This week’s Inky Award shortlist review is all about The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams. As this title has already been reviewed here on Read Alert by CYL staffer Liz Kemp, today I’m going to give you something a little different… how to pitch The Reluctant Hallelujah to students:
The best way to pitch The Reluctant Hallelujah is to give away as little as possible. Character voices are optional. Dramatic pauses are not…
One afternoon Dodie’s (pronounced doe-dee) parents don’t come home. She figures it’s no big deal – they’re busy people and must be working late. She goes to bed, wakes up the next morning… still no sign of them.
‘Well,’ she thinks, ‘they must have gotten home so late they didn’t want to wake us, and they’ve left early for a breakfast meeting. It’s strange they haven’t left a note, but they must have just forgotten.’
She goes to school and a guy who usually never talks to her, comes up and asks “Are your parents okay?” … This is definitely weird.
Eventually she tells him “Actually, I haven’t seen them. They didn’t come home last night.”
“Okay,” he says, “I need to go to your house right now and get something out of your basement.”
…”We don’t have a basement.”
It turns out they do have a basement – locked and hidden under the lounge room carpet. And in this basement is something that Dodie’s family have been guarding for generations.
And now to save her parents Dodie has to transport it from Melbourne to Sydney. And she only has her Learner’s permit.
Students love guessing what this hidden object might be. A nuclear bomb? A King? Superman? Something magic? Something powerful?
Of course it doesn’t take much research or reading to learn that it is, in fact, the physical remains of Jesus Christ. Rest assured, Williams manages to tread the very fine line between irreverence and imagination. The Reluctant Hallelujah is, really, a road-trip adventure story. Which just happens to have Jesus along for the ride.
Other “sales points” worth mentioning are:
- The Reluctant Hallelujah features contemporary teenagers in a way that isn’t forced or trying to be cool (like, when authors try to be all YOLO and LOL hai guise I’m just, like, one of you). For example, the bad guys seem to have an uncanny knack for keeping on Dodie’s trail – turns out this is because her sister can’t resist updating her facebook status.
- It also (with beauty and ease) captures the contemporary world – not only is Dodie caught in a “keep Jesus out of the hands of the bad guys” chase through the tunnels of Melbourne (totally real), and along the back roads of Victoria and New South Wales, but her actions have real-world consequences too e.g. her disappearance catches the attention of her friends, her school, and the police.
- If you’re looking for a book that touches on disability – specifically how people with disabilities are often invisibile in society – The Reluctant Hallelujah ticks that box too. (Dodie & co simultaneously “hide” and move Jesus about by placing Him in a wheelchair.)
So if you’re looking for a laugh, a conversation starter, and/or something a bit different – The Reluctant Hallelujah is the book for you.
Don’t forget to send any fans of The Reluctant Hallelujah, or any of our other shortlisted titles to insideadog.com.au/vote