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.