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The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab
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The Opposite of Hallelujah

by Anna Jarzab

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599200,849 (4.12)3
17 (1) 2012 (3) ARC (2) Christianity (1) conflict (1) contemporary (1) depression (1) family (1) fiction (3) fitting in (1) friends (1) girl (1) history (1) identity (1) kids (1) lying (1) mystery (2) nuns (3) own (1) owned (1) realistic (1) religion (4) secrets (2) siblings (2) sister (1) sisters (2) teen (4) to-read (7) YA (6) young adult (2)
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Told from the perspective of 16-year-old Caro, we hear the story of her 27-year-old sister Hannah who returns home after 8 years in a convent as a nun. Hannah won't eat and sleeps all day, clearly depressed, but Caro doesn't know why and no one will tell her what happened to Hannah before the convent. This is as much Caro's journey as it is Hannah's; Caro really begins to question what it means to be a nun, and what it means to believe in God, even though she isn't sure she does. ( )
  Tahleen | Feb 16, 2014 |
I finished this book a month or so ago, and can't remember much about it. So I guess it was just so-so.
  Suso711 | Sep 4, 2013 |
The Opposite of Hallelujah was a well crafted story that delved into the psyche of a teenager struggling with faith, family, and life. I though Jarzab did a great job of building believable characters and even though Caro got on my nerves a lot, it was because she was responding in a way that would be typical of a teen. She didn't know how to deal with some of the things happening to her and her family, so she was trying to take the easy way out.

I really enjoyed seeing how Caro grew throughout the story. And that is probably the biggest reason why I didn't mind that she got on my nerves. In the beginning she acts like a spoiled brat, but even then there are hints that maybe she could be likeable. By the the time the climax comes around, I really felt for her and could see her realizing that the people around are more than what she sees on the surface.

There is of course a romance angle, and I actually liked Pawal. He's not the over the top romantic lead, or the bad boy, he's just a regular boy. There is no inta-love between them, and their relationship made sense. I especially loved how Jarzab deals with him finding out about Caro's lies. ( )
  AngelaFristoe | Aug 10, 2013 |
Going into The Opposite of Hallelujah, I had mildly high expectations, knowing that my friend Katie of Blook Girl loved it. Still, I wasn't so sure about the subject matter, and just really didn't know that much about it, since I pretty scrupulously avoid reviews of books I plan to read, even from my favorite reviewers. Katie was completely right about this book. The Opposite of Hallelujah gave me so many feels: sadness, awkwardness, hope, and fangirling happiness.

My very favorite thing about The Opposite of Hallelujah, what makes it stand out so incredibly fresh and original to me, is that it centers around a family. Yes, there's romance and school and all of that, but Caro's relationship with her family members comes first, primarily that with her much older sister Hannah. Caro scarcely knew Hannah (eleven years her senior) when she went away to live in a convent when Caro was just eight years old. Caro didn't know how to deal with this, what it all meant, so she simplified things and told people her sister was dead. This came out, as such things tend to, earning Caro the nickname "Caroliar," which also gave Caro another grudge to hold against her sister, added to the sense of abandonment she already felt.

Fast forward a few years to the summer before Caro's junior year of high school. News comes to the Mitchell family that Hannah is coming home from the convent. Caro's parents, who have missed their daughter and been deeply hurt that she left them, even for a vocation, are thrilled to have her back. Caro, on the other hand, wishes Hannah, and the whole big, confusing, mess of resulting emotions had never come back.

That sounds mean, but Caro doesn't know this woman who appears off the train. Caro feels like an only child, and she doesn't appreciate her parents' orders that she behave a certain way to Hannah. Honestly, Caro does not feel that Hannah deserves to be so easily accepted back into the family, since she abandoned them so utterly. Immediately, Caro falls back into her old pattern, lying to people at school about her sister. She does not even tell her best friends or boyfriend that Hannah's back from the convent. Later, when it's outed that Hannah is back, she lies about where Hannah was.

When I first started reading, I was momentarily put off by the writing (not personally my favorite style) and the formatting (obnoxiously large font to make the book seem longer than it is), but I soon stopped noticing or caring about any of that, because Caro's character is so powerful. She has such a strong, authentic teen voice. All of the stupid things she does make a messed up sort of sense, because you're seeing through her eyes and you know how her mind works. Besides, aside from the lying, she's such a funny, clever, strong-spirited girl that you just root for her so hard to work through her issues.

The Mitchell family feels so much like a real family: they have awkward moments, they fight, they love. It's just so beautiful, and so rarely depicted in young adult fiction, because so much of it needs the heroine to be accomplishing some gargantuan feat, not living through daily life. Her parents love both of them so much. They make mistakes, of course, because that's what parents do, but they're always there to help or to punish as needed. Jarzab includes some very typical parent-child fights that totally had me flashing back to my teen years.

At the beginning of the book, Caro has a boyfriend (or, at least, she thinks that's what he is), Derek, who has been gone at camp. When he gets back, he doesn't call, and she does what any self-respecting girl would do: freaks out and calls her best friends for advice. Reb and Erin agree: this is bad news, and that she should probably dump him before he dumps her. She decides to do that, and goes to his house, where he beats her to the draw. I share this to illustrate how high school and realistically awkward it is. There are so many scenes that struck a perfect chord.

Anyway, stupid Derek dumping her cleared the way for a wonderful, adorable guy. Pawel is, stereotypically, the new guy at school. Yes, I rolled my eyes at this, but he's so damn adorable, that I got over that really quickly. For one thing, he's Polish and has an impossible to pronounce name (Caro's friends just call him Polish), and, for another, he is one of the most sweet, caring guys I've encountered in YA. He and Caro have an immediate connection, but don't declare it right off the bat. You guys, I totally said awwwww out loud so many times reading about them.

Another well-drawn character is that of Pastor Bob. Religion is, obviously, a huge theme in this book, what with Hannah's return from a convent and everything. I can be a bit touchy about this subject, but it was handled marvelously here. Pastor Bob does not force anything on anyone, and he's a genuinely caring, helpful guy. The discussions of religion are more theological than specifically Christian in nature. He and Caro develop a real friendship that I found very touching.

This review is approaching epic proportions, so I'll wrap things up. In short, if you are a reader who bemoans the lack of real family interaction in YA, you should probably get your hands on it right now. Anna Jarzab has just joined my list of authors whose books I must stalk. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
Caro feels like she hardly knows her sister Hannah. For more than half of Caro's life, Hannah has been part of an order of contemplative nuns. How do you explain to your peers that your beautiful older sister is sequestered in a strict convent, that you only see her for a short time once a year? Hannah might as well be dead, Caro reasoned when she was younger (though she got in a lot of trouble at home for telling her school friends that story). Then, one day, Hannah comes home. And if Caro thought that explaining her sister's life at the convent was difficult, she finds it even more difficult to explain Hannah's sudden, unexpected return. As Caro tries to understand her sister -- who is still emotionally distant and obviously unhappy -- she uncovers a secret from the past that might explain both why Hannah left, and why she came back. But will Caro do her sister more harm than good in her attempts to help Hannah deal with the ghosts of the past?

There's more to the story, of course: a helping of boyfriend drama, a scientist priest who helps Caro with her own questions about God and the universe, and an ambitious science fair project all play into the plot of this book. I was drawn to the story because I wanted to see how religion was handled, and I am impressed at what I found. While Caro is not particularly religious herself, and has some hostility toward the church, there's an underlying respect for religion infused into the bones of the story. Despite Hannah's situation, Christianity is not the bad guy of the piece, and Caro's questions feel as genuine as her animosity. I'm glad I came across this book, and would recommend it to readers who are intrigued, as I was, by its premise. ( )
  foggidawn | Nov 16, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385738366, Hardcover)

A riveting depiction of sisterhood, as one sibling's return home unleashes lies, a secret long buried, and emotional upheaval.

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 Hannah 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 her new boyfriend, friends, and put her on the outs with her parents, Caro seeks solace from an unexpected source. And as she unearths a clue from 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:50 -0400)

For eight of her sixteen years Carolina Mitchell's older sister Hannah has been a nun in a convent, almost completely out of touch with her family--so when she suddenly abandons her vocation and comes home, nobody knows quite how to handle the situation, or guesses what explosive secrets she is hiding.… (more)

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