Saturday, August 21, 2010

Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly ★★★★★

RevolutionI received this book via Star Book Tours.
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.

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.

View all my reviews


  1. Hmmm. Great review. I have A Northern Light waiting to be read soon and I think I'm definitely going to have to add this one to my TBR pile. It sounds great!

  2. super good review! You definitely need to pick up her adult HF books, you are going to love them.

  3. Thanks! I think this is definitely one of my better reviews! :)

    Glad you guys liked it!

  4. Wonderful review! I have two of her books at home, can't wait to get to them. Also, great song to accompany this story, it's a great Paramore song.