Review: Halo by Alexandra Ardonetto

Halo - Alexandra Adornetto

Last year my boyfriend quit smoking. He did it in one fell swoop. Threw out his cigarettes and never smoked again. I was very impressed. I also attempted to quit. It did not go well. The problem is I'm rather attached to smoking. It's, unfortunately a part of my identity and i enjoy it and it's not easy just to toss it in the blink of an eye. I tried, I really tried. I chewed gum, I walked for miles, I drank countless cups of coffee but the almost gravitational like pull was too much to resist and I was lighting up again, in fairness less than before but still. I know I should stop, it's wicked bad for your health. But I guess I'll set that challenge aside for another day when I'm ready. I'm disappointed in myself though, but this is life. Things don't always work out the way you want them.


Such as was Halo - I couldn't resist the lure to read it. i needed to discover if it's really as bad as everyone claims it to be.


Oh, it's bad alright.

And much like smoking, I'm super disappointed in myself that I went down this road as I feel it's had a serious negative impact on my health. Bethany made my blood pressure rise to what I'm sure are dangerous levels just with her sheer stupidity and moronic behaviour. Dear god, the chick is a loon!


So the story goes three angels descend from heaven to spend time on earth disguised as humans for some reason. They do a lot of hanging about, running choir practise and bake sales. Bethany, the youngest and most naive of the trio falls for a human boy and mayhem ensues.


The plot of Halo is abusively bad. It's nonsensical. Why, oh why, can someone please explain to me, are the angels instructed to hang out in Venus Cove of all places. Gabriel slaps a newspaper down on the breakfast table one morning in front of Bethany, highlighting an article describing terrible suffering in the Middle East. Hunger, disease, war and poverty is killing thousands and destroying the lives of countless others and yet ..... Here's three angels, one of which is the archangel Gabriel no less, just hanging out in sleepy Venus Cove, knitting pot holders, baking and strumming a guitar. Someone in Heaven HR should really pay for this, what I'm assuming is a mistake in assigning these three potentially useful and powerful angels to a place where nothing happens, when all around the world people are enduring great hardships daily and I'm sure would really appreciate a little help. What a complete waste of resources! There's never a satisfactory explanation as to what their mission is, what their tasks are, what they're actually supposed to be doing. Because, contrary to what Ivy believes, cupcakes cannot save the world.


And so we weave our way to characterisation ..... Oh dear. What happened Ms Adornetto? Hmmm? What corner of your mind did you pluck Bethany from?! Because I never want to see those brain cells used again, ever. Put them into retirement, assign them to the simple task of blinking, anything! Just never use them to create a fictional character again, EVER!


Bethany is painfully awful. She's a complete drip. She's constantly falling all over the place, giggling and blundering around, seemingly blindly, as she staggers from one embarrassingly misjudged situation to the next. I imagined her made of jelly. Pink jelly. She has no substance, no strength. There's nothing to admire about her, there's nothing to make me care about what happens to her. She's so paper thin I'm surprised she wasn't picked up on a breeze and carried out to sea to be quickly dissolved by salt water and devoured by a whale, mistaking her for plankton.


Her relationship with Xavier was foul. She barely knew him before she was announcing her undying love for him and confessing all her secrets, letting him so completely into her life that she seemed to lose what little sense of self she had until she was only breathing to be a prop hanging off his arm. Listen up ladies! You don't have to give away your whole being to the one you love. It's okay to still be yourself, to have individual wishes, hopes and dreams that are just your own. Just because you are in love with someone doesn't mean that you have to give up being you! Bethany does. She forgets her mission, she forgets the feelings of her siblings, she forgets her school friends. She lives only for Xavier which is incredibly sad. I've been with my partner for three years and I adore him. We spend a lot of time together and hold very similar values and viewpoints, tastes and sense of humour. However ..... I want to emigrate to Canada to be near to my family, who it breaks my heart to be apart from for so long. I intend to do so in around five years and if my boyfriend doesn't want to join me that's fine. Having different plans and ideas for the future doesn't mean we love each other any less. Having an independent thought in my head doesn't make me any less committed. Just because we love each other does not mean we are welded together. And does not mean that one has to sacrifice every dream they have for the other. That's just ridiculous! Hey girls - you're people too! You're are not simply arm candy!


Xavier really boiled my blood. I wanted to open a manhole cover, hook him round the neck and just sling him down there. Were did he get off treating Bethany the way he did?! Let's take a stroll through a few quotes which illustrate my point:


"He was the one who reminded me to drink plenty of water and the one who deflected questions about my family from curious classmates. He even took it upon himself to answer for me one day when Mr. Collins asked why I hadn't managed to finish my homework by the due date."
How dare he?! Who does Xavier think he is ?!!


"I knew that if it slipped my mind, Xavier would complete it for me and hand it in without my knowledge."
What the hell ?!! How is this okay ?!! Bethany is describing this as if it's something that boyfriends should do and it's something to be praised and thankful for. No! It's controlling and interfering and disgustingly patronising.


"What's wrong with him?" I asked crossly. "He seems nice enough."
"He's not your type of person."
"You ask a lot of questions, don't you?"
So let me get this straight ..... It's wrong to ask questions about your own life, and it's wrong to question the person who is imposing their control on you. Hmm ......


"I'm not hungry. Gabriel always cooks a big breakfast."
"Here, eat this," he commanded and pushed a health bar across the table."
He commanded did he? Is that really the way you should be speaking to someone you love? The answer is no.


"He became fiercely protective whenever anybody he didn't approve of came within a two-foot radius of me."
So not only can Bethany not choose what to say, she also can't choose who she says it to.


Xavier really is foul. What concerns me is the target audience for this book appears to be young teens. Young teens who are perhaps on the cusp of thinking about dating and perhaps reading this begin to imagine that this is how a boy should treat a girl. This is in fact how a boy should never treat a girl. The way Xavier is behaving is controlling, chauvinistic, obsessive and downright rude. It's wrong to control someone in the way he does and then call it love. And it's sad that despite being apparently "all knowing", Bethany falls for it and accepts this behaviour. Believe me, if a boy behaved this way towards me I would rip his head off. It's patronising, demeaning and violently offensive.


The supporting characters are neither here nor there really - Ivy is barely managing to stay alive, she's so whispy. She lives only to bake and knit. Gabriel is just a brotherly version of Xavier. And Jake is introduced, I think, when the author realised she'd forgotten to include a plot in her novel, and so quickly threw together a dastardly villain, completely with tattoo, British accent, motorbike and eye patch .... Oh wait, no that was one stereotype too many. No eye patch then, yeah?


Sadly, alongside this pathetic characterisation and the massive plot abyss the writing is not up to much either. It's clunky, awkward and at times, baffling. For example, try this sentence out for size:


"A door slammed and a girl with brown curls pulled back from her face with a headband appeared"
There's at least one comma missing in there and without it, it makes no sense. I mean, how can someone pull back from their own face?! And where did the hairband appear from?! Heads up, Adornetto - punctuation is important.


The whole thing reads like a high school creative writing project. I kept expecting to see red pen corrections all over the appalling grammatical errors and SEE ME underlined twice splashed across the bottom at the end. And maybe a C- for effort? It's so achingly amateur I'm astonished this made it onto bookstore shelves. In all honesty Halo should have been published under Christian literature. It's barefaced in it's preaching, one of my pet peeves. Bethany even states at one point that people are remembering what's important in life because they're going to church. I mean, really?! Is that really appropriate? That's sitting right next door to brain washing. Church is vitally important to some, and of course I respect that. As far as I'm concerned everyone can do whatever they want, so long as they aren't hurting anyone else, or forcing their ideas on others and unfortunately Halo is guilty of the latter. There's far too much ramming Christianity down the reader's throat, another thing I feel is completely out of place in this genre of YA, marketed at young and impressionable teens. Nobody should feel like a bad person just because they choose not to follow organised religion, or choose to follow a religion which is not Christianity. I feel the author made a huge mistake by projecting herself into the story (let's face it, Ardonetto is Bethany) as it just becomes so forced and all about her views and values. Wrong, wrong, wrong! It's fiction, it's leisure reading, it's trash! Why is there a huge Christian undertone?! Aargh! It makes me so mad that it's snuck it's way in there. You don't have to be Christian to be a good person! 


Yeah, okay - Ardonetto was only 18 when she wrote this. That's great! Good for her! But .... It in no way excuses the shoddy craft, appalling content and hazy plot. If a person were able to qualify as a surgeon at 18, would you still expect that surgeon to be 100% competent, able and skilled in their work? Of course you would! Would you accept that they gave you a liver transplant instead of say, a heart transplant because they're only 18, shrugging it off, smiling, saying "They tried their best. I appreciate the poor job they did anyway. After all, they're only 18." No! Of course not. You'd be outraged. Come on, sure you would! It's exactly the same with a writer. No matter what the age of the author, good quality, capable and skilled work should still be produced because they are still selling a product. We are still parting with money in exchange for this service. Sure, it's not life threatening as my above example is, but it still outrages me that I've gone to work and worked goddam hard for every penny I earn, spent some of it on some light reading and what I thought was entertainment and ended up with this garbage. Because it is garbage. Of the highest order. It's an insult. I hate to be lining the pockets of someone who hasn't done their damn job properly. If your window cleaner turned up and didn't wash your windows, would you pay him? No! If your newspaper was failed to be delivered, would you still pay for it? No! If your car was not fixed when you put it into the service station, would you pay for it? No! Then why should this be touted as a piece of genuine work that readers are expected to part with hard cash for when it's so shit. For shame, Ardonetto. For shame.


Looks guys, just don't bother. Okay? Don't even bother. Go and do something more productive with your day. Go outside, enjoy the sunshine. Bake some cookies. Fly a kite. Live your lives as full and as rich as you can, because Halo sure isn't worth the paper it's written on and it's not worth this agro. Holy crap, I'm exhausted with all this hatin' .....