Friday, October 26, 2012
Author: Anna Jarzab
Genre: YA, contemporary
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2012
Read for: Review
Caro used to tell people that her older sister, Hannah, was dead. Somehow it seemed easier than explaining that she was a contemplative nun in a convent where her family could only see her once a year. However, for whatever reason, Hannah has decided to leave her life in the convent, and now Caro has to adjust to the fact that her long-absent sister is about to complicate her life.
I was drawn to The Opposite of Hallelujah by its interesting premise -- you don't often hear about nuns in this day and age, especially not young ones in their twenties. In most ways, The Opposite of Hallelujah does not disappoint, delivering an interesting plot, a hint of romance, and a lot of growth for the main character, Caro.
I'll be honest -- Caro definitely rubbed me the wrong way at the beginning of the book. First of all, I thought she was a total brat, completely negative about her sister and constantly breaking her parents' rules by sneaking out and freaking out whenever they asked her to do anything. Sometimes when I read books about teenagers, I have to silently pray that I was not that self-absorbed. However, Caro legitimately learns some lessons in the book. She doesn't have this complete change of heart in which she never does anything annoying or selfish again, but she does begin treating her family with more love and she also tries to do some pretty giving things. I really enjoyed watching her transformation, as well as reading some of the conversations she has with a scientist-priest from her church.
The plot was also well-done. The whole premise of The Opposite of Hallelujah is pretty unique, and I think it lived up to its promise of being an intriguing story. Hannah's reasons for both entering and leaving the convent are somewhat secret for most of the novel, and the Caro's process of uncovering those reasons is interesting. In addition, there is a great side plot involving Caro's romance with a new student named Pawel (pronounced "Pavel") who was absolute YA dream-boy material.
My major complaint with this book may seem like a small thing, but I noticed it several times and it was very distracting. There were several instances where a character would say or do something and then directly contradict it later in the book. For example, at Christmas Caro is so excited to give Hannah her Christmas present that she can hardly keep herself from bringing it to the dinner table. But on the next page, she says that she holds on to Hannah's present, saving it for last. This seemed jarring and contradictory to me, and there were several other similar instances in the book.
However, for the most part The Opposite of Hallelujah was an interesting read that examined religion, family, trust, and the punishments we impose upon ourselves.
Warnings: Brief strong language, teenage drinking, some moderate kissing