My Own Revolution
It is difficult to create, for today’s young readership, the proper context in which to explain the Iron Curtain or the Cold War. With constant technological surveillance, today’s kids are less than likely to comprehend how “being watched” was once a bad thing. In her new novel, MY OWN REVOLUTION, Carolyn Marsden attempts to invent a story that could make a world of kids brought up on Facebook and Twitter understand that not everyone wanted every moment of their life documented and shared with strangers.
"Reading MY OWN REVOLUTION, with its quiet matter-of-fact tone and its propensity for building tension into each thing Patrik does, is a history lesson cloaked in a suspense novel masquerading as a quick-finish chapter book for teens."
Occupied Czechoslovakia. A family tries to live below the radar. A young boy in an anti-Communist family who doesn’t care on whit about politics but rather only about the beautiful girl upstairs, with whom he is fully in the throes of first love. Teenagers are teenagers, no matter where they live (remember Anne Frank’s declarations of love and confusion about her changing physical and emotional state in her diary?) It is often said that teens can’t see far beyond the sphere of their own personal experience and Patrik, the boy in this novel, is no exception.
Like some Iron Curtain verson of “Punk’d,” Patrik is a prankster and loves to play jokes on people. However, when he finds out that his true love is dating a new kid, a loyal Communist party member who wants to live by the Cold War playbook, Patrik gets back at him in the way he knows best: by pulling simple pranks. However, thanks to the boom of his adolescent hormones, Patrik gets carried away, and what were conceived as little displays of rebellion against the Party turn into bigger and bigger events, growing in stature until they break all boundaries and threaten his family’s security.
Marsden makes a good play at presenting the families just like any other families with teens at any other time in the world’s history --- exasperated parents taking care of exasperating kids with raging hormones and their own inflated sense of importance and independence. However, the Cold War environment is a tension-filled one. There is no doubt, while reading this book, that Patrik’s final slip-up could be a death knell for his family, no matter how casually Marsden describes the family. It’s Ozzie and Harriet on their way to the Archipelago. Interesting stuff.
Many families escaped the Communists from the former Czechoslovakia and made it to safety. The story of how they survived the months and days leading up to their escapes have rarely been told; but Marsden, using a story about a surgeon who escaped with his family when he was 14, manages to extract every natural moment from their lives, targeting them step-by-step into a more dangerous future than we could have imagined. It is efficient and thorough storytelling --- you really feel like you’ve fallen into a world that exists just beyond the border of 2012. Reading MY OWN REVOLUTION, with its quiet matter-of-fact tone and its propensity for building tension into each thing Patrik does, is a history lesson cloaked in a suspense novel masquerading as a quick-finish chapter book for teens. It is all of them and none of them completely. MY OWN REVOLUTION is a truly good book.
Reviewed by Jana Sicilliano on November 14, 2012