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.
Exclusive Bonus Content: I’m not religious, so I might be the only person who missed the point here. But it turns out that a book about angels is going to be very religious–not necessarily in a preachy way but in a very overt way that was not entirely comfortable to read. I might be touchy, but I don’t see a lot of non-Christian readers picking up angel books in general and Halo in particular. It wasn’t anything in particular but I felt very at a remove reading it and very . . . not like the intended audience if that makes sense. Anyway, as ever, feel free to draw your own conclusions.