Caro's sister, who has been in a convent for over 10 years (and left when Caro was 8 years old) is leaving the convent and coming back home to live. Caro doesn't know her sister, Hannah, who is now 27, and doesn't feel any great attachment to her.
When Hannah comes home, there is obviously something wrong. She doesn't eat. She sleeps all the time and barely comes out of her room. (Can you say "depression?")
There are things from Hannah's past that Caro figures out -- at least parts of it -- from reading what Hannah wrote when she was young. Caro's parents won't tell her anything. Caro wants to solve the mystery and figure out what's up with Hannah.
There's a romance. A new boy at school who Hannah starts seeing. It's a rocky relationship, with ups and downs, and I guess it was OK. But it didn't really add much to the story. Caro has friends, but she keeps them so far from her family problems that they really don't mean anything in the novel -- except when it comes to the partying (more about that in a minute.)
The best part of the story is that Caro decides to confide in Father Dan, a priest at their church. Neither Caro or her parents are devout. I really liked the discussions that they had. It was the best part of The Opposite of Hallelujah for me -- a lot of philosophizing and talking about beliefs. I love all the references to M.C. Escher. It wasn't preachy, but there is some discussion of belief in God, so if that turns you off, stay away from The Opposite of Hallelujah.
I am happy that Caro's parents were very involved in their children's lives and tried to do what was right. I really didn't like that they were so stupid. They didn't understand why Caro wasn't all excited about Hannah's return. They were so stupid about the relationship between the sisters. They didn't really do anything (except talk) for Hannah, when she was obviously having serious problems.
It took 350 pages for the problem to get serious enough that something actually happened. The last 100 pages were the entire story. I almost gave up on The Opposite of Hallelujah, but I got through it, even though I KNEW what was likely to happen. Entirely predictable. I guess I was hoping for a surprise or twist. Nope.
I rarely give content warnings about books. I live with teens every day. I know they drink, swear, and have sex. And guess what? THEY know it too. So, there's a lot of casual, no big deal, "drinking on the weekends" kind of partying in The Opposite of Hallelujah. Cara is a "straight A" student. No one ever drives when they are drunk. But they pretty much get drunk on the weekends. *gets on soapbox* By the time a kid is in high school, most of them have decided whether they are going to drink or not. If they haven't decided, they will succumb to peer pressure, NOT what's in a book! If teens don't drink, they still know that a lot of teens DO drink. They have chosen not to. And reading about teen drinking in a book isn't going to change their minds. It's just a realistic story about teens. Not all teens, but some teens. And they all know that. Give them some credit. So, I wouldn't keep this book from teens because of the drinking. *steps off soapbox.*
However, I will have a hard time recommending this book to teens because of its length. The Opposite of Hallelujah just never grabbed me, or made me feel any kind of anticipation or emotion. This is an ARC, so my only hope is that there is some severe editing in the final copy, but I know that isn't likely.
Published by Delacorte, October 9, 2012
ARC obtained from NetGalley
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