There were two things I was now certain of. First, Jake Thorn knew about us. And second, he was dangerous.
— Bethany (Stephenie Meyer, call your lawyer!)
Dear Lord, what a tiresome book. Saccharine and preachy and… ew. Pure torture from start to finish. Written by Australian then-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 fuck 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 was 18 when it came out) and the admittedly gorgeous cover with which her novel has been graced, this alleged antidote to Twilight’s sinister influence brought us angels our objects of paranormal affection, 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.
Don’t you just hate it when you find yourself trapped, for hours, in the company of someone you despise?
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. I should make it clear here that I am ordinarily a big proponent of Teen Paranormal Romance, so my contempt for this particular affront to the genre is not brought about by any literary elitism. Nor do I have an objection to teen writers in general; for example, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at 18, Georgette Heyer The Black Moth at 19, and I consider both to be strokes of genius. I’ll even confess to a quiet admiration for young Christopher Paolini and his Inheritance Trilogy.
But Adornetto, here, is just truly, madly, deeply appalling. Hence: contempt.
So, the angels. There are three of them: Gabriel, the archangel; Ivy, the seraphim; and our narrator, the obligatory YA “ordinary girl” (except she’s an angel), Bethany. They arrive in seaside resort Venus Cove in order to make sure the town is placed, and this is a direct quote, “once again in the hands of the Lord.” Another quote: “Essentially, we are trying to drive away the evil influences, and restore people’s faith in each other.” And another: “In short, we are here to bless the community.”
Yeah, it just kind of gets worse from there.
At first I thought maybe my staunch atheism was causing my strong negative reaction to this book, but… no, that’s not it. Imagining this tale with the dreary Bethany as a vampire doesn’t make it any better; she is without doubt the least compelling heroine ever, and in this I am including that bane of my childhood, Jane, whose simply-told antics with her brother Dick and dog Spot had me dozing off even in preschool. Meanwhile, Adornetto’s need to over-explain every paltry thought that crosses this wretched little creampuff’s head makes being inside it even more of a trial: “It had been decided that a school would be a useful place to begin our work of countering the emissaries of darkness, given it was full of young people whose values were still evolving.” Gee, thank you for explaining that, Bethany; I’d had no idea one could find young people at a school!
Back to the angels… these guys have been Mary Sued within an inch of their immortal lives, and they are so smugly perfect you just long to take them down a peg or twenty. Here’s another direct quote: “Humans were flawed; we weren’t.” They’re impossibly beautiful, of course, but also Gabriel can control the weather, Ivy does some kind of healing magic and sings like a, well, angel, and as for Bethany… by Chapter 10 I was so filled with impotent rage over her nonsensical somnambulistic and self-aggrandizing droning that I thought fondly of the movie Dogma — you know, the part when Matt Damon has his wings hacked off to bloody stumps by Ben Affleck? — and fantasized about doing the same to her. 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 Belieber?
Oh, yeah. Did I mention their surname is Church? ’Cause they’re on a mission from God, remember! There are dark forces they must combat. Dark Forces! I, for one, spent the first half of the book thinking: where are these Dark Forces? BRING THEM ON! And when finally a Dark Force does show up, he could not be more wearisome, predictable and obvious — there are practically neon signs flashing EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! above the head of the new kid at school; he even has an aristocratic English accent! — and this so-called agent of Heaven and protector of Venus Cove doesn’t suspect a thing. I felt like I was watching a pantomime, wanting to scream at her: “Behind you! Behind you!”
By the way, the only forces of light on this planet that are at hand to combat the aforementioned Dark Forces are those provided by the — apparently — One True God; only Catholicism can save mankind. And people accused Stephenie Meyer of preaching her Mormon agenda to the impressionable youth. Adornetto’s obvious distaste for any religion other than her own makes Meyer look like Richard Dawkins.
But Adornetto’s wrath is not just reserved for other belief systems. She is also no fan of such trifles as television, computers and cell phones. To wit: “We thought of technology as a sort of corrupting influence, promoting anti-social behavior and detracting from family values,” she preens.
It’s so awful, you guys. Just AWFUL!
By the end of Halo, I 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 asshole-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. Seriously, DIE FIRST! No, actually, be hung, drawn, quartered, run through with ninja swords, have your neck savaged by vampires, your intestines gnawed on by werewolves and be forced to win some kind of Gladiator-style trial by combat, after which be smothered in honey and feasted on by fire ants… first.
To finish up — after which I hope and pray to a non-existent deity to never even think about this excrescence ever again — here I have a quote from the book that I didn’t completely hate, this from one of Venus Cove’s daring “Goth girls” (with whom Adornetto does not have much truck, of course, being pretty much convinced they’re all in league with Satan): “People are only interesting if they’re dark and disturbed.”
Amen, random Goth girl. Amen.
Halo (Halo Trilogy #1 — words that strike terror into my poor, ill-used heart)
By Alexandra Adornetto
Published by Fiewel and Friends (they’re no friends of mine!) | 2010
Available in Hardcover, Audio CD and Download and various e-book formats