The Opposite of Hallelujah

The Opposite of Hallelujah

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by Anna Jarzab
     
 

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Does one sister’s past change another sister’s future?

Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child—and she likes it that way. After all, her older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Hannah returns to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah&rsquo

Overview

Does one sister’s past change another sister’s future?

Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child—and she likes it that way. After all, her older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Hannah returns to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah’s a total stranger who refuses to talk about her life or 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.
Angry and upset, Caro resorts to telling lies about her sister’s mysterious reappearance. But when those lies alienate her new boyfriend and put her on the outs with her friends and parents, she seeks solace from an unexpected source. And when she unearths a clue about Hannah’s past, Caro begins to see her sister in a whole new light.

"Jarzab packs a lot into this story, questions of faith and forgiveness, science and religion, mental illness, guilt and possible redemption, as well as simple high school drama. But at its heart, this is a story about sisters."—Booklist, starred

"A layered meditation on family and belief that will ring true for faith-questing teens."—Kirkus Reviews

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jarzab packs a lot into this story, questions of faith and forgiveness, science and religion, mental illness, guilt and possible redemption, as well as simple high school drama. But at its heart, this is a story about sisters."—Booklist, starred

"A layered meditation on family and belief that will ring true for faith-questing teens."—Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Sarah Raymond
Caro Mitchell is beginning her junior year in high school feeling fairly confident about her life and her family except for one little issue: her sister Hannah. When Caro was twelve, she told everyone at school that her sister was dead, but the reality is that Hannah had left her family for a life of devotion with the Sister's of Grace. Now, Hannah has decided to return home, and in returning, is turning Caro's life upside down. Caro stubbornly and selfishly refuses to accept Hannah. In this refusal she is also refusing to really look at her sister and see that she is not well and is in need of help. Eventually, Caro is forced to look at her sister and discover the root of Hannah's problems. At first Caro is not the easiest protagonist to love because she is so self-centered, defiant, and a liar, but as the relationship between the two sisters grow Caro learns more about herself. She learns how to be a sister again which was something she had forgotten how to do. By the end of the story, she is a bit easier to love and relate to. The novel allows readers to look at faith and its role in one's life. Caro, who completely rejected religion on many levels, found herself confiding in Father Bob from her family's church and looking for signs to point her in the right direction. Overall, this novel rings true to the struggles of family, friends and relationships. Reviewer: Sarah Raymond
VOYA - Sharon Martin
It is okay to lie to you...right? It makes my life so much easier when I do not have to explain my sister to you—especially when I do not really understand her myself. This is the situation Caro creates for herself, her family, and her friends. Eight years ago, Caro's sister, Hannah, joined a convent, but is now back home. Caro struggles to comprehend this new family dynamic and why her sister left the convent and is so unhappy and sick. Why are their parents ignoring Hannah's past and present pain? Caro's attempts to control what she views as an out of control situation, of course, backfire. Her determination to fix what she has broken culminates in the healing of old wounds. Caro is a believable character, and a quick learner. Once she decides to improve, things move along rapidly, despite the oversized look of the book. The only characters with some depth are Caro, her boyfriend, and her sister. This is an engaging read with a female main character who chooses to be in charge of her decisions, even if some of them are flawed. Do not be concerned about the convent angle—this is less a story about religious faith, more about exploring the faith we have in others and ourselves. Recommend this title to those who need some assurance about trusting themselves. Reviewer: Sharon Martin
Kirkus Reviews
A teenage girl comes to terms with her sister's secret past and her own spirituality in this sophomore title by the author of All Unquiet Things (2010). Eight years ago, 16-year-old Caro's older sister Hannah left home to join a convent, and Caro hasn't had much of a relationship with her or God since. "[After] Hannah left, God stayed up in the attic, like the toys and old clothes I'd outgrown that my mother couldn't bring herself to part with." But now, Hannah is coming home after telling the Sisters of Grace that she is renouncing her vows, and Caro couldn't be more angry and confused. She lies to her friends and new boyfriend about Hannah's prolonged absence and fights with her parents constantly. It is only after she understands the tragic reason why Hannah is so sad and withdrawn that she begins to open up to the idea of making a new connection with her sister. Though the author takes many, many pages to reveal Hannah's secret, it is time well-spent, providing nuanced characterizations of not only conflicted Caro, but of her troubled parents and her kindly, philosophical priest, Father Bob. It's a rare teen novel that both tackles religion and creates fully realized adult characters, and Jarzab handles it all gracefully. A layered meditation on family and belief that will ring true for faith-questing teens. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375855290
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
10/08/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

ANNA JARZAB is the author of All Unquiet Things and Tandem. She lives in New York City and works in children’s book publishing. Visit her at annajarzab.com or follow @ajarzab on Twitter.

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The Opposite of Hallelujah 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
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.