented rapper (I promise it’s not insta-love!) and a girl named Alexandrine “The Green Man.” I will go no further so as to not spoil the novel.

Revolution pretty much has everything I love packed in a 500-page volume. And I enjoyed every damn second of it.

So, here are 7 Reasons You Should Read Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly:


Very well researched, which equals a happy Summer. When it comes to history, I am a full-fledged dork. Obviously.

This is more than a recount of the French Rev; no, it is much more personal than that. We are plopped smack in the middle of the streets of Paris alongside Alexandrine, an ambitious actress. There are multiple appearances by many influential historical figures, which I’m sure will make any history lover giddy.

Not to spoil anything, but my previous views of the Royalists and the Revolutionaries (particularly the Jacobins) have been blurred.


Nathan, Virgil, G., Lilli, Vijay - all characters I absolutely adore. Did I already say Donnelly has mastered the art of character development? This is also true for her previous YA novel, A Northern Light.

And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the protagonist, Andi, anytime soon. At first I thought she was an insufferable bitch, but within a few pages my perception of her was completely flipped. She became my best friend; I felt as if I was right next to her, experiencing her experiences and feeling her emotions, and my love for her grew by the page.

I’m a bit annoyed, though, by the mostly male cast of characters, but I’m able to let it slide.

”I don’t like hope very much. In fact, I hate it. It’s the crystal meth of emotions. It hooks you fast and kills you hard. It’s bad news. The worst. It’s sharp sticks and cherry bombs. When hope shows up, it’s only a matter of time until someone gets hurt.”

Counting how many times I full-on almost cried in Revolution would be pointless. Whether it was about Louis Charles or Truman or even music I found myself tearing up. I haven’t been this emotionally affected since, well, last year.

The writing was impeccable, typical Donnelly. I can still hear Andi’s voice in my head; the author has just captured the protagonist’s voice that well.

(Side note: This is the third book I've given 5 stars this year. Yup, it’s that good.)


If you’re more of a contemporary type of gal/guy, do not worry. Tackled in this coming-of-age novel include drugs, suicide, racism, and death. It’s a pretty bleak novel, as you can tell, so don’t expect an uplifting sort of tale.

Actually, very normal topics are brought in alongside the grim ones. Andi is just trying to survive her senior year of high school, and at the start of the novel, she is failing all her classes, despite her history of straight-As. This isn't a full-on historical fiction novel; it’s quite eclectic.


I’m not much of a musician, but I do thoroughly enjoy music. Virgil’s rap scenes were some of my favorites, and envisioning him rapping on stage made him 10x hotter. Sad truth: I sometimes skim and at times entirely skip poem and lyric segments in a book; this was not the case in Revolution. Furthermore, some of the most beautiful descriptions in this novel were of music and Andi’s intense love for it. Being the total n00b I am, I Googled “Malherbeau,” thinking he was some obscure musician. Apparently, he’s not real. *sad face*


Again, I won’t expand on this much because I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t read this. But, I’ll just say that there is a ton of fireworks and sneaking and other fun stuff.


If you’re neither a contemporary nor a history buff, there is plenty of science, particularly genetics and DNA. It was quite fascinating when Andi’s dad was talking about the methods they used to uncover the mystery of Louis-Charles. The debate of Science vs. History was intriguing, and I don’t think I need to explicitly say which side I supported.

Donnelly provides an alternate view to the French Revolution - one that is both thought-provoking and downright brilliant. An intricate story that has permanently found its spot on my favorites list.
Profile Image for ᒪᗴᗩᕼ .
1,459 reviews144 followers
August 31, 2020

MY REVIEW IN ONE SENTENCE ➯ A historical story immersed within a modern story with a dollop of romance, plenty of music references, time-travel, and one broken family trying to cope with the pain of losing someone they love.

The narration by Emily Janice Card & Emma Bering was very well performed. I did struggle sometimes with comprehending the french words and accents, but that's on me. It's funny though after I finished this and went to sleep, throughout my dreams I kept hearing french accents.

This started out slow...with a lot of inane teen drama and chatter...but once the MC goes to Paris with her Dad...things get a whole lot more interesting. It was like a history lesson on the French Revolution with a bonus of music history. I really enjoyed this aspect and even tried to look up the composer that she was doing her thesis on...but alas, I think he was made up.

There is some time-traveling of a sort, which for others could be a turn-off, but it really only enhanced the history aspect for me and I really liked it. Overall, I found this to be an entertaining story, and since the narration was so excellently performed I readily recommend the audio version...especially for those slow parts of the story...listening always makes this so much easier to power through than actual reading.

Narration ➯ 5 STARS
Plot ➯ 4.3/5
Characters ➯ 4/5
The Feels ➯ 4.3/5
Pacing ➯ 4/5
Addictiveness ➯ 4.3/5
Theme, Tone or Intensity ➯ 4.3/5
Originality ➯ 5/5
Flow (Writing Style/Ease of Listening) ➯ 4.2/5
World-Building ➯ 4.3/5
Ending ➯ 5/5

Profile Image for Becky.
1,319 reviews1,612 followers
December 16, 2015
This is the second of Donnelly's books that I've read, the first being A Northern Light (or if you're in the UK, "A Gathering Light") which I loved. I loved the wordplay and the characters and the story... it was just beautiful to me, with a bit of innocence almost.

This story is nothing like that, but if anything, I like it more for it. There are some similarities between the two stories, though. Each features a girl who stumbles upon a link to the past that is surrounded by mystery. Each features a girl struggling to find herself and happiness against all odds. And each features a girl who shares an intense love of something with a boy who understands that love completely. In "A Northern Light" it was words and language and writing, and in "Revolution" it is music.

It seems to me that lately there have been a lot of new books, particularly YA books, which feature music in such a way that it is almost an extension of the character as well as a character itself. Music featured as not only something to enjoy, but as a necessary component to life, like water or air or food.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is one of these books, as is Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly (although I've only discussed this book with a friend so far, I haven't read it myself), and Horns by Joe Hill, which is not YA, but features music in the way I'm talking about. These books show beautifully how important music is as a method of communication, as art, as life.

"Revolution" is no different in that aspect. The main character, Andi, is in pain due to the death of her brother, and nothing helps except for music. It's her lifeline, her one passion, her air. Without it she has nothing and no reason to go on from day to day. But it's more than just a life-preserver, it's who she is. I'm a reader. I can't pass a word without reading it. Andi is a musician. She finds music in everything, and feels and understands music in a way that most people probably never will.

When she's in danger of flunking out of school and of not graduating, her absentee father makes her go with him to Paris, thinking that the change of scenery would give her a new outlook and help her to focus. While there, she begins work on her thesis, which is about the composer Amade Malherbeau and how his work has influenced music to this day, and during the course of that research, she stumbles on a mystery that goes all the way back to Revolutionary France.

I don't want you to think that this book is only about music, because it is not. It's about so much more. It's about understanding who we are, and where we came from. It's about heeding our past to prevent it from recurring. It's about making mistakes and surviving them. It's about being willing to give everything for what you believe in, even if it we don't succeed. It's about learning to live again. It's about the parallels between the past and the present. It's about the value of someone who takes the time to care and be there for someone who needs it. It's about all of these things and more.

This is a beautiful, layered, and intricate story that I could not stop thinking about. When I wasn't reading it, I wanted to be. It seemed to suck me in almost from the very first page. I wanted to know more about Andi, and why she is hurting as badly as she is, what makes her so jaded and bitter and angry. I hoped for her to find that something in life that makes it worth holding on to.

There's a running theme in the story of being haunted by our pasts, both in the present day story line and the Revolutionary story line. It reminds me of a song by Paramore, off of their "Brand New Eyes" album. It's a beautiful song, and I think it fits the story as well, especially considering the music theme.

If you'd like to hear it, here's a link to a YouTube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP53i8...

Misguided Ghosts by Paramore:

I am going away for a while
But I'll be back, don't try and follow me
'Cause I'll return as soon as possible
See I'm trying to find my place
But it might not be here where I feel safe
We all learn to make mistakes

And run
From them, from them
With no direction
We'll run from them, from them
With no conviction

'Cause I'm just one of those ghosts
Traveling endlessly
Don't need no roads
In fact they follow me

And we just go in circles

Well now I'm told that this is life
And pain is just a simple compromise
So we can get what we want out of it
Would someone care to classify,
Of broken hearts and twisted minds
So I can find someone to rely on

And run
To them, to them
Full speed ahead
Oh you are not useless
We are just

Misguided ghosts
Traveling endlessly
The ones we trusted the most
Pushed us far away
And there's no one road
We should not be the same
But I'm just a ghost
And still they echo me

They echo me in circles

Overall, I loved the story. I loved the dual storylines, and the parallels and the small details that Donnelly included that made the story that much more tangible. I highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for Kate.
178 reviews37 followers
October 25, 2015
Our protagonist, Andi Alpers, is grieving over the death of her younger brother Truman. She is struggling to overcome her misplaced guilt and the only thing getting her through the days is medication and music. The latter is the only one of three things she loves left in this world – her brother is gone, her mother is handling things even worse and her Nobel Prize winner of a father has left them. The deep, sorrowful tunes of old and new masters of music, as well as Andi’s own compositions, fill her iPod and her seemingly empty heart. Of course, being a “depressed artist” doesn’t fly with the authorities – Andi is almost denied her chance to graduate and her father, despite her protests, takes her to Paris with him to live with their old friends while she works on her thesis on a (fictional) French composer Amade Malherbeau and the influence of his work on modern music. Meanwhile, her father and his Parisian friend, G, are working on a project that could change European history as known – they are carrying out a DNA analysis of what could be the heart of Louis XVII – the lost king of France. Andi’s love for history briefly distracts her from the darkness within, but it’s only a short-term relief, like a drug. She finds a better way to deal with things, however, when she finds an old diary amongst G’s historical relics, hidden in an old guitar.

The diary seemingly belongs to a young woman, Alexandrine, who lived through the French revolution and knew Louis XVII personally. Andi is quickly pulled into 18th century France and Alexandrine’s life. From the diary, she finds out that Alex was a poor girl with love of acting and big ambitions. One day, she is noticed by the French royal family and appears to be the only thing that makes young prince Louis laugh. Her family is given a place at the royal court and is beyond thrilled. Alex, however, sees it as a mere stepping stone to fulfil her dream of becoming an actor. Soon she realises that the nation is crumbling and is on the brink of Revolution, which means brutality, anger and bloodshed – if you’re rich. What she doesn’t recognise, however, is that working for some members of the family means conspiring against others, and she is soon pulled into a more dangerous play she could ever dream of being a part of. She has a new role to play, almost every day, and each of them could have fatal consequences.

Andi quickly realises that she has to know more but her thesis waits for no-one. (Un)fortunately, the life and work of Amade Malherbeau and that of Alex are entwined in more than one way (non-romantic, thankfully), as Andi finds out. But, like Alex, she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

I have read this book way back in February, but I was unable to find the words to sum up my emotions then. After a recent re-read (which may not have been the best idea – feeling things in the middle of exams is never good), I decided to try again. However, I am still not sure that my words would be able to do “Revolution” justice.

How can I tell you about what this book made me feel? How can I explain the way the brutal reality, beautifully intervened with French history and musical geniuses of past and present, has stirred up emotions in me which were long forgotten? Can I really successfully attempt to tell you how almost each line in this book has made me laugh, or cry, or sigh? Or how some lines have gone straight through to my heart and are now etched there for eternity?

Can I really give this book a rating less than 10/10? The answer is – of course not.

Profile Image for Sesana.
5,109 reviews348 followers
August 31, 2011
I think I know what happened early in the development of this book. Jennifer Donnelly wanted to write an historical fiction of the French Revolution (probably after reading Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette) but didn't trust YA readers to maintain interest. So she shoehorned in a Gossip Girls-style modern plotline. I guess she didn't realize that readers drawn to the Gossip Girls half wouldn't be interested in the historical plotline, and vice versa. As for me, I didn't care about either.

The modern protagonist, Andi, is one of the most unpleasant main characters I've read in a long, long time. By the end of the first chapter, I couldn't stand her. She never got better, or even bearable. I only persisted as long as I did to get at the French Revolution plotline. I'm a massive Francophile, with a special interest in the French Revolution. But the Revolution diary of Alex, the historical character, was dull. Alex herself was only barely more tolerable than Andi (which leaves us with two protagonists, neither of which I liked in the slightest) and the very exciting history of the Revolution was all too often reduced to dry facts. Would reading this book make somebody interested in doing their own research into the Revolution? Maybe for some, but not exactly a grand slam there.

Now, I said that I have a special interest in the Revolution already, and that's actually an understatement. So I'm going to go ahead and criticize the history. It is very, very difficult to research the French Revolution, because it seems like everybody who cares enough to write about it has a distinct bias, and there are many to choose from. It's important to try and balance your research to get an honest perspective. Not the case here. Donnelly consults Days of the French Revolution, which is a fantastic and nearly neutral book, but very basic and very general. She also uses both Carlyle and Schama's Citizens. Both have essentially the same bias, anti-Revolution. There's not much from the other side. Twelve Who Ruled would have been a fantastic balance, as well as being nearly indispensible in researching the Terror. And it does effect the book. Let's take a very simple example, from near the beginning: when describing the "lost dauphin", it's said that Robespierre (personally, apparently) was behind his incarceration. He was actually seperated from his mother at the order of the Committee of General Security, which Robespierre was never a member of and which was, eventually, in opposition to him. But everything bad that happened during the Revoltuion is Robespierre's fault, right? (Wrong.)

Ok, that may have been a little long-winded, but it's a subject I'm passionate about. There's one more thing I needed to complain about, but this will be much shorter. At the end of the book, Andi and her mother just throw their medications out the window, and I wanted to throw the book out the window. The attitude that you're weak and inferior if you need medications to deal with mental illness destroys lives. It infuriated me, more than anything else, to see the author flippantly throw that in at the end. It's more than just irresponsible. If I needed a last straw to hate this book, this would have done it.
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 27 books293 followers
November 7, 2010
I couldn't stand this book. I struggled and struggled and struggled and made it to page 200 before declaring I could take no more.

Why: I couldn't stand the main character, the modern day heroine, Andi. I get that her brother died and her mother is nuts (everybody else around her is weird too, either high or wiping up bird poop), but is that any reason to treat every adult around you like excrement? She is wallowing in self pity, addicted to mental drugs, and does nothing but complain, pop pills, and talk about her guitar or play her guitar or talk about music. I HATE her. She's says ONE good thing (to her shrink)in the entire book up to the point I read to, "It's a good thing you and your pills weren't around a few hundred years ago or there never would have been a Vermeer or a Caravaggio. You'd have drugged Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Taking of Christ right the hell out of them."

That's it. That's the only moment I liked her. She is so spoiled she takes a load of money out of an atm in France, spends it all like a nimrod, and then the next day realizes she has no money for food and plays her guitar for in exchange for change from strangers. Did I mention she is actually from a wealthy family? I lost any shred of pity or respect for her at this point.

I kept going though.. I thought the story would get better with the entrance of the historical heroine, Alex. Alex is a lot more likable, but her parts are strictly "journal" style. No quotation marks, all telling, not showing.

The only reason I didn't give this a one star rating: I had a good laugh when Alex was dancing around for the prince while her uncle made flatulence sounds.
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