Our very own Mrs. C recommended this book to me, and I have to say, I was not disappointed. From the first page, I could not put this book down. Jennifer Donnelly, who also wrote the acclaimed A Northern Light, weaves a tale that encompasses rock music, the French Revolution, two teenage girls from different centuries, and how it is possible to recover from soul-crushing grief.
Andi Alpers is a 17 year old girl who looks, from the surface, to have everything. She is super smart and a talented guitarist with a Nobel-prize winning father, an artist mother, and a place at an exclusive New York school, but it is clear from the offset that she is suffering. Not just poor-little-rich-girl suffering, but the kind of grief that makes her consider the unthinkable. We soon learn that her younger brother, Truman, died in tragic circumstances and Andi blames herself.
Flunking out of every class except music, Andi is given an ultimatum by her often-absent father: she must accompany him to Paris and finish the outline for a final thesis (about a fictional classical composer) while he completes DNA testing of a preserved heart that historians claim belonged to Louis-Charles, the doomed Prince of France, who was imprisoned during the French Revolution. Once there, Andi finds an old diary written by Alex, a street performer who was a companion to Louis-Charles and who charted her own experiences as well as the terror of living through the Revolution. Andi becomes engrossed in Alex’s story, as do we, and we find out what happens to Alex and the little prince. Through the diary (and with a little help from a cute rapper named Virgil), Andi begins to see her way out of the shadows of grief.
The last third of the book did not have the same appeal to me as the rest of the novel, where Andi experiences a time-slip that seems to come out of nowhere, but the rest of the novel is more than strong enough to pull the reader through. By the end, we learn of Alex’s and the Dauphin’s fate and learn if Andi can be saved from herself.
This book is very dense and detailed but was so engaging that I read it much faster than many shorter books. I would recommend it to readers who are interested in historical fiction, but also edgy stories about teenagers with problems. Music lovers (especially guitarists) are in for a treat, and readers who are already Donnelly fans will be blown away by this book.