I’m a big fan of contemporary YA (that is, YA fiction that has no supernatural element), so when I saw a review of “The Reluctant Hallelujah” by Gabrielle Williams, I thought it looked like it would be an interesting read.
I enjoyed the first few pages and then suddenly BAM, a twist comes out of nowhere that made me put down the book out of sheer WTFness. If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now.
Basically the premise of the novel is that Dodie, who’s about to sit her VCE, and her little sister Coco come home one day to find their parents missing and that the literal body of Jesus is in their basement. Not only is it perfectly preserved, they are now responsible for transporting it to the next “check point” so that it can remain safe. What follows is an illegal road trip with some unexpected new friends and one dead saviour of the Christian world.
A few weeks after my initial hesitance, I picked the book up again, and once I powered through the first few chapters I realised that the Jesus storyline was just a side note. The book was actually a powerful story of trust and friendship and life as a teenager.
Once you actually get into the novel, you’re almost easy to forget Jesus is along for the ride.
It’s really a story about Dodie and Jones and Taxi and Coco and Enron and their vastly different lives and how everything intertwines in this world.
It’s a story about loss.
It’s a story about love.
It’s a story about finding yourself in the most unexpected ways.
It’s not a religious book by any stretch of the word. There’s violence and drugs and more law breaking than you can poke a stick at. The majority of the characters don’t even actually believe they are traveling with Jesus (Jones affectionately refers to him as “santa”).
Maybe the author did use Jesus deliberately, as a technique to show that it is through Jesus that you can reach self discovery. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe it depends on your view of the world when you read it.
Once I got about a third of the way through, I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted more, more, more.
The book builds up to a heartbreaking climax, and then I personally felt everything began to fall in a heap quickly. It’s like in the last chapter the author just wanted to tie up every loose end in the fastest way possible, so it jumps between times and storylines without much direction or sense. Like, you can understand what is going on but it just feels like a horribly rushed ending for what could have been a brilliant book.
It’s not a book for everyone, but once I got over the opening hiccup and got my head around the concept, I sincerely enjoyed it. Australian contemporary YA reads are often few and far between, but this is one I would definitely recommend if you feel up to the twist.
The Reluctant Hallelujah is available through Penguin Australia, and at all good bookstores and on iBooks.
frangipani princess xoxo