Review: Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

revolution is not a dinner party by ying chang compestine

Nine-year-old Ling has a very happy life. Her parents are both dedicated surgeons at the best hospital in Wuhan, and her father teaches her English as they listen to Voice of America every evening on the radio. But when one of Mao’s political officers moves into a room in their apartment, Ling begins to witness the gradual disintegration of her world. In an atmosphere of increasing mistrust and hatred, Ling fears for the safety of her neighbors, and soon, for herself and her family. For the next four years, Ling will suffer more horrors than many people face in a lifetime. Will she be able to grow and blossom under the oppressive rule of Chairman Mao? Or will fighting to survive destroy her spirit—and end her life?

Description taken from Goodreads.


In any scenario, this book is in my top five favorite historical fictions–especially in those in the category of war. In REVOLUTION, the reader is completely transported to the Chinese Revolution and they get to feel all of Ling’s pain, confusion, frustration and will to survive as her life as she knew it before the revolution fades away.

I really admire Ling and at times, I really dislike her as well for one specific part of her personality. She starts out as being a very weak, childish, small-minded, naive character–and the one thing I dislike about her is that through the course of the story, there’s a part of her that remains this way. That cares about childish things and gets angry over small matters. However, I feel like I have to look past this because of how much she grows over the course of the story. Besides, at the end of the story she’s still just a child. Sure, she’s matured and grown far stronger than I could’ve ever guessed at the start of the story but at the most, the oldest she could be is thirteen.

I think this book will really reach out and impact children that are around Ling’s age (nine at the start of the story and twelve at the end–I would recommend this story for 11+) because of how much difficulty Ling goes through and how she gradually grows older and wiser in the midst of the revolution. I loved how real she was as a character and the type of person she is by the end of REVOLUTION.

I also really liked her family, and the way she feels connected to them. I liked her relationships with others, and how she learns about good, evil and the gray space in between. There are so many lessons in this story that are taught in a way entirely different from other stories, not necessarily literal situations that one might face in the modern day, but lessons about history and moral.

The plot of this story is not dry or boring, but it also doesn’t move very quickly either. I would definitely recommend it in a classroom setting, or for someone 11-14 to read. I loved REVOLUTION and I continue to love it every time I read it, even if I did have one question left hanging in the end. 4.5 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 272

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