Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

March 14, 2011
“Yeah. Sure. My brother's dead. My mother's insane. Hey, let's have a crepe”(59). Andi Alpers finds a cynical twist to everything in her life, even when she is describing her life. As Andi's father drags her off to Paris for “a change of scenery,” Andi has hit rock bottom. Popping anti-depressants and fighting suicidal urges, Andi learns a bit about life on the streets of Paris. Through a diary of an extraordinary girl, Andi is able to take her loss and survive. Jennifer Donnelly weaves a tale of life, loss, and the strength of the human heart in a thought-provoking novel. Andi pulls the reader in with her contradicting nature, resiliency, and ability to forgive and love. Revolution is a story that will appeal to people dealing with difficult times in life as Andi, in all her unconventional layers, and the reader, find a way to survive and come out stronger.

To contradict means to go against. Andi is a character that has no problem “going against.” She does not have the usual teenage disdain for her parents, though she finds other reasons to rebel against her father. Andi finds ways to rebel against the world. She stands out and does not care. “'My word! And who is this-' G's eyes travel over the leather jacket, and the metal, to my hair. His cheery voice falters. '-this stunning Visigoth? My little Andi? All grown up and dressed to fight the Romans”(60, 61). Her appearance is the most obvious way for Andi to be different, but it is not the only way. She is called a genius by her teachers at her private preparatory school, but the only class that she is not failing is music. Andi finds solace in a guitar and the sadness that can be plucked from the strings. The reader will begin searching for his or her own song to articulate his or her sadness. Her obsession with music not only sets her apart from her classmates, classmates who take life as one big party, but she spends most of her time trying to get the sound of her sadness right. The reader instantly begins to care about this unconventional character. Only one of her classmates seems to care, Vijay, an Indian boy who is on the fast-track to Harvard. Andi and Vijay both stand apart from the usual crowd; he too smart and ambitious to fit in; her uncaring. “Vijay is my best friend. My only friend, at this stage. I have no idea why he's still around. I think he sees me as some kind of rehabilitation project, like the loser dogs he cares for at the shelter”(6, 7). Anyone who has a low point in life, who has felt like an abandoned dog in a shelter, will be pulled into Andi's struggles.

“'Fine? Is this what you call fine?' he shouts back. 'This house is a dump. Your mother's lost her mind. And you're about to get kicked out of school. Nothing's fine, Andi. Nothing'”(49). Her father describes a rock-bottom life, a life that Andi is living. He waltzes in after ignoring Andi and her mother for months, sums up Andi's life, and takes her away to Paris. The reader will intimately feel and understand Andi's frustration and hatred toward her father. After she witnesses her brother’s being killed, an act that she somehow she thinks is her fault, Andi is able to survive, if barely. Her father hopes that taking her to Paris will pull Andi out of her depression. “'So you get out of that fancy school and you got nothin'? Nothin' to hold on to? Nothin' to believe in'”(9). This insight by Jimmy, an old man who sits with Andi as she plays the guitar until she shreds her fingers, makes the reader examine his or her own life for relevance. He states something that Andi already knows, something that she feels constantly. After her brother's death, she has nothing. She cannot feel when her fingers are bloody and raw, she feels nothing when she stands on the edge of a building contemplating jumping. She has nothing. Absolutely nothing… at least that is what she believes. Andi's resiliency and tolerance for life keep the reader rooting for her recovery.

Andi starts her road to recovery in Paris. The city enchants her with the beauty of the everyday and the history that permeates the air. The reader will become enchanted with the author's colorful, intriguing descriptions of the city that pulls Andi back into the world. Readers might race to the airport to buy a ticket to Paris after reading about the city. While in Paris, Andi reads a diary of a girl from the French Revolution, is saved from an attempt at jumping off the Eiffel Tower and takes a revealing journey into the catacombs surrounded by darkness and death. “It takes me a little time to recognize the feeling because it's been so long. But then I do. It's happiness”(257). Andi is able to find the will to live and the ability to forgive herself for her brother's death after a journey that takes her back in time and deep within herself. The reader will applaud Andi's self-discovery and continue to become invested in Andi's story. Within herself, Andi is able to find the capability to love, something that has been lost since she lost her brother. “Full of love for a girl I never knew and will always remember. A girl who gave me the key”(471). Andi's search for her key in the diary of a girl from the French Revolution inspires the reader to find his or her own key.

Andi makes an inspiring and thought-provoking journey of self-discovery, life, love, and loss. Jennifer Donnelly expertly weaves a story that blends history into a modern tale of loss that shows the strength of the human heart. In Revolution, Andi is able to pull through a bleak and dreary world and find something good to hold onto. She survives with the help of her contradicting nature, resiliency, and ability to forgive and love. The world may be cruel, but a person can find the strength to survive in even the darkest of times. The powerful last line leaves a lasting impact on the reader. “It goes on, this world, stupid and brutal. But I do not. I do not”(472).

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