Happy Yesterday-Birthday America.
Honestly I’m not feeling super celebratory this year. Over the top patriotism has bothered me for a while, but this year it feels especially off. We still ate apple pie and hotdogs, and we still went to fireworks (there is no such thing as a bad reason to set off safe, colorful explosives)*, but posting American flags made out of books on Instagram feels icky.
Still, since this year marks the 244th anniversary of signing of the document that started one of the more influential revolutions in history, I thought it might be fun to talk about some of my favorite books about revolutions. These are in no particular order. Half-assed listicles for the win!
*plus outside is apparently VERY low-risk of Covid spread, so I figured this was a good opportunity to get my kids out of the house for the first time in months
The Hunger Games Trilogy
Obviously! A good dystopia needs a good revolution, but my favorite thing about this revolution is how messy it is. Both sides are willing to do pretty terrible things in the name of victory, and in the end Katniss doles out justice on a whim. Nothing is black and white in this series, especially Katniss, which is what I think STILL separates this book from all the other YA dystopias out there. Plus the side-characters are SO COMPELLING!!!
Children of Blood and Bone
God, everything ABOUT this novel! The one-of-a-kind magic system, the dynamic characters, the real-world relevance, the romance, the no-win revolution. Like The Hunger Games, one of my favorite things about this book was how both “sides” seemed to be right about magic. But unlike The Hunger Games, I can’t imagine how this can possibly resolve. I came for the revolution, but I stayed for the magic. I’ve never read anything like it before, I love how deeply grounded it is in African traditions, and everything just fit together like puzzle pieces. THIS BOOK!
Oooooo, I love a good book about the French Revolution! Les Miserables is probably my favorite romantic-era novel. The characters are what really makes this book worth the read, though certainly the revolutionary setting makes for a FABULOUS story. I love how Victor Hugo isn’t afraid to show how the French Revolution didn’t really make things better for anyone, but how the French people continued to have hope (and continued to have more revolutions!). This book is complex, and heartbreaking, and lovely, and LONG. I highly recommend the Penguin abridged version, lol!
Next Year in Havana
I’m pretty well burnt out of dual-timeline historical fiction, but I just ADORED this book in spite of all of that. It’s sexy, it’s authentically Cuban, it’s exciting, it’s glamorous. I love how strong the women in this book are, and that while they aren’t always in control of their lives they TAKE control where they can. They’re willing to take risks for love. And not just romantic love. Familial love plays a big role in this book. Plus, look at that cover. Doesn’t it just make you SWOON?!?!
Full disclosure, this is one of those rare situations where I enjoy the movie more than the book. But Prince Caspian is one of my favorite Narnia novels. This is the complete and utter opposite of EVERY OTHER BOOK on this list because it’s pretty black-and-white. Caspian and friends good, existing government bad, zero complications. But I don’t know, I just love the character development of the Pevensies, how they come slowly over the course of the book to realize that they can’t do it alone. They need Aslan. Also, Reepicheep is the best. EVER. I will fight you to the death on that one.
What are your favorite revolution books? Let me know in the comments!