by Jennifer Donnelly
Age: Young Adult
Contains: death, violence, cursing, suicide, underage drinking and drug use.
God loves us, but the devil takes an interest.
Book-a-likes: The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
This was another random audiobook selection from the library that more than paid off.
The story is told in two time periods. In the present day Andi is a girl with a tragic past that broke up her family and left her momma cray-cray. Her family is fairly rich, so they’ve got that going for them, but that’s about it. When her dad finally starts paying attention to how bad things in her life have gotten (even though he can’t tell she’s been having some regular thoughts of suicide) he yanks her to Paris with him for Christmas break, where she finds an old diary belonging to Alex, a girl who lived during the French Revolution.
I can’t imagine the amount of research or already-possessed knowledge that went into this thing. Andi is a musician and the amount of musical info and expertise in this book is pretty impressive. As is the amount of information regarding the Revolution. I learned a ton on both ends. Someone somewhere might be able to find flaws with it, but not me.
Andi is dealing with mental health issues just like her mom, but that doesn’t mean everything else in her life shuts down. And just because a new boy enters her life doesn’t mean that love magically saves her from depression. Which is good, because that’s not how life works.
Alex is interesting because she’s only a somewhat likeable character. She gets work at the royal palace entertaining the young prince, but she doesn’t really care about him–he’s just a means to an end. She wants to be an actress and will take whatever road will lead her there. She even refers once to her family “I loved them in my way”. So, you know, not super nice, though she does redeem herself eventually.
I like that while their stories inform each other they’re more or less independent of each other and aren’t mirror images. Andi doesn’t read the journal going, “Hey! That little child died exactly how my brother did!” (Which, actually, would be pretty hard once you find out how her brother died. It’s a lot more violent than you think most of the way through.)
Lovely writing with 2 intriguing stories. The kind of book where you want to say you want more from it, but everything is wrapped up and there’s not more to tell so you really don’t. Audiobook readers Emma Bering and Emily Janice Card do a great job with the accents as well. If you’re a fan of history, I would definitely give this book a listen.
And if you’re looking for a much less realistic take on French Revolution drama, check out: