Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

Note: As GR is apparently going to Hell, I decided to take on the not-so-easy task of transferring my reviews to BookLikes and here. If you want to follow me, here's my profile:

An angel is sent to Earth on a mission.

But falling in love is not part of the plan.

Three angels – Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, the youngest and most human – are sent by Heaven to bring good to a world falling under the influence of darkness. They work hard to conceal their luminous glow, superhuman powers, and, most dangerous of all, their wings, all the while avoiding all human attachments.

Then Bethany meets Xavier Woods, and neither of them is able to resist the attraction between them. Gabriel and Ivy do everything in their power to intervene, but the bond between Xavier and Bethany seems too strong.

The angel’s mission is urgent, and dark forces are threatening. Will love ruin Bethany or save her?

Mac Mcclelland is a humanitaries journalist who experienced PTSD after working with rape survivors in Haiti. She was never sexually assaulted, but nevertheless experienced panic attacks, sickness, and got drunk every night in order to deal with it. Afterwards, she went through a tough period. 

She and her fellow journalists who go to 'hot zones' like Haiti, Egypt, Syria and Lybia are under enormous pressure and are reluctant to report cases of sexual and physical abuse because of the victim blaming society likes to dish out on them (As in, "Why did they go there, if they are so hot?"). In her article, she talks about PTSD, how difficult it was, how she used violent sex to ease the worst of it, and how afterwards she got up, went to crisis zones to do her job, reporting cases of sexual abuse on a daily basis.

She's my new personal hero.

I'm brining this up because, with women like this in the world, I think God's servants can do better than knit mittens and walk the neighbor's dog. In fact, there is just no excuse for the uselessness of the angels in this book.


It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that when you hear of teen geniuses, you take the info with a lot of doubt. After all, ours is a society that encourages children to succeed from day one, probably because their parents need the valediction as soon as possible, so the media is all too happy to raise a hype over some young singer or writer. It's also very likely that the hype is raised because of the person's age, not the quality of their art. You can say that teenagers lack certain experiences and interactions outside their own social strata, which no amount of emotional maturity can make up for. 

Knowing all this, I knew full well that I would have to take the outrage directed towards Alexandra Adornetto's Halo with a grain of salt. After all, she wrote this when she was seventeen? Eighteen? You can hardly expect Nobel prize worthy prose, can you? Surely, if I took things into consideration, that book wouldn't be so bad.

Well, I read the book, and my brother read parts of it with me. We both reached a conclusion. 

The said conclusion is not fit to be heard in polite company.

Because here's the thing, my poor readers - even when I disregard the fact that this book reeks of juvenile kiddiness, the story is boring. No. Boring . In bold and italics, because I need to emphasize it this badly. I don't always read amazing books, and I confess, I have plenty of guilty pleasure reads - something I can turn to, like comfort food, only it's much more merciful on my waistline. I can forgive anything as long as the story keeps me entertained. Halo fails to do so, for several reasons.

One, there is no story-worthy problem. If you read Les Edgerton's Hooked, you know that this is the most essential thing in a story, the thing that drives it forward. Usually, it's something related the the character's growth (Edgerton uses "Thelma and Louise" as an example) and it's loosely connected to the surface problems. Halo does no such thing - the book consists of Bethany and Xavier falling in love (or talking about being in love) and that's it. Some demons get involved halfway through, but they barely make a serious impact. In the end, our protagonist ends up just as she started off as. 

And the love story, let's talk about that for a moment. I do realize that teenage girls (or angels in this case) tend to get a little obsessed with the idea (I am one, after all), but aren't there usually reasons why you fall in love? Lust, that's easy. For love to get mixed up in matters, you need to feel something more than a deep appreciation for your boyfriend's hair, am I not right? (my brother's nodding, by the way). You need to have something in common - personal interests, or goals, or at the least a saint-like tolerance for the other's flaws. I'm not saying that you need to be completely compatible, hell no. But it would have been interesting to see Bethany and Xavier actually work on falling in love, and fighting to keep what they have, as opposed to having problems solved for them and the ever-so-convenient 'love at first sight' bull. 

The second problem is that this book seems bent on breaking every single writing rule there is out there. We have infodumps in lieu of a back story, being told, not shown things, clothing and decor descriptions abound... let's be honest, readers have enough brain cells and imagination to picture the scenes in their heads - that's why they pick up books instead of using the lazier approach of TV or movie theaters. If it's not relevant to the plot, don't write it. It makes up for much smoother reading.

Finally, the characters. I think that Adornetto practically brought down the guillotine on this story by making her characters perfect. That's the word Bethany uses to describe herself and her siblings - perfect. I get it that they're angels, but we readers don't want perfect characters. A perfect character means an unrelatable character. As readers, we like to see someone who makes the same mistakes as we do and gets out of the mess by being a better person. Bethany being perfect means that she will not change, nor will she see the need to adapt to Xavier. And Xavier... I really feel sorry for the guy, but more on that later...

The really ridiculous part is that Bethany is hardly perfect. She acts like she is, but... well, it's pretty hard to feel for her when she quietly criticizes people for their dress, make-up or lifestyle choices, but gets sour when her boyfriend gets a concussion and can't take her to prom. I mean, really now! 

Can an obnoxious heroine still be likeable? Sure. Alona Dare from "The  Ghost and the Goth" by Stacey Kade is a good example of how to write a character like that. The problem here is that Alona knows what she wants and goes for it, aware that there are consequences but willing to face them. Bethany neither considers what she does beforehand, nor is she willing to face the music when the time comes. She is irresponsible and comes off as selfish and uncaring. How, then, are we supposed to like her?

The thing about this book that gets the most bile and outrage, though, is that quote: "For this evening at least, feminist philosophy had been abandoned, and the girls, like fairy-tale princesses, let themselves be lead up the flight of steps into the foyer." I kinda get what Adornetto was trying to say here, but what gets my goat is how she worded it. Feminism is a huge word, one that encompasses a lot of different ideas and theories, and it would be irresponsible to just throw it around like that. The only context in which the statement would make sense is that all the girls in Bethany's school adhere to that feminist movement which says that in order to be feminist you have to give up on being feminine 

EDIT : No, you know what, I changed my mind. That statement is stupid. In fact, it is downright offensive because:

1/ Feminism doesn't exclude men - it's a biological impossibility to seperate women from men, which is why it is necessary for both sexes to work together to get rid of sexism in our society. 

2/ Feminism has brought us a lot of good things - the right to vote, the right to choose what happens to your body, the right not to be raped in marriage, and, why yes, the right to higher education and work. Interesting how Adornetto would have published this crap if it weren't for generations of feminists fighting for all this stuff she clearly takes for granted. 

Also, I cannot help but notice the motherloving irony of Adornetto quoting Beyoncé, fucking Beyoncé , in a book that is supposed to promote Christian moralities and blatantly shuns feminism - did she just happen not to realize that a majority of Beyoncé's songs are about how she's angry at a guy, about how men are useless and promoting female empowerment through dancing around half naked? In fact, it seems to me that the girls in Halo are more fans of that school of thought which defines female empowerment as treating men like objects without any substance or depth. 

Including Bethany. Not once did I ever hear her describe Xavier in terms that were not connected to his physical appearance, or his usefulness as a protector. I don't know who I should be more mad at - Bethany for being so dependent on a guy, or Xavier for letting her siblings talk him into taking her back. So what? He doesn't trust her when she says Jake forced himself on her, but then she takes him back without so much as a nod in that direction? Am I the only person who sees this as a major problem in that relationship? If he doesn't trust her, and doesn't let her speak in her defence, it shows clearly how dysfunctional their relationship is! And all it takes is an "I'm sorry, I love you" for her to take him back?

Bullshit! You wanna know how a genuine conversation would have sounded like?

"You didn't treat me like someone you cared about. You were an asshole, to put it nicely. I understand why you were angry. But now you've raised a lot of doubt. Is this how you fight? Loud and scary and mean, with no respect? Relationships hit speed bumps. People argue. Couples fight. How do I know this won't happen again?"

I paused, inviting him to answer this time.

"I can't promise that I'll never yell again," he said softly. "I'm not perfect." He laughed dryly. "Obviously."

When I didn't say anything, he kept going. "I can tell you that I don't yell often, but I do tend to spout off without thinking. Sometimes I say things I regret. It's a bad habit, and I'll try to work on it with you. I promise you that I will never argue with you in public again, and I won't storm off without letting you have your say. You deserve more than that. You deserve everything."

"You set an awful high standard for me to meet," I continued, wincing a little at the look on his face. I knew that he was sorry, that was obvious. Sorry, and apparently a little oblivious. Sorry wasn't the issue anymore. "Too good to be true. Capable of destroying your whole world. How am I supposed to live up to that? Will it always be like this when I screw up? Because I'm going to screw up too." 

justaskalice, "Kissed the Girls and Made Them Cry", ch. 22,

That was from a Twilight fanfic. Do the math.

Finally, all I have to say is this - clearly the author of this book is going to grow and develop. We can only hope that her writing will get better. However, that does not change the fact that this book had nothing to keep my attention, nor incite me to read the sequel. The heroine enranged me beyond words - we live in a society where sexism and violence against women are a daily occurrence - we don't need angels in Heaven supporting that! 

*turns to brother* Got anything else to say, bro?

Finally, it doesn't matter how young you are and how long the book you wrote is, if it's not good, don't publish it!

No comments:

Post a Comment