Sunday, July 31, 2011

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly!

Well, it's been awhile since I've written anything.  But I just read something that is worth writing about—Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

I remember getting Jennifer Donnelly's first book, A Northern Light, as a Christmas present from my parents.  I had listed it on my amazon wishlist because it was a Printz honoree and therefore a necessary read, but I was not enthusiastic.  It looked so serious and so historical.  When I finally got around to reading it I saw how wrong I was to be reluctant, but somehow I didn't learn my lesson.  I approached this one exactly the same way.  It's thick.  And it's about the French Revolution instead of zombies.  So obviously my feet were dragging.

But one chapter in and I was hooked, even though at first I wanted to hate the snobby Brooklyn Heights characters, in spite of their genuine troubles.  Back when I was new in Brooklyn, the first time I ever wandered around that  neighborhood, I was horrified to see a stretch limo pull up to a brownstone, let out a small school-uniformed boy and then pull away, leaving him alone on the curb.  To think he got driven home from school like that every day—just ugh.

But it's not his fault, and it's not these kids' faults either.  The book is beautifully written and immediately engrossing and made me buy a bunch of classical music on itunes after the first few chapters.  Then the scene changes to Paris, and rich twenty-first-century kids become entwined with accidental participants in the eighteenth-century Revolution.  Catacombs and guillotines and mostly the mystery of what really happened to young Louis-Charles, the imprisoned child king Louis XVII.  Also: archives!  There are a whole bunch of scenes doing research in serious archives, which I imagine is only something you do as a high school student if you go to fancy BK private schools.  I'm not thrilled that the archivist was a cranky old rule-follower—practically a shusher—but still it is always good to teach young people proper research etiquette, and there just aren't enough YA novels doing that.  Bottom line: read it!  Even if you don't particularly like historical fiction.

p.s. Covers often make me cranky, and this one is no exception.  I get that the cover exists to sell the book.  Ok.  But the modern girl on the cover is pretty and wavy-haired and delicate and whatever, and in the book she is heavily pierced, among other things, and much is made of all her clanking metal and bad attitude and such.  She just looks nothing at all like this cover chick.  The paperback is even worse.  What—punk/emo/alterna teens don't sell books??  Given the vast numbers of extremely popular vampire-y looking books out there with their dark moody covers, I don't believe that for a second.  In fact, I bet this one could find a wider, very appreciative audience if the cover were more honest about the book's real contents.

1 comment:

  1. In Jennifer Donnelly's exquisite new young adult book, Revolution, there's a juxtaposition of two young lives, lived two hundred years apart, and the idea and reality of Revolution. In modern times, Andi Alpers is a high school senior at the exclusive New York school St. Anselm's, and while her life should be one of ease and comfort, she's haunted by the sudden, tragic death of her younger brother Truman two years before. During the French revolution, Alexandrine Paradis is a teen whose very life depends upon her ability to be a convincing actress and spy. Brought together by Alex's diary, the two young women are on different paths to self-discovery, yet neither one may survive.