Sunday, August 4, 2013

YA Books with Strong Musical Themes: REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly

As an avid reader and music lover, I am most delighted when the two converge together into a story that has a strong musical element to it. Because of this, I've set out on a quest to read more stories where music has a heavy presence and purpose throughout the book.

One of these books that I read awhile ago is by one of my favorite authors, Jennifer Donnelly. It is titled REVOLUTION and tells the story of two girls two centuries apart. Here is the official blurb:



From the privileged streets of modern Brooklyn to the heart of the French Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.


From this description, you don't necessarily get the "music" feel to it. That is where sometimes you have to rely on recommendations from others - like the one I'm giving you right now. There is definitely a strong theme of music here for both girls. Even though they are centuries apart it still has the same effect on them and that is how you know that the feelings music can bring are timeless.

There are other important parts of the story such as grief over lost loved ones, historical elements, and a secret to be revealed but I related a lot more to the musical thread of the story. Jennifer Donnelly also so graciously gives a list of songs on her website and the page number they are referenced at. So if you take a look at that here, you will see there are numerous tracks mentioned throughout the book and in varying music genres.

I love seeing how other authors interpret music and display it in their books. I have a strong desire to have a story with a big musical theme one day and so it pays to really study how others have successfully done it. Music is such a big part of my life but sometimes I find it hard to really know how to describe it in a justifiable way. I guess it means something a little different to everyone but if you can hit on a small universal understanding of it, then you've done it right.

Here are some memorable music quotes from the novel REVOLUTION:

“I'm wishing he could see that music lives. Forever. That it's stronger than death. Stronger than time. And that its strength holds you together when nothing else can.”  


“I play until my fingers are blue and stiff from the cold, and then I keep on playing. Until I'm lost in the music. Until I am the music--notes and chords, the melody and harmony. It hurts, but it's okay because when I'm the music, I'm not me. Not sad. Not afraid. Not desperate. Not guilty.” 


“When you can write music that endures, bravo. Until then, keep quiet and study the work of those who can.”  


“I play until my fingertips are raw. Until I rip a nail and bleed on the strings. Until my hands hurt so bad I forget my heart does.”  


“Come on you raver, you seer of visions, come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine...”


“The King walks. He nods. His glance is like God's touch - under it all things spring to life. A wave of his hand and a hundred musicians tear into the Handel, making a sound you've never heard before, and never will again. A sound that goes through you, through flesh and bone, and reorders the very beat of your heart.”  

Check out  REVOLUTION on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or add to your Goodreads!

What other young adult novels have you read that reveal a strong musical element to the story? I would love to expand my reading list! 

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