The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab
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 To her, Hannah’s a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away.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.Publishes in US: Oct 9th 2012
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.
At the heart of The Opposite of Hallelujah, I think the message is that your actions don't just effect yourself. A lie, a decision to leave, hiding from your problems, and pain can't be isolated to just you, it creates a wave to the people you love and that love you.
Caro is a very relatable narrator. I could relate with her anger, pain and doubt about what was going on in the world around her as well as her curiosity whether related to learning or uncovering the past of her prodigal sister. She is a bit spoiled at times, but aren't we all. Thinking of ourselves is our natural state, but I love how she feels regret when she treats others badly, and at the end of the day I think that she strives to put others before herself.
Pawel, Caro's friend and love interest is great as well. I loved his sense of humor, his sensitivity and the closeness that was featured in his family as well.
The Opposite of Hallelujah definitily has something that is missing from a lot of teen novels, involved parents. It doesn't mean that they are perfect, but I love the relationship and the conversations that are in this book. I like that they are involved in school work, try to enforce a family dinner, and how they try to cultivate a relationship between Caro and Hannah.
Anna Jarzab did a wonderful job writing the emotions of the characters. It got me to feel something for them, especially with Hannah. Even when I did not know what was the root of her pain and confusion, I still felt for her. I could see that she was trying to hard to reform a relationship with Caro as she sorted through her feelings.
I guess one thing that should be mentioned in case you can't tell from the description, there is a lot of religious discussion in this novel, but I think that it all felt authentic. Caro was questioning what she really believed, if there was a God, her anger with him, and confusion at what made her sister join the convent and ultimately what led her to leave. Father Bob is a great presence in this novel too. I don't think that he ever tried to force his beliefs on anyone, but rather he was a listening ear to Caro, and tried to lead her on the path to discovering herself, and what she can do for her sister.
Bottom line: The Opposite of Hallelujah is a touching story filled to the brim with emotions with a sweet yet rocky at times relationship and a strong narrator that I connected with.