The antics of Andi Alpers and her circle of frenemies would make the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette blush. Sex, drugs, and partying are their lifeblood, parents are largely absent, and entitlement is a way of life. For Andi, however, it’s all just a cover-up for the guilt she feels over the death of her beloved younger brother. The only things that bring Andi any semblance of solace are her guitar and the prescription medication that she takes to dull the pain of living. Frightened by Andi’s downward spiral and determined to get Andi to write her senior thesis proposal, her geneticist father brings her to Paris for winter break. He’s performing DNA testing on a 200-year-old heart that purportedly belongs to Louis-Charles, the ill-fated son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
On her first day in Paris, Andi is given an antique guitar, and she finds a journal in a hidden compartment in the guitar’s case. The journal, written by Alex, a young woman around Andi’s age, details her extraordinary acts of heroism during the French Revolution. Alex was hired as a caretaker to Louis-Charles because she was the only person who could make him smile amid the misery surrounding him, and she stops at nothing to protect and care for him. The story of Alex’s love for Louis-Charles helps Andi accept the loss of her own brother.
Donnelly draws interesting parallels between the excesses of wealthy teens and the royal excesses that lead to the French Revolution. Adults may find Andi a little overwrought, but teens will likely identify. The plot is complex, and the history (which is very well-researched) is fast-paced and interesting. Recommended for older teens (15 and up).