Jennifer Donnelly’s initial foray into young adult fiction, A Northern Light, was the first and only selection in the Young Adult Book Club Anna and I tried to start when we were living in Portland. We even bought a copy of the book for our friends Jaime and Kelly, who lived across the street from me, and left it in their mailbox, gently “encouraging” them to participate. In the end our failed book club consisted of Anna and I sitting in the Barnes and Noble Cafe drinking lattes. Although, to our credit we did discuss the book. That’s not something you can claim with most book clubs, right?
As much as I loved A Northern Light, I have to admit that Revolution trumps it completely. Donnelly’s ability to weave her extensive historical research into such tight and cohesive plot is uncanny. I simply couldn’t put the book down and found myself extremely sympathetic to the main character, Andi Alpers, and her struggle with depression and the guilt she harbors over the tragic death of her young brother.
Andi’s life is one of privilege. She attends a posh New York city school with the creme de la creme of society. She’s a gifted musician and guitarist but she has become completely consumed in the deep blackness of a depression she can’t escape. She’s addicted to prescription drugs, her geneticist father has left the family, and her mother is in a constant state of mourning for her brother. When Andi’s grades reveal that she may not graduate high school her father drags her to Paris so that he can monitor her activities as she attempts to write an outline for her required thesis.
In Paris, Andi discovers the diary of Alexandrine, a passionate actress who worked as the companion to the young son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Via Alex’s diary entries Andi uncovers an amazing story of heroic proportions. It’s difficult to write about the book as I truly don’t want to give an iota of real plot away. Trust me. The scenes that take place in 18th century Paris are just as outstanding as those that deal with the present day.
As an added bonus there is an immense amount of music, both present day artists and classical works, mentioned throughout the novel. A quick Google search doesn’t appear to show any listing for an official author’s play list so maybe I’ll take the time to scour the book’s pages and pull something together? In the meantime, definitely read this book!