Title: The Opposite of Hallelujah
Author: Anna Jarzab
Publisher: Random House
Release date: October 9th 2012
Genre: Contemporary YA; mystery
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Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child—and she likes it that way. After all, her much older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Caro’s parents drop the bombshell news that Hannah is returning to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah’s a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away. Caro can’t understand why her parents cut her sister so much slack, and why they’re not pushing for answers.
Unable to understand Hannah, Caro resorts to telling lies about her mysterious reappearance. But when those lies alienate Caro’s new boyfriend and put her on the outs with her friends and her parents, she seeks solace from an unexpected source. And when she unearths a clue about Hannah’s past—one that could save Hannah from the dark secret that possesses her—Caro begins to see her sister in a whole new light.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I love when a book just completely takes me by surprise! I wasn't expecting much from The Opposite of Hallelujah, but I ended up loving it. It's the kind of book that sneaks up on you - there wasn't one special moment where I found myself going 'wow', and only after finishing it did I notice how amazing the book had been. The Opposite of Hallelujah is subtle in all the right ways.
Caro is such a fun MC! I didn't like her or agree with her a lot of the time, but I didn't mind, because it was just so much fun to read from her POV. Even when she's being whiny or melodramatic or isn't making any sense, it works, because she knows. She knows that what she's saying is rude, bratty or uncalled-for, but she says it anyways. And that's how real people are. (Well, I don't know whether everyone does that. But I know I definitely do.) I love how Caro is quirky and into science. Her voice is real and honest - and when the voice is good, it's almost guaranteed I'll love the book.
Then there's Hannah. That whole storyline is so complex and unique. I don't want to say too much because I liked watching it unfold without knowing much beforehand, but the whole set-up is original and very intriguing.
The writing is great. It's very descriptive, but I liked it - gives the whole book a nice tone. The Opposite of Hallelujah is 450 pages long, which is very long for contemporary YA, but I like how the author took her time developing plot and characters.
I love how religion is handled in The Opposite of Hallelujah. Religion is a tough subject, at least for me - I've ranted about preachy books on this blog more times than I can count. But I really, really like how the topic is dealt with in The Opposite of Hallelujah. It's always there, but it's subtle - there's no shoving an opinion down the reader's throat, there's just a hint of a message, and the reader can decide what to do with it. Casual doesn't exactly fit, but it's the word that comes to mind when I think of how religion is portrayed in The Opposite of Hallelujah - it shows religion doesn't have to be something strange and old and out there; it can be a part of your normal life. It's a part of life that everyone has to form an opinion on. The message is subtle, and for me, that made it much more powerful.
I did have some complaints, though. I think the characters of the love interest and the two best friends were a little underdeveloped, and I would have liked to see some more depth to Caro's relationship with her parents. Considering the length of the book, I think it should have been possible to make those secondary characters and relationships a little more complex.
Still, I loved this book. It's perfect for anyone who wants to give a relgious book a try but is afraid of a preachy message. But even if you aren't interested in the religious aspect, I recommend The Opposite of Hallelujah, since it's a great sister story and realistic coming-of-age book. With subtle but evocative prose and a main character who's so real, The Opposite of Hallelujah is dark but ultimately satisfying.