by Anna Jarzab
Publisher: Delacorte Press for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 9th 2012
Add it on Goodreads
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 To her, Hannah's a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away.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.
I am a huge fan of Anna Jarzab's first novel All Unquiet Things so when I saw The Opposite of Hallelujah on the new YA books shelf at the Library I had to check it out. I had no clue whatsoever what it was about I just new I had to read it because of how much I enjoyed AUT.
The Opposite of Hallelujah surprised me. I didn't know what I was expecting, but it definitely threw me for a loop in the best of ways and even now I'm finding it hard to explain what The Opposite of Hallelujah is about because, well, it has a lot of themes and a lot is going on in it. A LOT.
First you've got Caro, a protagonist that is both relatable, hateable, and by the end a completely changed character. She's unusual because she's one of the first protagonists I've run across where she's not particularly likeable but she's meant to be that way. Caro is selfish, lies easily, and you spend half the book banging your head against the wall thinking "WHY CARO WHY?!?!" But the thing is, she changes, and she grows, and by the end of the book you're thinking "Dang girl, you've come so far. HECK YES YOU DESERVE YOU'RE ADORABLE BOYFRIEND."
Speaking of the said boyfriend he is totally adorbs. Pawel (pronounced Pavel) is Swedish, has an awesome family, and on top of just being a really nice guy (seriously, he's really nice) he has this quirky love for Rube Goldberg machines that I found totally endearing. In case you don't know what Rube Goldberg machines are the game Mouse Trap is the perfect example of a very simple one. When I was a kid I happened to really like Rube Goldberg machines (though I didn't know what they were at the time) so I thought Pawel's obsession with them was really cute. I also just really liked that this book talked about Rube Goldberg machines. Seriously. RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINES.
On top of those two characters (and the awesomeness of Rube Goldberg machines) another main one is Hannah, Caro's long lost nun turned non-nun sister. She's an equally fascinating and multi-faceted character and the way Anna Jarzab deals with her story and struggle is great.
Besides all these characters to work out there's also the plot which is full of a ton of different themes ranging from religion and science, to sisterhood and friendship, to self-discovery and forgiveness. A lot goes on in The Opposite of Hallelujah but Anna Jarzab manages to wrap it all together brilliantly and it works. It really works. I was particularly impressed with the way Anna Jarzab dealt with religion. When authors write about religion there are countless ways they can go wrong and very few in which they can go right. The Opposite of Hallelujah is the perfect example of religion done correctly. It isn't preachy, but it does bring up excellent points about religion and it will make a reader think. Not since Melissa Walker's book Small Town Sinner's have I read something that dealt with the subject of religion so well.
So in conclusion The Opposite of Hallelujah is a lot of things.
It's a story of sisters and self-discovery.
It's about faith and forgiveness.
It's mysterious, beautiful, and full of hope and possibilities.
Ultimately if you're a fan of contemporaries you should definitely pick this one up. You won't be disappointed! I award it 4 out of 5 ice cream cones!
If you want to know a little bit more about The Opposite of Hallelujah, the author Anna Jarzab, and her upcoming Many-Worlds trilogy, be sure to check back tomorrow for an exclusive interview!