Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelly
Andi is a mess. Her brother Truman is dead; her mother spends every day painting pictures of Truman, never able to get them "right"; her father, a Nobel prize winning geneticist, is out of touch and rarely around. Haunted by guilt and grief, Andi isn't living so much as surviving. It's her senior year, but she has blown off nearly every part of life at St. Anselm's except her music lessons. In fact, her mother and her music seem to be all that Andi can bring herself to care about.
When her father finds out that she's in danger of not completing her senior thesis and not graduating, he comes to New York, where he promptly checks Andi's mother into a mental hospital and forces Andi to come to Paris with him for 3 weeks where she is to work on her thesis, primarily about an 18th century French composer and his influence on mondern music. In Paris, Andi finds a diary written by a girl intimately involved in the French Revolution. She is immediately swept up in the story and its ultimate connection to her research. Andi also meets Virgil, a musician with whom she begins to connect with in a way she hasn't connected with another person in a long time.
When I first heard about this book, I wasn't really interested in reading it, despite the good reviews. I'm often frustrated by the spin many people put on the French Revolution, and I was concerned that I would find the very priveleged Andi unsympathetic, and that the story would either be too depressing or too emotionally overwraught. But, a patron at my library who has a similar taste in books as myself recommended it very highly; and I decided to give the book a chance.
I am SO glad that I did. Revolution is layered, compelling, mature and hopeful. First, the characters: Andi was such a sympathetic character. I wanted to hug her and smack some sense into her. I cheered for her as she overcame obstacles and just really, really wanted things to get better for her. And I wanted her to teach me to play the guitar. The supporting characters really shone as well - Virgil, Andi's parents, G and Lili. The diary's author Alex also lent a real depth to the story. Her voice was so distinct.
There are essentially two plots going on in this book, Andi's and Alex's. Each was well-paced and they complimented each other, rather than becoming a distraction. The historical aspect of the book was great. The author really put you right there in the midst of the French Revolution. In addition to establishing the 18th century setting, the author also puts you right in the middle of Paris in a way that makes you feel like you're there, but subtely. You aren't smacked upside the head with it. I also loved how music played such a huge role in this book. Music is such a huge part of my own life, and that aspect really connected with me. It gave the book a richness.
All in all, a great book. I would definitely read more from Jennifer Donnelly.