Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: The Opposite of Hallelujah

Title: The Opposite of Hallelujah
Author: Anna Jarzab
Teen Reviewer: Irina Kustoskaya
Rating: 4.7/5 Stars

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab is a realistic fiction novel about Carolina “Caro” Mitchell, your classic 16-year-old high school girl with relationships, great friends, and a generally happy life. However, once she learns that her estranged sister of 27 is moving back to live with her and her parents, her life is turned upside down. Can Caro learn to accept her sister and deal with her own life at the same time?

This book features a very captivating twist to the trite tale of an estranged family member moving back in. When I first skimmed this book, I was expecting a soap opera full of overly dramatic fights and hookups, but I was very wrong. This is a captivating story that explores the more controversial topics, including religion. To clarify, this book is very open about the delicate matter of vocation and religious isolation, and it is actually extremely well researched. I am not one who knows much about religion and extreme religious dedication, so this was eye-opening. There is much thought behind this story as well, and the emotion is carefully weaved in among the eloquent expression of teenage nature and romance, which is also delicately, yet perfectly, worded. The plot was also quite well rounded. Basically, this was an exceptionally written book.

What really appealed to me about The Opposite of Hallelujah was the surprising fact that the story was extremely relatable. There are numerous ways to relate to either the plot or the characters- the range of choices is formidable. Whether it’s the fiery personality of Caro or the Mitchell family situation or Hannah’s life choices or even Caro’s dynamic romances, there is sure to be something that everybody can at least be sympathetic to. It was quite surprising, actually- many authors usually do not completely nail the characteristics of a teenager, but this was the closest as one could get. It’s like Caro is a perfect reflection of a real-life girl, which adds a lot of authenticity to the story. The situations and conflicts in the story are realistic as well, but the effects are amplified, creating an appealing read.

Another dynamic of this story that I thought was worth mentioning was the diverse use of polar characters in the story. It seems, at first, that everybody has their opposites (Caro’s parents, Caro and Hannah, Caro and Father Bob), but eventually, the black and white transcends into more grey areas for characters, which creates a humanlike dimension to each persona.

This story, in my opinion, is one of those stories that has to, in some way, affect you. Not dramatically, but speaking from a psychological point of view, it is one that should. It is intriguing, actually. The sheer events and the amount of inner conflicts in the story defines the plot. The book itself is very easily written- it has its sarcastic style and moderately descriptive events, but this is one of those books that if you wish to truly comprehend it, you should sympathize or at least think over the events in the characters’ lives and impacts in their lives. The book itself just makes you want to think and analyze the situations (well, it made me, anyway). Some very powerful messages lie here as well, from a religious point of view and an average point of view. These are also the types of messages that are very relatable to teenagers; and they are not the cheesy ones.

This book has its pros, definitely, but with every pro come the cons. First off, I found that the enigmatic character of Hannah Mitchell turned out to be erratic. She was an inconsistent character, straying from her designated (and expected) personality, but not necessarily for the better. Her remorseful, depressed and calm nature is usually her main appearance, but she does have her episodes of unnecessary rage and random happiness, which I find to be unfitting with her character. I cannot blame the author- a character with severe depression and an eating disorder is not exactly a breeze to create. She is a developed character, just not quite consistent with herself. Another little con of the story is that Caro seems to be the perfect girl that people envy, despite her somewhat selfish nature. Caro is, in a word, lucky; she has a car, is in all advanced classes at school (and does very well),  has the best boyfriends, best friends, loving parents, is allowed to party and drink, and is pretty good looking. Who wouldn’t want all of that? Her life events in the story do seem to mask this fact, but fact is, she is one lucky girl who does not realize it and, often times, does not appreciate it. Other than that, this story is really a captivating read.

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab is a very thought-provoking read. I would recommend this to anyone in highschool or around that age- it is the best time to understand it, in my opinion. It is an easy story to contemplate- no college-level vocab in there or anything super difficult! It is just one that you really should pore over a bit in order to fully understand the extent of the circumstances. It also eloquently explores the religion of the Roman Catholics, in case you were interested in reading a little about that (the point of view is Catholic- Caro’s family is religious). I easily read this book within two days- I read mine on Kindle, and it is close to 300 pages in length, so it is not like Twilight long. I really recommend this book to you guys- it is seriously an addicting read!!

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