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The Evidence of Things Not Seen

Erin reviews Anna Jarzab's The Opposite of Hallelujah.  Faith, family and Jens Lenkman? Yes, please!

The Evidence of Things Not Seen

BOOK REPORT for The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

Cover Story: Why, Big Face, why?
BFF Charm: Eventually
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit
Bonus Factors: Faith, Anorexia, Single Bubble Sonoluminescence, Goldberg Machines, Awesome Spiritual Leader Award
Relationship Status: Let's Go Steady

Cover Story: Why, Big Face, Why?

Big Face, I thought I'd vanquished you as a foe in last year's FYA March Madness.  Yet here you still are, doomed to follow me for the rest of my days.  Why must you attach yourself to everything I love, Big Face?  Are you actually God?  Does God appear before me, huge of face, writ large across book covers?  Don't you have anything better to do?  World peace, or, like, answering my prayers about the lottery?

I'm just saying, Big Face/God.  Maybe you have better things to do than be on book covers.  After all, that's what the All-Seeing Eye is for . . .

The Deal:

Caro has always considered herself an only child, even though she isn't.  Her older sister Hannah left the family when she was 19 and entered a convent, for Nuns' Sake, and if Hannah was going to forsake her family for God, then Caro had no problem forsaking Hannah for some popularity points.  Not to mention that Hannah has been gone for eight years - few letters, no emails - and so Caro just doesn't think about Hannah, at all, ever.

But now Hannah is back from the convent, short on faith and empty of grace.  And Caro just doesn't know what to do with a big sister that doesn't eat, hardly sleeps and doesn't fit in with the family dynamic.

Will Caro ever learn to accept her older sister?  And will Hannah ever find her faith again?  You should REALLY read this book to find out.

BFF Charm: Eventually

It takes a while - a long while - to warm up to Caro, because she is just SO spoiled and awful for most of the book.  But her awfulness is wholly authentic - the same kind of awful that any teenager would be when her life is turned upside down.  I wanted to shake her and scream that life isn't just about her, except that it's her life, and it has been just about her for at least the last eight years.

But when she grows up and learns to see beyond just herself, she's amazing, and honest, and incredibly brave.  She doesn't always make the right decisions - in fact, she hardly ever does - but they come from the right place, and you just know that with a few more years' experience under her belt, she'll be a girl you're humbled to call your best friend.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Caro soon catches the eye of Pawel, the new boy in school, and their relationship is both adorably sweet and frought with disaster.  I love that Pawel did not take shit from Caro, called her on her lies, and pushed her to be a better person, while not being perfect himself.  Plus, the kissing?  SUPER swoony.

Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit

Oh MAN, this book.  It slayed me.  Jarzab does such a great job of linking Caro's authentically petulant voice with questions of faith and God and science.  It is, ultimately, a love story - a love story between sisters, between man and God and between God and science.  I wanted to underline passages and fist pump and even go to church as I raced through the pages.  

Bonus Factor: Faith

Man, I love how this book tackles the question of faith and what happens when we lose it - or when we gain it.  Hannah's loss of faith, coupled with Caro's questioning nature about God, the universe, and everything else, made me want to sing Hallelujahs and take theology classes and sit in prayer to thank the higher power for the gift of reading.

Bonus Factor: Anorexia

Whoa there, nelly!  This isn't a pro-ana blog, so uncinch your panties.  Rather, I loved how Jarzab tackled a tough subject WITHOUT sounding like an after-school special.  Hannah's anorexia is a part of her life, and it's a disease from which she is suffering, but it isn't all of  her and it doesn't define her.  It's not glamorized, but neither is it condemned as something that makes Hannah less than who she is.  And the people in her life act like people normally do in situations like that - parts denial, confusion, assistance and frustration.  

Bonus Factor: Single Bubble Sonoluminescence

Man, when Caro does a science fair project, she really does a science fair project.  I love that Caro is fearless in her reach and confident in her abilities.  She knows she's smarter than the typical "will this plant grow more if I sing?" science fair project and she doesn't limit her genius.

Bonus Factor: Goldberg Machines

Pawel is obsessed with building Rube Goldberg machines and has them all over his room.  It made me want to buy a huge box of K'nex, grab some marbles and go to town!  (Also, how awesome is this drawing?)

Bonus Factor: Awesome Spiritual Leader Award

We've never given an award to spiritual leaders in our reviews, but that's because most books don't have them.  But Father Bob, the priest at Caro and Hannah's family's church, deserves our first award!  Thank you, Father Bob, for being an awesome spiritual leader!

Casting Call:

AnnaSophia Robb as Caro

AnnaSophia always looks so spunky, and yet I sort of also want to karate chop her in the throat sometimes?  Perfect for Caro.

Elizabeth Olsen as Hannah

Technically Elizabeth Olsen is too young to play 27-year-old Hannah, but she has the gravitas and quiet hurt that Hannah needs.

Relationship Status: Let's Go Steady

Dear Book, you were exactly what I needed to warm my chilly January nights!  I found such solace in your warmth and your hope, and I'm still carrying you around with me in my heart.  So will you go steady with me?  Cause I really want you to hang around for a long time.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Random House.  I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!).  The Opposite of Hallelujah is available in stores now.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.