Received from the Publisher
From the BLURB:
"But there I go, getting ahead of myself. Skipping straight to the part where I was front-page news and they were calling me Dorothy, instead of starting at the beginning..."
When Dodie's parents go missing just as final year exams are about to start, she convinces herself they're fine. But when the least likely boy in class holds the key -- quite literally -- to the huge secret her parents have been hiding all these years, it's up to Dodie, her sister, the guy from school, and two guys she's never met before, to take on the challenge of a lifetime. So now Dodie's driving -- unlicensed -- to Sydney, and being chased by bad guys, the police, and one very handsome good guy.
** SPOILER alert – if you don’t know what the ‘package’ is that must be transported to Sydney, I do spoil the reveal in this review.
If you want to take your chances and spoil the surprise, then click on the Show/hide button below for my full review.Otherwise, I highly suggest you go grab a copy of the book and enjoy the OMG! plot twist **
When Dodie’s parents don’t return home one night, she doesn’t immediately panic. Because Dorothy ‘Dodie’ Farnshaw has a few things on her plate… like exams. Like needing to study and pass her exams, get an amazing ENTER score so she’ll be accepted into a wonderful university and then figure out exactly what it is she wants to do with her life! So, no, Dodie and her younger sister, Coco, don’t go into red-alert because their parents are MIA for one day.
The panic sets in after. When Dodie arrives at school and a boy she has never talked to before, a boy nicknamed ‘Enron’ (insert sarcasm: because he’s not the smartest guy in the room) approaches Dodie and says he knows about her missing parents. More than that, he knows that there’s a basement in her house she has never known about, a hidden key in her mum’s wardrobe and a very important package that needs to get to Sydney in a matter of days.
Except when Dodie, Enron and Coco investigate, it turns out there is a basement, and a key … and that very important package? Well, it just so happens to be Jesus Christ. As in Jesus Christ, Son of God. Jesus Christ, the Messiah. J-to-the-C. Jesus freakin’ Christ!
Bad guys are after JC’s dead body, and it’s up to Enron, Coco and Dodie to get him safely from Melbourne to Lavender Bay in Sydney. They’ll need to do some urban exploration, avoid the bad guys and try to keep the miracles that follow JC on the down-low from the media.
Along for the ride are two odd disciples – Taxi and Jones, urban explorers who have been wrangled into moving the Messiah.
This is going to be one hell of a road trip.
‘The Reluctant Hallelujah’ is the much anticipated new YA novel from Australian author, Gabrielle Williams.
I have been craving this novel ever since I read Williams’s ‘Beatle Meets Destiny’, and subsequently vowed to read every single thing she ever writes. And then the cover was released (drool-worthy) along with a most mysterious blurb, and I became apoplectic with excitement. Now it’s here, I have devoured, and I was delighted! Hallelujah!
Let me just start by saying I found it near impossible to write this review without talking about you-know-who. Because He is the mystery ‘package’ which Dodie and Co. must deliver to Lavender Bay. He is the Messiah Dodie’s parents have been hiding in their basement all these years … and He is a kinda big plot device in the book. So, I’m sorry if you have been spoiled but I have to talk about Jesus Christ as a character in ‘The Reluctant Hallelujah.’ Sorry, again.
Dodie’s parents go missing and all hell breaks loose. A boy at school she never speaks to, ironically nicknamed Enron, tells her they have been kidnapped and that something hidden in the secret Farnshaw family basement needs to get to Sydney ASAP. But Dodie and her sister, Coco, were not prepared to find the Son of God chilling in their hidden basement – his ‘corpse’ is not quite resurrected, but warm to the touch and perfectly preserved (crucifixion holes and all). But Dodie and Coco quickly become believers, and agree to help Enron move JC to his next ‘location’, with the help of a mysterious network of devoted, who have been hiding the body in various unlikely places since his resurrection from the cave all those years ago… and, really, hiding the Messiah in Melbourne suburbia is kinda ingenious, if you think about it.
Dodie, Coco and Enron cart Jesus through the Melbourne underground tunnels and drains – whereupon they meet Taxi and Jones, members of the ‘cave clan’ who explore the underground network for a bit of fun. Taxi and Jones are friends of ‘The Mover’, a cantankerous old cripple who is tasked with helping the kids get JC to his next secret location, before the bad guys get to him.
Dodie is reluctant to go on this heavenly road trip (not least of all because she’s unlicensed!). But her parents are missing because of this Messiah, so the begrudgingly agrees to see Him safely hidden away again;
'People kill for their religion,' he finally said, still facing the wall. 'They go to war for it. They fight in the name of it, detonate themselves because of it, refuse to le their children marry people outside of it.' He turned his wheelchair back to face me. To face us. 'That's how people are. That's human nature. If they knew about Him,' and he tipped his head towards Jesus, 'Holy War would break out without a doubt. Your parents knew this. They thought He was worth protecting. And now, they're not here and you're the next best thing.'Along the way roses will bloom. Lakes will glow and Dodie will learn a thing or two about loyalty, belief and bravery.
Gabrielle William’s new novel is definitely quirky, to say the least. Throw the corpse of Jesus Christ into any modern-day novel and it’s going to raise a few eyebrows (and maybe a few ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ comparisons)… but, here’s the weird thing, after the initial shock of Dodie finding JC in her basement, the whole ‘Messiah’ thing becomes pretty quickly accepted. Weird, I know. And it’s especially weird because brilliant little miracles do follow Him on the journey – like roses suddenly blooming en masse in a church garden. Or a lake glowing neon in the night. His body though technically ‘dead’, remains warm to the touch and perfectly preserved – and when Dodie touches His cheek, she feels radiant warmth wash through her body. This is definitely JC (as if the facial hair and whole ‘hey I’ve seen your miniature on a cross before!’ weren’t enough of a giveaway). But I really liked the fact that Williams turned JC into just another character, along for the ride.
Sure, the kids do have conversations about Him being in their backseat. Enron is a firm believer, and doesn’t appreciate the suggestion that JC should go in the boot. Dodie is sceptical, but cannot deny what she felt when she touched Him. Some of the conversations about their precious cargo are pretty hilarious, but urban explorer (and super-cute-boy), Jones, offers some of the best and most skeptical zingers;
'So how do you end up driving to Sydney with You-Know-Who in the back seat?'But the brilliance of letting JC chill in the backseat is that the story doesn’t revolve solely around Him. Instead, the real heart of ‘The Reluctant Hallelujah’ is in His group of rag-tag, unlikely ‘disciples’ and temporary saviours. Taxi and Jones have two of the most heart-breaking stories, both of which Dodie eventually comes to learn about. Taxi carries rocks with him to try and learn forgiveness, while Jones risks his life (caving and dare-devilling) because nobody cares what happens to him. Taxi and Jones were, hands down, my favourite characters in this novel. Two very special boys, and when you learn about them you realize what unlikely helpers they are to JC.
'Voldermort?' Jones said. 'Voldermort is in the back seat?'
There is a rather big gap in the novel… concerning just how JC came to be freed from his tomb and his body hidden all these years. Williams offers up a few cryptic clues and explanations, but for the most part she keeps an air of mystery around Jesus Christ and the ‘bad guys’ who are looking for him. And, at first, I did want to know more… until I realized that Dodie and Co. don’t need to know the in’s and out’s of JC’s resurrection and subsequent hiding. They just need to have a little faith. They need to trust that they’re doing the right thing, that it’ll all work out in the end and that what they are doing is for a good cause. Blind faith, it’s a wonderful thing.
There is a little romance in this novel, between Dodie and cute cave clan man, Jones. I really liked this, especially since the unlikely and quickly blossoming romance almost felt like another little miracle, courtesy of JC in the backseat.
I will admit that I screamed at the ending, but overall ‘The Reluctant Hallelujah’ is a very special little novel, from a favourite new Aussie YA author. Gabrielle Williams has taken an utterly quirky plot and turned it into a story with lots of heart, laughs and poignancy. Jesus on a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney is exactly as awesome as it sounds … but you’d be surprised at the minor miracles to be found in the novel too.