Dark forces are gathering. Terrorist attacks, murders, strife, poverty. Just look at the news and you can see them everywhere. Three angels are sent to earth to complete good works and counter the darkness. Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany the least experienced of the three, created a mere seventeen years ago, but also the most connected to the human race.
This is Bethany's first visit to Earth. While her older siblings are able to view their new earthly surroundings and experiences at a remove Bethany is fascinated by all of it and instantly enchanted by the wonders human life has to offer.
Gabriel and Ivy immediately throw themselves into their mission, seeming to know instinctively what good they can do for the small community Venus Cove. Bethany is less certain of her own role in the mission. Instead of finding her own heavenly path, Bethany finds herself drawn to a mortal boy in Halo (2010) by Alexandra Adornetto.*
Halo had a lot of promise. It's been getting a lot of hype. The cover is lovely. The plot is kind of interesting sounding. Adornetto, a veteran author at the tender age of seventeen, has the potential to be a media darling. And angels are the new vampires.
The book also has an intriguing trailer available for your viewing pleasure.
With all of that potential, Halo still managed to fall painfully flat.
Maybe that shouldn't have been such a surprise after seeing the book's epigraphs (excerpts from Romeo and Juliet and from Beyonce's song "Halo").
First and foremost, Halo is massive. The first book in a projected trilogy this one clocks in at just under 500 pages where nothing happens very slowly. Set up is, of course, very important for a story--arguably more so for a fantasy. That said, one hundred pages without getting to the crux of the story is a bit excessive.
Then there is the matter of Bethany, our narrator. Bethany's naivete about life on Earth is amusing in the beginning but as the story progresses it begins to ring false. Everything seems to come easily to the angels: they are preternaturally good looking (to the point that Gabriel causes a near riot when he arrives at the local high school as the new music teacher), they inevitably excel at everything they do, they glow (really). And yet, Bethany can't figure out how to talk to other teenagers when they use slang or reference pop culture? She finds herself tongue-tied and completely obsessed by the first (literally the first, I'm serious) good looking boy she sees. What?
On top of that, everything about Halo felt very contrived.
There are no homely people in Venus Cove, at least if there are they escape Bethany's notice entirely--all of her human friends are beautiful with startlingly blue eyes or titian curls. The angels, unsurprisingly, have wings and Bethany mentions none of them would be wearing tank tops any time soon only to have Ivy walking around in a tank top a few pages later and Gabriel greeting a human neighbor wearing nothing but a towel.
Finally, and most bizarrely since Adornetto is herself still a teenaged girl, I couldn't shake this feeling of condescension each time Bethany started talking about human teenagers. She identifies the cliques at school with their stereotypical modifications to their uniforms (except for the "academic types" who are too timid for such things and carry the official school backpack), she talks about listening to the prayers of teenage girls hoping to date the captain of the rugby team. Bethany keeps worrying about how weak and fragile she is compared to her siblings who are so absorbed in their heavenly mission they never get much of a chance to develop in the story. Every character, it seems, is diluted to the basest elements--especially Bethany whose thoughts are wholly consumed by a mortal boy ten pages into the story.
Halo had many promising elements, but taken together they managed to create an unexceptional book. While interesting and an undoubtedly impressive body of work for a seventeen-year-old author Halo simply did not realize its potential.
*I would tell you more about the plot but my YA Lit professor always said not to give away anything beyond the jacket copy and/or the first twenty pages. I adhered to the latter but, be warned, the plot summary above is for the first hundred pages. Seriously.
Possible Pairings: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey, Swoon by Nina Malkin, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I'm not a huge fan of romance, especially the kind where the girl can't rescue herself and instead has to depend on a boy to do it for her. As a result, this really interfered with my enjoyment of Halo because that's basically what this story is about. So, if you have the same opinion on romance, then this probably isn't the story for you.
Bethany is an angel. Meaning, she's a supernatural being with abilities that humans don't have. She, along with two other angels, was sent by Heaven to improve life in Venus Cove. Gabriel and Ivy immediately set to work and get involved in the communities. Bethany goes to high school, presumably to help others. Except she doesn't. She focuses on behaving like any teenage girl: making friends, doing homework, finding a boyfriend, etc. Which is fine--admirable, actually, because it helps her to better understand the humans she's supposed to be helping.
But this is what I could not get over: I can count on one hand the number of times Bethany helps humans. And, each of those times, she didn't set out to help them. Instead, she just happened to be in the area and reacted to the current situation. Not once did she actively seek out a way to carry out her mission. As a result, Bethany doesn't drive this story. Not what I expect from an angel.
On top of this, she does nothing to save herself, or even protect the ones she loves, when a supernatural evil comes to Venus Cove. Since she's an angel, I expected her to be on the front lines because she has to know that humans don't stand a chance against that kind of power. Instead, she hides behind a human to protect her. Definitely not what I expect from an angel.
The premise of angels coming down to Earth is so unique and intriguing, and I really wanted to like this story. If Bethany had been proactive (rather than reactive), then I think I would have. As it is, though...
As far as audience goes, this story would be appropriate for younger teens as everything, even the romance, is most definitely PG.
on December 28, 2010
I won't go over what previous reviews have done a good job pointing out is wrong with this book, like lacking characters and an insipid plot. Instead, I want to write about how poorly "Halo" was put together. Paragraph by paragraph, Adornetto shifted her character's personalities and betrayed the rules she'd set up. Examples from the first four chapters/sixty pages:
1) Regularly, Bethany's "older siblings" (and why they're her older siblings makes no sense, because Bethany says angels have no parents), angels Gabriel and Ivy, tell her she shouldn't act human, but then Bethany says that as a young, low-ranking angel, she's naturally "more human" than they are. So why shouldn't she? (See pages 9, 10, 13-15)
2) Gabriel says love is forbidden to angels, then that angels don't feel the way humans do. Why forbid it if they can't feel it? (13) Also, he complains that human relationships are "unnaturally intimate," (49) though Bethany says the three angels are close and loving. Where's the difference? Adornetto makes no attempt to show us anything otherworldly or inhuman about their relationship.
3) "I was an angel in the purest, most vulnerable form. I was naive and trusting, young and fragile." -(Bethany, 14) But several pages before told us angels shouldn't be too human, so how do such human qualities make her "pure?" Wouldn't they make her diluted, polluted or impure by angelic standards?
4) The diction and slang are a mess. Bethany calls The Holy Seven a "clique," her sister Ivy a "Mother Hen" (15-16) and her fellow students "kooky" (19) worries about "how much in the dark I felt" (54), and sarcastically complains, "Thanks for the vote of confidence!" (50) Then Bethany misunderstands when her friend calls a boy "hot" ("Most (boys) seem to have a normal body temperature.") and what Gabriel means about how humans "bond" ("As in physically meld together?" I was confused. )
5) Despite having access to all human knowledge, and having "listened in on the prayers of teenage girls" (27) and "observed (my school) in the Kingdom" (27), Bethany doesn't understand her school schedule (31), overhead projectors ("We angels were radiant enough in daylight...in the halogen light of an overhead projector, who knew what might happen." ), or her gym uniform (40) which she has apparently never seen before class starts. She has a whole speech about having seen different social groups from Heaven, down to their different haircuts and slight uniform aberrations, and she's never seen the gym uniform?
6) In gym, Bethany--who says angels don't sweat--worries she smells bad. Then, ONE PARAGRAPH LATER: "What (my friend Molly) could smell was just the characteristic scent that all angels carried, and rain was a pretty good description." If angels don't sweat and all have the same smell, then...?
7) Bethany understands the human fear of death, but not friendship (despite, again, her relationship with her siblings, who aren't her siblings as they have no parents, but feel like siblings, I guess, despite the fact that they don't feel things the way humans do, so they CAN'T feel close like siblings, because that's a human thing. Maybe.) (50, 56) What makes her understand some things and not others is never explained.
Adornetto is a kid writing her fantasy who hasn't figured out that consistency, characterization, and continuity are as important as romance. I get that. It takes all writers time to learn that. But her adult editors thinking they could publish this unedited, nonsensical crap, crowing it was something brilliant, thinking we readers are all so stupid that none of us would notice, astonishes me.
Halo follows Bethany (Beth) a teenage angel who arrives in a small town with older angels Gabriel and Ivy to fight the evil forces which have invaded. When Bethany arrives in town everything is new and exciting to her. She's never been human before so everything from clothes to ice cream is a new experience. When she's enrolled in school (with Gabriel as the new music teacher) she just hopes to make a friend. She ends up falling for Xavier, a mortal boy putting herself at great risk. Later there is an introduction of a dangerous force to the town and the risk it presents both to her and to the town as a whole.
While the book is very large (around 500 pages) there are three story arcs to keep the reader rewarded and interested and it's more than just a romance with a paranormal element. The mythology that the author created is strong and the location is beautiful. The romance is beautiful and although it's desperate at times it's sweet and lovely to read.
Appropriateness: The novel will appeal to both the younger and older end of the young adult audience. The book did not seem to be written at an overly difficult reading level so it will appeal to reluctant readers who are turned off by very difficult text. Likewise it is also appropriate for young readers who want to read super romantic stories about older kids because there is no sex or explicit violence. There is no drug use and although there is a small amount of alcohol use the alcohol is portrayed in a very negative light (it's a pretty good lesson for readers as to how quickly alcohol can make one loose control). There are discussions of sex but the main characters do not do anything more than kiss. There are some mentions of suicide, a crush on a teacher and there is some minor action.
The novel is very well written (shockingly so when the author's age is taken into account)and it's the best romance-centric paranormal I've read in a while. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series.
on November 27, 2010
Dear Lord, what a tiresome book. Saccharine and preachy and... ew. Pure torture from start to finish. Written by Australian teen Alexandra Adornetto, it's the literary equivalent of Avril Lavigne's "Complicated", but without the redeeming value of a catchy hook. She takes a very superior tone that makes one wonder exactly who the hell she thinks she is. Okay, life is tricky. War is bad, terrorists are evil, financial crises are unfortunate, and reality TV isn't humanity's finest invention. We get it, you creepy teenage evangelist author person.
Shut the hell up.
In case you don't know anything about Halo, let me fill you in. Released to a flurry of publicity mostly based on Adornetto's tender age (she turned 18 in April) and the admittedly gorgeous cover with which her novel has been graced, this alleged antidote to Twilight's sinister influence is the latest teen romance craze. Instead of goblins, ghouls or creatures that go bump in the night, our objects of paranormal affection are angels, but not even the cool Fallen kind. They're proper winged and incandescent emissaries of the Lord, and they are just SO BORING. This book is 400 pages of excruciating torment; it's "Touched by an Angel" as written by an adolescent James Michener, with a heroine like a lobotomized Laura Ingalls crossed with the girls from "Little Women" at their most teeth-grittingly self-flagellating. Bethany is a holier-than-thou little wench, the kind of deathly dull drama queen and beyond-moronic martyr that we should none of us suffer to live. I WANT TO HER TO DIE HORRIBLY. I mean, who'd have thought that an angel of the Lord would be more naïve, more obsessive, more vacuous, more gullible, more foolish, more needy and more easily infatuated than your average Jonas L. A. viewer?
Man, this book is long. I felt every minute of the accursed time I spent locked in its death grip somewhere deep in my ill-used soul, and I resent every one of them.
It's so awful, you guys. Just AWFUL!
By the end of Halo, I'd reached a new personal best; I had thrown this ridiculously imbecilic and unjustifiably weighty tome at the wall at least fifty times. I threw it every time Bethany discovered yet another new facet to her supernatural coolness. I threw it every time she mooned over the controlling and ickily co-dependent School Captain, Xavier. I threw it every time her sanctimonious a**hole-hood reached new, almost Dr. Phil-ian, heights. I threw it every time she was pathetically helpless, petulant, or shallow. I threw it every time she acted like a complete and utter dunderhead. (It's a wonder I don't need to call in a plasterer.)
DO NOT READ THIS BOOK! Please do not let my suffering be in vain. If I have saved even one person from this unmitigated agony, then I -- in the proper Bethany spirit -- can consider my time in purgatory worth it.
This review is an excerpt. Full review at Geek Speak Magazine - geekspeakmagazine (dot) com.
on November 3, 2012
Bethany Church is part of an angelic mission to bring Venus Cove back to religion and all things good. For her older brother archangel Gabriel and older sister Ivy this trip is old hat. This is Bethany's first time and she wants to experience everything human. She finds each experience interesting and if she doesn't like something she's grateful for the opportunity to try it anyway.
Gabriel will be teaching at the school that Bethany will be attending. Their mission is simple: lead by example. Bethany assimilates herself into school life. At first she finds the other young people surrounding her vapid and shallow if not harmless. Then she meets Xavier Woods and Bethany finally understands. Xavier becomes her life. She actually has physical symptoms of distress when they are separated for too long. Bethany starts to loose interest in her mission and can only focus on her relationship.
Gabriel and Ivy are able to stay focused and both do a lot of good for the community. Neither one understands Bethany and how she feels human emotions so much more deeply than themselves. When things get serious between Xavier and Bethany Gabriel worries it will effect their purpose and cloud Bethany's judgement. The angels are about to learn their purpose in Venus Cove. The situation is about to get a lot worse and Xavier is the least of their problems.
I really am struggling with the rating I want to give this book. To be honest, I didn't care one way or the other. It had it's positives and it had it's negatives and they pretty much equal each other. I liked the angel/darkness story line but I really could have done without the over dramatic and over the top love story, more on that in a bit. I read the author interview questions and answers at the back of the book and found out that Ms. Adornetto was a senior in high school when she wrote Halo. This made the story line a little easier to swallow. I also enjoyed the way the story flowed. Ms. Adornetto took her time unfolding her story and I really found that helpful. It didn't feel rushed.
My biggest problem with Halo was that it had a Twilight feel for me and I couldn't shake it throughout the book. Girl comes to new school, falls instantly in love with most attractive most unavailable boy, they can't be together because their relationship can't possibly work (due to supernatural elements), and a triangle is introduced with a guy named Jake who is the complete opposite of the first love interest. My second problem was that I just didn't understand Xavier and Bethany. I mean their love is all consuming. Literally nothing else matters outside of each other. It got stale after a bit.
Halo would be a great read for someone looking for a young adult novel that has a strong relationship between the two main characters and a paranormal story line that is good versus evil. It just wasn't for me.
on May 26, 2011
Let me start by saying I really thought I would like this book. I normally like Angel books and the cover of the book was really eye catching. I should have known that a book with more negative reviews than good was probably a waste of time but I had to find out for myself. This book was really hard for me to get into. I actually fell asleep when I was reading the first few chapters of the book. I pushed myself to read more and to finish it because I don't think you can fairly judge a book until you have read it completely. I will talk about some of the things that really bothered me about this book without giving away any story details. First and foremost I thought some parts had so much description it was just annoying. I understand that Bethany is an angel new to Earth and is experiencing it with fresh eyes but I just found it so annoying to read about it over and over again. Another big problem for me was the religion aspect. Now I am not super religious or anything but the inconsistencies of this aspect really bugged me. She would talk about her duties to God because she is an angel but turn around and sin. Trust me I know I might sound judgy but I really am not. It just felt like she was a big hypocrite. She also talked about how she couldn't believe that humans turned a blind eye to other peoples suffering BUT in this same paragraph she talked about how she couldn't watch the news because it made her depressed.. I mean come on! I also thought at times it promoted a bad self image. Bethany talked about changing herself to be who her boyfriend wanted. I like it when the main character is confident and doesn't need to change herself, especially for someone else, to feel better about herself. She also relied so much on her boyfriend that it made it seem like she couldn't face anything alone. I also thought that the romance escalated a little unbelievably. I know what it is like to have an instant connection with somebody so it's not like I am a sceptic on that but I just don't see someone completely changing their life for that person after hanging out one time. Even though I am only in my early 20's I feel like I was too old for this book. I just never really got into it and I never really liked the characters. I thought Bethany was weak and Molly was vapid. I started to like Gabriel and Ivy's characters more throughout the book and I liked Xavier except for the fact that he was a little too protective but none of the characters really stood out much. Needless to say this book just wasn't for me. I didn't like the writing and I didn't even like the story. I thought the story was pretty predictable and cliche so it wasn't very exciting to read.
PJVs QUICKIE POV:
This review is going to start like many reviews I've read recently regarding this book --- I loved the cover, was dying to read this one and once I started reading I was horribly disappointed.
Dark forces are running rampant in the world, so to combat the forces of evil God sends three angels to a tiny little town called Venus Cove. The angels are siblings, the oldest Gabriel is wise and fierce, the middle is Ivy who is a healer and the youngest is Bethany who is barely an adult.
The angels must work undercover amongst the humans to right the wrongs of evil, so what better way to immerse yourself in human life - go to high school. Bethany enrolls and Gabriel becomes a music teacher. Ivy - well we really don't know what Ivy does.
They make it about one day in high school before Bethany is smitten with a jock and ready to throw everything away for the boy. The romance is interrupted though, when the angels are faced with evil - who has his eye on Bethany.
The book was really quite bad in my opinion, and I hate giving these terrible reviews, but I couldn't get into it at all. The characters were just off, these Angels, sent by God acted like imbeciles, petty, childish and just off. Between the spurious interaction between the angels and the INSTANT love connection between Bethany and Xavier, I felt the author severely left out a good bit of emotional connection between the characters. It seemed her main focus was on descriptions and scene settings which could have been glossed over - I would much rather read great dialogue than about the mundane setting.
In a whole, everything was just very flat and uninspiring. Even the bad guy was reminiscent of a cartoon character. Really the only thing I liked about this book was the cover.
on September 22, 2010
Halo, Halo, Halo ... what to say?
I'll start with the positive. It was a refreshing read that had a lot of promise to it. We've had a deal of fallen angels to come into the YA world as of late, but nothing about actual angels sent down from Heaven that have not fallen. It was a fresh idea and I applaud Adornetto on her research and tenacity to write such a book. The cover is also positively stunning.
Having said that.. I read this entire book and felt a little cheated. Bethany, the main character, is an angel sent down from Heaven with two other angels (Ivy, a seraphim and Gabriel, the archangel) to Venus Cove to help bring prosperity back to the town and basically keep the evil out. I found it very disturbing that I read over 300+ pages of an angel in a human body knowing her mission, and all I read about was Xavier and how perfect he is and how complete he makes Bethany feel. Did I mention that Bethany is an angel? Yes, she's immortal - yet somehow, through the entire book, she plays this damsel-in-distress that cannot be without her knight in shining armor ... who is mortal and very breakable compared to those that are immortal. When Xavier is not in the picture, we get to hear Bethany go on and on and on about Xavier. So, really, you never miss Xavier because he is always mentioned.
Looking past that, I just found Bethany as an all-out weak character. She's a young angel, seventeen mortal years old, yet compared to regular mortals, she is still far superior. She's spent her seventeen mortal years in Heaven looking down upon the Earth, so she knows the dangers - but she continues to defy every law, rule, and experience that she's ever known. I don't care that she's getting used to her human form - she still has the same brain and she still knows all the consequences of all the actions she makes, and she still makes them. Gabriel and Ivy I would have loved to see more of, yet we're trapped in Bethany-World where the main attraction is Xavier-Land.
And on a small tidbit of religious research: Michael is God's second-in-command (so to speak), and it is said that he leads God's armies. Gabriel is the messenger for God. I know I'm getting specific, but it seems as though Adornetto was getting her archangels a little mixed up. I'm not saying that Gabriel can't kick major butt, but his image of being a warrior in this book really made me go cross-eyed for a moment.
The other characters ... they were tolerable. I liked Xavier, despite all the non-stop dribble that I had to read about him. Molly ... well, her character is definitely believable. Gabriel and Ivy stay true to whom they really were (thank goodness!). Oh, and the villain ... was pretty much as cliché as it comes. He's one of Lucifer's minions, so of course he's going to dress all in black and be all dark and mysterious, yet completely hot. And of course he's going to fall for Bethany, because that's just how it works out.
I find the climax to this story a little disappointing as well, especially when it came to Gabriel fighting. I won't say anything more for risk of spoiling, but he seemed weaker than what he truly should be.
Like I said, this story's premise was very promising, but I found it lacking in too many areas. A lot of people like this book, so please don't take my opinion as gold. Try it out and make your own deductions about it.
on November 14, 2011
At first, I was really excited to read this book and was anticipating a new series to fall in love with. Yeah. That definitely did not happen.
Personally, I feel what quotes you choose as an author for the beginning of the book sets the mood and gives the reader a glimpse of what to expect. The first quote I had no problems with--well, maybe a little but I could deal with it-- I mean, who doesn't love Shakespeare? However, I had a HUGE problem with the next quote she picked. Don't get me wrong: Beyonce is amazing and I listen to her when jamming out. BUT to pick a song to depict your novel's tone with the same title as said novel...not okay. It immediately made me think that this book was going to be cliche and borderline stereotypical. Oh how right I was.
The reader is thrown into Bethany's world right away and usually this would work for an author--not the case for this book. It is hard to even get involved or even connect with the protagonist. Her voice is flat making it hard to even relate to her emotionally. That is not to say there were no emotions being displayed but they seemed overplayed and dramatized. Someone might argue that being a teenager involves that but I don't ever remember it being quite like that-- and I graduated not too long ago.
The whole point of a book is to mentally escape and become part of the world you are reading. For that to happen, the author has to make the reader believe that storyline and characters could be possible. I did not get that from this book. The whole time I was reading this all I could see was blatant inconsistencies that made me want to throw the book. I am not going to lie, this book was hard to get through. If the author had done a little more work on the storyline and maybe developed Bethany's voice more, I would have enjoyed the book more. All the ideas for a good read were there but they were not executed correctly. And the fact it was almost 500 pages made it that much worse. It is one thing to read a quick book that is not quite developed and another entirely when it drags on.
All in all, I hope in her next book the author has made a progressive change in not only the characters but plot as well. Here is hoping for a better future.