Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

The set-up: Andi has been too busy grieving and losing herself in her guitar music to take the time to start the thesis required for graduation from her private school. When her dad discovers how bad Andi’s situation has gotten, he whisks her off to Paris (poor Andi) to make her get to work (Paris, but with homework? Really, this time, poor Andi).

Main character’s goals: Andi wants to go back in time, to save her brother. The loss of him is too much for her (she escapes into her music and her antidepressants), it’s too much for her mother (she escapes into her painting and periods of catatonia), and it’s too much for her father (he up and leaves the family). I would say at the start of the story, Andi doesn’t have much of a goal, but once she’s in Paris her goal is to get back to her mother. Then she finds an old diary, and strange things happen.

My reaction: This was a book to savor. I wasn’t rushing through it, trying to reach the end, but I did want to hang out with Andi for awhile, hear what she had to say. And I’m still divided as to what really happened (we have a bit of an unreliable narrator going, what with the substance abuse, so the last half of the book is…a little different. I don’t want to spoil anything by saying more).

Of interest to writers: I really have a hard time with epistolary novels. If you want to incorporate a diary, or letters and notes or emails, then you had better do it well. Otherwise, I will hate your book. Aim for what Donnelly has done in Revolution, or what Jaclyn Moriarty does in The Year of Secret Assignments. For an example of what NOT to do…[] That is the sound of me biting my tongue. I am trying to be kind here. If you really want to know what I read recently that had a sucky diary thing going, send me an email.

Bottom line: So. This book is awesome.

To visit Jennifer Donnelly’s website, click here.

Reminds me of: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.


The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz

There are a few excellent books I’ve read recently, but I have to write about this one immediately. It was just that good.

Set-Up: Allie, the “Vinyl Princess” as she dubs herself for her blog, works at Bob & Bob Records, a place that her mom says smells “like an octogenarian’s attic” (p. 10), but to Allie is heaven on earth. She is obsessed with LPs. LP: an abbreviation for those ancient things called (long-playing) records that collect dust in your mother’s attic…or, to Allie, the truly righteous and best way of listening to music.

Main character’s goals: to lead a revolution against “corporate rock and downloading and digitizing and Clear Channel” (p. 12). She also wants some romance in her life.  She sets about accomplishing the first goal by starting up a blog and a zine, and she sets about finding romance by fantasizing about a Bob & Bob shopper she calls M (for “mystery guy”).

My reaction: Throughout the book I had a weird feeling. I kept struggling to recognize a name, any name, of a band or musician that I recognized. I often couldn’t, which made me feel sixteen shades of uncool. Then I realized: I wanted to impress Allie. That’s how cool she is – she made me want to impress a fictional character. Name-dropping usually doesn’t put a person on my good side, but it worked for Allie. When she listened to Dark Side of the Moon I might have cheered out loud because for once I knew what she was talking about.

Of interest to writers: the climactic action happens almost 100 pages before the end of the book. This premature climax (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it) works, and I’m impressed. I’m impressed whenever a book goes slightly against the grain. It works for The Vinyl Princess, as there are still some unresolved issues (namely, the revolution and the romance) after the Big Action. Nobody could put it down at that point.

The goals are sort of mixed in with character introduction, background, all that stuff that everyone says shouldn’t happen in the beginning of a novel…well, Prinz makes it work because Allie’s voice is full of awesome attitude (not sarcastic, just cool).

Bottom Line: As soon as I can find a sucker to take care of my kid, I’m heading to the local INDEPENDENT record store to buy one of the albums Allie loves. I’m not sure which one yet. I can be sure of this: I’m not buying it as a record, as I have no turntable. But I’m not downloading it.

Also, I’m so so sorry, but I can’t resist: This book rocks. He he.

For more information on the book and the author, visit Prinz’s website by clicking here.