For months I'd been hearing about the wonders of Jennifer Donnelly from the blogiverse, but particularly from Rhapsody Jill. Based on her recommendations, I'd already bought The Tea Rose and The Winter Rose on Kindle for my summer travels. But when I discovered that "Revolution" existed on audio at my library (and that the audio won the Odyssey Honor pick), the question of which would be my first Donnelly was decided.
Synopsis: Andi isn't your average modern teenager. She attends an expensive private school in New York. She is a talented musician. She is sullen, angry, and runs with a crowd that escapes their angsty lives by turning to drugs and alcohol. And not so long ago, her little brother was tragically killed, destroying her parents' marriage and driving her mother to the brink of insanity. Andi blames herself. She is struggling through depression, and really could care less if she finishes her senior thesis that could springboard her to Julliard.
To assist in a little attitude adjustment, and help her focus on her thesis (which just happens to be about a French composer), Andi's father takes her to Paris over Christmas break. While she is there, Andi discovers the diary of Alexandrine, a young woman who is the nanny to the doomed son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and literally fighting for her life during the French Revolution. Obsessed with the diary, Andi finds a soul sister in Alex, discovering parallels between their lives and becoming invested in Alex and the last dauphin's fate. One night at a party in the catacombs, however, the past and present collide, and Andi finds out exactly how similar they really are.
My thoughts: Uhhh. Words are failing me right now. How can I express the depths to which I loved this book?
OK, well let's start with the music. Andi was an equal opportunity music lover, and knew her stuff, from John Lee Hooker, to A Flock of Seagulls, to the Stones, to Radiohead. But spank me and call me Sally. Her favorite was Pink Floyd, of the Syd Barrett era. NOW we're talking. Her recitation of the lyrics from Shine On You Crazy Diamond (which was written in honor of Syd) really sealed the deal. The whipped cream and cherry on top of all of this fabulousness was original (and beautiful) rap lyrics written by Andi's Paris love interest Virgil. My geek meter was maxed out. If you don't believe me, here is the playlist. For any music lover, it was brilliant.
Next, the French Revolution. Donnelly could have told me anything about this period in history and I would have believed it. Guess I didn't pay attention when we were learning this chapter in high school. But it was fascinating stuff. An imprisoned boy prince slowly going mad, guillotines and beheadings, treachery to overthrow the monarchy...all from the perspective of a young woman on the inside. A young woman who is willful and strong and committed to protecting her young charge, even at the risk of her own life. (Are you rolling your eyes at me? Seriously, this is all new to me.)
And the pièce de résistance. Time travel! Now don't scoff. It isn't corny, and it isn't overdone. In fact, it is perfect for the progression of the plot. Overall it was a small part of the story, but an important one. One that tied it all together.
I did not want this story to end. I loved it for all the reasons described above. I loved the characters (even the nasty ones), I felt Andi's pain, and I loved her handsome Tunisian with the dreds, the soul patch and the love for music. Everyone was real and flawed and slightly hip. Donnelly sucked me in from disc 1. I'm going to remember this one for a long long time.
A word about the audio production: Whoever were the judges for the Odyssey Honor award (best audiobook for children and/or young adults) should be applauded. This audio was excellent. There were two narrators. One for Andi (Emily Janice Card) and one for Alexandrine (Emma Bering). Emily Janice Card was probably my favorite...she completely captured a disturbed modern teenager, and had impeccable accents. Emma Bering had the formal lilt of a French girl from an earlier time - it seemed to fit the character perfectly. If I were to see Card's name on another audio, I'd jump at the chance to listen to her again.
5 out of 5 stars