I like Jennifer Donnelly's new novel REVOLUTION so much I'm giving it five stars which from me is a rare rating. The book is not perfect but it is a very enjoyable read with great characters, several timely universal themes and two very well realized major settings (contemporary upscale Brooklyn and Paris during both the French Revolution and the present time). The three sections of Dante's THE DIVINE COMEDY are the inspiration for dividing this novel into parts entitled "Hell", "Purgatory" and "Paradise". But the reader needs no knowledge of 14th century Italian literature to enjoy this book as the writing is clear, quick, and aimed at young adult readers though many book lovers quite a bit over age eighteen will enjoy the book as much as I did.
The book begins with Andi a talented high school senior from a very affluent family. She is suffering from depression, prescription drug abuse and suicide ideation. Andi's world had fallen apart two years earlier when her ten year old brother died tragically while he was supposed to be under her watch. Her parent's marriage broke up as in the aftermath her French born, artist mother descended into mental illness while her famous geneticist father found a new life and family with a twenty-five year old girlfriend. Andi has tried to quell her own suffering with promiscuity, self medication and her great musical talent with her preferred instrument the guitar. During a winter school vacation Andi's father returns, commits her mother to a mental hospital and forces Andi to accompany him to Paris where he is working on a project designed to discover if a two hundred plus year old preserved heart came from Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's tragic son. Andi is supposed to finish her senior thesis during this Paris trip. She does accomplish this and also discovers firsthand the horrors of the French Revolution through a supernatural connection with a diary she discovers. In present day Paris she meets a handsome fellow musician who seems to be the nice guy of her dreams and begins to come to terms with the guilt and tragedy in her past.
Author Donnelly skillfully weaves both real and fictional people together particularly in the French Revolution sequences. I found myself doing some research to find out which characters and situations were historically accurate and which sprung from the author's imagination. Donnelly also knows her guitar music - both classic and contemporary which adds a lot of credibility to the story. Aimed at older teens REVOLUTION is not "squeaky clean". There are sexual references and Andi and her friends abuse both legal and illegal substances. A lot of the Paris action takes place in the catacombs under the city and very realistic descriptions of these tombs as well as some depictions of the horrors that took place during the French Revolution are included that may not be for the very easily disturbed. I read Ms. Donnelly's first young adult book A NORTHERN LIGHT a few years ago and was very impressed and am also delighted with her new very worthy effort. I highly, highly recommend it.