November 8, 2012

REVIEW: The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

Title: The Opposite of Hallelujah
Author: Anna Jarzab - Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
Format: ARC 464 pages
Rating: 4/5
Get it: Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository

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 To her, Hannah’s a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away.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 thoughts, feelings and reactions.
The Opposite of Hallelujah begins with a teenage girl, who was basically raised as an only child, dreading the return of her estranged sister. This is just the first layer of the story. In this book, we are taken along a journey of self-discovery through the eyes of Caro Mitchell. Anna Jarzab created a novel that shows the true strength and bond of a family and the meaning of love between sisters even through all the dark secrets and mistakes. 

Caro was a tremendous surprise in the book. On the surface, she was stubborn, tempered, blunt and albeit, extremely selfish girl. Even with her bad attitude towards her sister and her parents, I found Caro to be extremely real and likable. I understood her actions and feelings of resent and unworthiness when Hannah comes back into her life. Change is not easy and the adjustment of sharing her parent’s affection and attention was hard on Caro. Added to that is the unknown true reasoning of Hannah’s departure eight years ago, her unexpected return, and all the lies and secrets her parents have been keeping about what happened to Hannah when Caro was very little. Caro tries to find herself throughout the book, questioning why she does things, learning from her mistakes, and embracing her sister’s presence. Caro really changes herself, opens her eyes, mind and heart, and grows up immensely. 

The romance between Caro and Pawel is not prominent in the book, but a very wonderful addition to Caro’s overall growth. Along with her talks with Father Bob, I think Pawel really helps Caro. He was supportive and understanding. He was an adorable, cute guy that cared so much about Caro. He was there when she needed him and his absence made her realize her dire mistakes. What I loved most about Pawel was the funny, laid back side of him who was just fun to be around and one of the few people that saw the good in Caro’s heart. I have no doubt why these two fall for each other. 

While this book mentions some aspects of religious beliefs and philosophies, its’ prominence does not take away the overall enjoyment. In fact, it enhances the storyline and gives more depth and shape to Caro and her sister’s characterization. It helps the pacing go smoothly and it gives the reader a whole new perspective.

Jarzab has an amazing writing style that gives her character life and meaning. Her writing kept me riveted and brought out genuine emotions. She made Caro’s life interestingly flawed and she portrayed real family struggles. Jarzab didn't just center the plot around Caro, but she brang forth the parts of her parents and Hannah with all the misunderstanding and miscommunication. She really showed the imperfectness of a family, but she also showed the unconditional love as well. The truth about Hannah’s past, while not quite surprising, did not take away from the inspirational feel of the book and all the hope it brought. 

Overall, The Opposite of Hallelujah was an enlightening novel about forgiveness, faith and the growing relationship between two sisters and a family. It’s a thoroughly delightful read.

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