Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Fall 2010 Fiction
Ages: 14 & Up
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
ISBN: 9780385737630
Hardcover Price: $18.99

Andi has felt like she's going over the edge since her brother Truman's death. Her father, a Nobel prize-winning biologist, is long gone, and her mother has retreated to her own inner world, holing up in the apartment and painting pictures of Truman's face over and over. Andi has antagonized nearly everyone in school, and her grades have slipped so far she might be expelled from her high-powered private school, St. Anselm's. The only thing keeping Andi remotely sane is playing her guitar. The trouble is, Andi won't be able to attend her music lessons during winter break, since her father has learned about Andi's grades and has finally decided to intervene, checking her mother into a hospital and whisking Andi off to Paris to work on her senior thesis under supervision. Andi isn't sure she can withstand the depression weighing on her, and her medications aren't helping much. However, her father's Parisian friend, an historian of the French Revolution, encourages her to play a period guitar he has in his archives. When Andi finds a diary in the case, she becomes increasingly drawn into the world of the writer, a puppeteer and actress whose main task during the Revolution was to care for the young Dauphin-a boy who looked remarkably like Andi's brother Truman.

This novel's dark, mordant humor, careful period research, and musical sensibility will appeal to a range of young adult readers. Donnelly embeds plenty of interesting information about the French Revolution, but the story does not invite readers to inhabit the world of the past; instead, the focus is on how to cherish and remember the ghosts of the past without abandoning the world of the living. Andi, the narrator, is not always a comfortable companion for the reader, as she is often depressed to the point of despair; in fact, the treatment of mental illness in this novel is quite strong, but also might warrant conversations about the depictions of depression and suicidal ideation. Andi is not, however, defined by her depression; she is also a convincing, passionate, and sometimes unexpectedly funny guide through the worlds of contemporary upper-class New York and eighteenth-century Paris.

Naomi Lesley   ©2010 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

Look for this product at:
Random House Books for Young Readers

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