I made this list for my niece but I thought I would share with anyone who wants it.
Warning: I have no objectivity when it comes to this book. It is one of my favorites of all time, and I am going to be shrill about it. Not even a little sorry about it. Revolution is the story of seventeen-year-old Andi Alpers, a student at an elite prep school in Brooklyn who is struggling to go on after the death of her little brother. Her father forces her to accompany him to Paris and the razor's edge that she has been walking on for the last year becomes even thinner.
Andi herself is a ball of unfocused and indiscriminate rage. She lashed out at people who try to help her, people who get in the way of the few things that she still has interest, and people who are just in her blast zone. She isn't particularly stable, and she sure are hell isn't nice. She is a mess, but because we understand her anger and pain so well she remains a sympathetic character.
I spent a large portion of the book just yearning for her to be in a better headspace.
Music plays a massive role in Revolution. Music is the tool of communication, a universal language and the shibboleth for Andi. I can't think of another book where the passion and the unlying relentless drive of music are so well communicated. I am not a musician but reading this book opened my eyes up to what being a musician can be. It is his love of music more than anything that draws her to Virgil, her love interest. It is that common connection that gives their relationship unexpected depth.
Paris is a character in this book. The Paris that is not on the tourist's routes but the Paris where real people are living and going about their daily lives. Andi's mother is French, and so Andi speaks French which means that she can immerse herself much better in Paris that someone who is monolingual in English. As someone who is in a dual nationality marriage and teaches a large percentage of multinational students, I am always happy to see this reality in books.
Donnely is masterful with her use of exposition. She tells the reader enough for them to understand what they need to but not so much that they are overwhelmed. You could get several Ph.D.'s on the French revolution and still not wholly comprehend it. The seamlessness of the exposition is significant as well. It naturally fits into the narrative instead that feeling forced because the plot needs it. The total immersion into the period when Andi finds the diary feels earned.
This book is heartbreaking. It deals with grief, the realization that your parents aren't perfect or always able to help you, and the rage that comes from being helpless. It is also a book of unexpected humor, beautiful writing, and hope. I will read it again and again because every time that I do, I have found something new in it.
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.
The Afterlife of Holly Chase
by Cynthia Hand
I think I bought this book last year, but I didn't get to it right away. I remembered that it was Christmas themed but not that is was an A Christmas Carol retelling. A Christmas Carol with a modern-day setting and a spoiled and vicious sixteen-year-old girl in the role of Scrooge. Or rather a story about what happens afterward if Scrooge doesn't change. I am not, in fact, mad at this. You may wonder how this book is 400 pages long when the source material is something like 88 pages. The answer, my friend, is a boy.
I happened to have read A Christmas Carol last week, so all of its quirks and famous phrasings are fresh in my mind. But, honestly, A Christmas Carol has infiltrated popular culture enough that even if you haven't read it, you probably will get many of the references. There are also some sly references to other classic Christmas works such as, "I thought up a lie, and I thought it up quick." The leader of the Scrooge Projects name is Boz which was a nickname of Charles Dickens. It is details like this that made this book worth the read.
Holly starts out thoroughly dislikeable. She is basically every girl that made fun of you in high school. Or every girl that you were afraid was going to make fun of you. She is mean and shallow and so deliberate about it that is is very hard to feel anything for her. Seriously, the entire plot hinges on the fact that she learned nothing from her night with as the Scrooge. She is unpleasant. More so than female characters are usually allowed to be which begs the question of whether or not the conceit of A Christmas Carol gives her more leeway. We expect her to be terrible and also we probably expect her redemption. Her slow thaw was masterful. It was reminiscent of Mary in The Secret Garden starting out as this awful spoiled brat and through love, learning to change.
It might be an expectation of holiday books and films, but the timeline of this book needless bogged down the plot. There was a lot of, "Weeks later" and the equivalent. It was probably an attempt to make the relationship between Holly and Ethan deeper, but it wasn't all that successful. Their relationship doesn't change much after they get together. I think that if the whole book took place in a month rather than a year, there would have been more intensity and forward momentum.
The best parts were the sheer meta cleverness of the concept. The whole idea of the Scrooge project is intriguing. The relationship between Holly and Stephanie was my favorite of the book because of how much you could see Holly growing. Holly's defining Scrooge moment was when she was unable to maintain a friendship with another girl. To see her go from taking advantage of Stephanie to being able to develop a genuine relationship was heartwarming.
And that ending was so, so satisfying.
On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.
And then she died.
Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.
Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.
But this year, everything is about to change. . . .