The Reluctant Hallelujah by Gabrielle Williams

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Penguin, 2012. ISBN 9780143566847.
(Ages: 14+) In this review I am going to give away the big surprise in the plot, so please stop reading if you don't want to know what makes this novel controversial, and a risky choice for some school libraries. Dodie Farnshaw is about to sit her final year exams when her parents go missing in very mysterious circumstances. One of her classmates, Enron, contacts her to say he can help, and that there is a key in a sneaker belonging to her mother that will unlock the mystery. When they investigate the basement they find the well preserved body of Jesus in a coffin. As the baddies close in Dodie, her sister Coco, and three assorted teenage boys take Jesus on a road trip to save him.
The jokes around Jesus are quirky rather than offensive to me, but I know others in my school community that would not see the humour at all. The relationship between Dodie and her sister is believable and appealing but the interest that Dodie shows in the character Jones seems unrealistic, considering the peril they are in as they flee up the coast. Williams writes well and her descriptions of the tunnels of Melbourne, and the small towns Dodie and the other characters find themselves in interesting, but the plot stretches credibility to too great an extent for me.
Chris Lloyd