A cryptic journey through Paris ensues when one girl, in shock after her brother's recent death, finds the long-hidden diary of another who has been dead for 200 years. In "Revolution," Jennifer Donnelly interweaves the dark stories of Andi Alpers and Alexandrine Paradis, two girls living more than two centuries apart.
The story begins in New York City, where Andi Alpers, a depressed and rebellious teenage musician, is failing out of her elite high school. Angry at her father for leaving and feeling guilty about the death of her younger brother, Andi couldn't care less about school or anything else. It looks like she's going to be expelled, until her father brings her to Paris with him over winter break and she discovers a diary locked in the bottom of an old guitar case. Suddenly, Andi finds herself thrown into the story of Alexandrine Paradis, a young French woman living in the 18th century.
A tale of both adventure and dark secrets, Alex's journal ties in well with Andi's own restless wanderings around Paris. As the bloody French Revolution rages around her, Alex is drawn closer and closer into the hated royal family as a guardian of the young prince of France, Louis-Charles. When the prince is locked away by the revolutionaries, Alex vows to help him, knowing that she could be killed for her actions. Her risky decision haunts Andi, who ultimately embarks on a journey through the catacombs to discover how Alex's story ends.
There's no shortage of angst in the book, and Andi's dark musings sometimes come across as melodramatic. Nevertheless, the way the story switches back and forth from Andi's narration to the pages of Alex's diary builds up the suspense and displays the sharp similarities between the two girls' stories. With so many complex plot threads (everything from Andi's guilt over her brother's death to the mystery surrounding the death of the prince of France), the book could have easily become a jumbled mess. However, Donnelly artfully manages to connect the many pieces of the story -- even the ones that span several centuries -- during Andi's midnight excursion through the catacombs. The ominous underground chambers are the perfect setting for the culmination for both Andi and Alex's stories.
Donnelly's characters are nothing spectacular. Alexandrine is a bit two-dimensional, and after 400 pages of unhappy musings, Andi gets annoying. Where the book shines is in its descriptions of Paris, both during the time of the revolution and in the present-day. Donnelly manages to give the reader a glance into the parts of the city that tourists would rarely experience, from the clubs Andi plays guitar in to the midnight excursions of the catacombs. The best parts of the novel take place in Paris' underground cemetery, both in Alex's time and Andi's. The latter gets to see them both as a place of historic tragedy, and as a nightclub of sorts.
Although some questions are left unanswered in the end, the book manages to be historically accurate without coming across as educational. In this way, Donnelly has written something sure to appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction and mystery. Suspenseful and dramatic, "Revolution" is sure to keep you intrigued.
Meredith McCaffrey is a sophomore at Sacred Heart Academy.
"Revolution" Delacorte Books for Young Readers By Jennifer Donnelly 496 pages, $18.99