Review: A Million Quiet Revolutions

A Million Quiet Revolutions

by Robin Gow

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Emily Roth

A Million Quiet Revolutions is a stunning novel in verse that tells a profound love story. At the beginning of their senior year of high school, Oliver and Aaron are realizing that their relationship is deeper than a lifelong friendship, and they are both beginning the process of coming out as trans. After history buff Oliver discovers a story of two Revolutionary War soldiers who may have been trans and may have lived together after the war, he and Aaron choose to pay tribute to the soldiers by adopting their names. Oliver, who is white and Jewish, finds that his parents immediately support him and affirm his identity, while Aaron’s more conservative Puerto Rican and Catholic parents have a hard time using the correct pronouns and often deadname him. Although it would be easy to view Aaron’s parents as the villains of this story, Glow succeeds at creating complex and three dimensional characters, and in the end Aaron’s family’s love for him is more powerful than their initial struggle.

When Aaron’s brother goes to the police with accusations against their priest, his family quickly moves from Kutztown, Pennsylvania to Queens, New York. As Oliver and Aaron grapple with the pressures of their relationship becoming long distance, they draw strength from the stories of queer people throughout history. Throughout this section of the novel, Glow’s use of letters, text messages, and unsent messages is remarkably effective. Oliver and Aaron make plans to reunite at a Revolutionary War reenactment at the end of their senior year, but neither is certain if the story of their soldiers is powerful enough to transcend time and keep their present day bond from splintering.

Oliver’s Judaism informs his journey through the novel in ways large and small. His family occasionally attends a Reform synagogue and celebrates holidays, and he had a bat mitzvah five years ago. In a particularly poignant scene, Oliver contemplates the idea that he will someday be a Jewish man, and he hopes that he will have a bar mitzvah. However, in the back of his mind, he worries that his congregation may not see him the way he sees himself.

A Million Quiet Revolutions
is a stunning, important, and affirming novel. It is also absolutely a contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Emily Roth (she/her/hers) is a youth services librarian, avid reader, and lifelong Midwesterner. Her short fiction has been published by The Masters Review, Reflex Fiction, Exposition Review, and others. She lives in Chicago with her rescue dog, Obie.