This book is pretty long, let's make that clear. The copy I had was just under 500 pages and I really feel the size could have been cut down drastically. At first, when I began reading the book, I felt it was moving along nicely. Andi, the main character, is very obviously in a fit of depression and developing an addiction to prescribed medication. There is a lot of vague information in the beginning as to why Andi is the way she is. You're introduced to her mother who seems to have lost her mind completely and her father is vacant, then there are the snippits of information that Andi's little brother is dead and that is likely the cause for everyone to be acting the way they are.
Great, excellent, you've got my attention. But nearly right away there are a slew of cultural, musical references that I felt could be completely confusing for some. A lot of musical talents of the past thirty years that, say, if someone were to be reading this book in another 30 years they very well could be lost. I feel there are two ways to handle a lot of current-day-references in books: you either blabber on expecting the reader to fully understand what you're talking about or you write it in such a way that the reader doesn't need to know what you're talking about because you explain just enough - without giving full definitions - that the reader can still get the idea. I feel that Donnelly certainly switched between the two. For musical references that I didn't understand I sometimes got what she was talking about and other times felt like I would have to turn to YouTube and Google to fully understand. And yet, for what Donnelly discusses of the French Revolution - as someone who doesn't understand a whole lot about it - I found myself completely engrossed in the storyline and able to follow the events.
Donnelly does a wonderful job in switching between the POV of Andi and Alexandria - a girl who lived during the French Revolution whose diary is being read by Andi during the 21st Century. The parallels between their two lives, both girls ultimately losing a little boy they've come to love, is touching and understandable. At times I felt that Donnelly dragged out the angst of Andi a little too much - again, this book could have been much shorter than it was. At times I felt that her angst was being repeated and certainly not moving anywhere, not getting worse, not getting better, and while in real life when someone is depressed there can be long periods of time where there is no change in the emotions of the sufferer, in a book there needs to be some progress to keep the reader entertained.
I think that's partially why it took me so long to read this book. The very beginning was good but then it bottomed out. Andi is depressed, Andi takes meds, Andi is in a drug haze, Andi tries to get information about her paper. Rinse and repeat. The only thing that broke up the center of the book, the only progress in the plot that was made, was that Andi would read Alex's diary and you would see Alex's life moving along. The last 200 pages of the book things began to pick up. Andi was still depressed and drugged but now she was interacting with more people, reacting to events around her, and starting to work through her issues. Once I got to the end of the book where things were moving along I flew through the rest of the book and it was annoying to have to put it down in favor of things like work, cleaning, and motion sickness on my commute to and from work. If the center of the book was cut out I feel the entire novel would have been better. It would have moved faster and there probably would have been less negative reviews for it on Goodreads.
Once finished with a book I tend to figure out how much I enjoyed it by asking myself if I would keep the book. The answer is no. Problem is that the copy I have is an ARC and therefore cannot be sold so I have no where to send it. Well then, I think I'll recycle the pages of the book to do this craft project with it.