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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

Review: "Halo" by Alexandra Adornetto (Plus why you are NOT your virginity.)


Author: Alexandra Adornetto.

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends.

Pages: 496.

Summary (taken from GoodReads): Three angels are sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most
human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone—especially herself—from the Dark Forces. Is love a great enough power against evil?

Cover impressions: Oh goody, it’s angels again. My track record with angels in YA is dark to say the least. We’ve had one book thrown against a wall and another book so awful I couldn’t help but wonder if it was part of some Richard Dawkins style orchestrated plot to prove how awful religion is (not that any of these terrible books are in any way connected to religion beyond bastardising some of the most interesting elements of Christian mythology, but I digress.) I never swore to not review another angel orientated YA book again but I’ve remained weary and suspicious of others that have come my way and after reading the synopsis of this book as well two articles by the author herself explaining her abstinence (this liberal feminist has a deep opposition to abstinence only education and the deep underlying messages it sends to girls about their sexuality, more of which you’ll undoubtedly hear later since it’s something I love to rant about.) and why Edward Cullen is the perfect man (do you even want me to go there?) The author Ms Adornetto published her first book when she was 13. Now aged 17, the same age as my sister (who has much better taste in books, her favourites being ‘The Virgin Suicides’ and ‘Prozac Nation’), she has moved into the paranormal YA field with ‘Halo’ and wow, it’s...

Yeah, it’s awful. (As a brief warning, I sort of went off on a tangent of feminist ranting later on in the review but it is related to the book. If this bothers you somehow then please stop reading my blog.)

From the very first paragraph, Adornetto is trying so hard to be poetic with her prose but it just comes across as incredibly awkward and clumsily written. Everything as narrated by Bethany reminds me of when you write a story and just look up a thesaurus for every fifth word or so; it reads like someone trying to write way beyond their maturity. I think it’s unfair to comment on the author’s age in relation to their work but it’s so noticeable throughout the book. The very beginning of the story, with the three angels adjusting to human life, is a big tell-don’t-show info-dump that drags the story to a halt before it even begins, and this complete lack of pacing continues throughout the 400+ pages. We don’t need to know every single detail of the angel-to-human transition straight away; weave it into the story and let the plot continue. Well, what passes for a plot here.

I’m beginning to think that YA writers have become allergic to plots. The recent bunch of popular ones, anyway. Out of the original Sparkle Project 10, I counted 4 out of 10 as actually having a plot. That’s really not a good statistic. The constant meandering between moping and love and moping and feminist rage inducing love was so incredibly dull. Nothing happens for a huge chunk of this book and when stuff does happen it’s nothing to write home about. The book also suffers from the ever increasing trademark of this genre, as well as all Twilight fanfiction, in that Adornetto spends far too long describing thing that just do not matter. The clothes that Ivy wears are not relevant to the plot. The layout of their house does not further the story. None of these things matter in the slightest and even I, with my kink for lush descriptive scenes (although as I said previously, all the descriptive scenes were trying way too hard), was bored senseless.

Of course it wasn’t just the plotting and info-dump overloads that made this book terrible. Let’s not forget the characters. It’s all too common an occurrence to have the plain, boring girl fall in love with the powerful, enigmatic male creature of power in this genre so I was at least hoping for an interesting take on the gender roles being switched. Boy that was optimistic of me. Bethany makes Bella Swan look like Emmeline Pankhurst. For someone who is supposed to be a messenger of God, one of amazing power and strength, she comes across as a whiny, selfish little girl who is incapable of the most basic actions. She, the angel, is the one that needs saving by the human boy! It doesn’t help that the angels just made the stupidest of decisions (where do you station yourself if you want to fight evil? Of course, a high school!) But Bethany really takes the cake. I try not to let my personal opinion of the author’s life or views get in the way of my reviews but having read ‘Halo’ following that pro-abstinence article Adornetto wrote, I couldn’t help but read this book like some sort of silver ring pamphlet. Its desperation to be emotionally manipulative was infuriating. The characterisation was weak across the board, especially with Bethany and cardboard cut-out love interest Xavier.

But here’s the kicker. The bit that made me do the crinkled face in exasperated feminist rage:

“For this evening at least, feminist philosophy had been abandoned, and the girls, like fairy-tale princesses, allowed themselves to be led up the flight of stairs and into the foyer.”


So... you really want me to go there, don’t you, Ms Adornetto. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.


You heard it from the messenger of God yourselves, ladies. Feminist philosophy doesn’t allow you to wear dresses and have a good time. How dare all those old women whose names I have forgotten try and fight for countless generations of girls and women after them to be treated like normal human beings and be allowed to do such frivolous things as vote! It’s so much more fun to give up all your free will and independence, put on some sparkly skirts and be led around like an obedient little princess while your handsome prince does everything for you. Now put that silver ring back on and get into the kitchen, your prince wants his pot-roast on the table by 7!

Okay, I have to talk about this. The title of Adornetto’s piece for The Age, minus shitty editing, is “Guard your virginity; once lost it’s gone forever.” Newsflash – you are worth more than your hymen! Sex does not make you a bad person, wanting sex does not make you a bad person. Virginity is not a gift. I understand how sensitive the topic of sex can be and of course it comes with a degree of emotional attachment, but this bullshit idea that girls need to safe-guard it as if their lives depend on it isn’t just stupid, it’s dangerous. The attitudes that come with girls who want sex is shameful, as witnessed by the healthy dose of slut-shaming Adornetto does in her article. Guess what? Sometimes girls want to have sex! And that’s not a bad thing! Tying virginity to ‘dignity and self respect’ suggests that those who choose to have sex are somehow dirty and unworthy, especially when you wrap it up in a YA book so full of bastardised Christian imagery. This is what leads to bullshit organisations teaching abstinence only education as the only form of sex education (and let’s face it, the world needs less of that, and in connection, less Bristol Palin) and perpetuates bullshit stereotypes about women and sex that have been around since time begot. (For anyone who wants to read more on the subject of the purity movement and how it harms young women, pick up ‘The Purity Myth’ by Jessica Valenti.)

I know I went off on a huge tangent there but this idea that sex de-moralises women goes hand in hand with the Twilight-style love story, where teen marriage is the solution and feminism is a dirty F word. Even if ‘Halo’ didn’t have all that crap in it I would still be giving it a low rating. As such, this wasn’t worth my time and I’m sorry I even bothered picking it up. I think I’m done with angel YA books for now and my only hope is that Ms Adornetto at least tries to understand what feminism truly is at some point in her life.


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Ana said...

I read the two articles you linked to and I... can't even...what? I can't BELIEVE that there are people who actually think like that, in REAL LIFE.

Great review, thanks for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

The whole concept of 'loosing' virginity is so bizarre, because loss implies a lot of things, not least of which that it can be retrieved, which would seem to run contrary to much of the stuff that surrounds the whole purity culture. Though I guess the other terms that could be used ('gave away', 'had stolen' are a little more leading. I personally favour 'got rid of'.

Anonymous said...

I don't see losing one's virginity as a bad thing. It's not such a big deal. It's just a first, like a first kiss, a first dance. Hell, even a first car.
Also, hymens can easily be broken. In many cases, they can break with exercise, not just sex. Which makes the whole virginity thing less of a big deal.

What bothers me most about this author isn't her article on virginity, it's her article on teenage boys. Most of my friends are male, but none of them come even close to what she describes. In fact, I've never met a guy who is so... well, disgusting.
It makes me wonder about her standards, if she opts to go out with guys who have 'poo emergencies'.

April (BooksandWine) said...

Glad I'm not the only one who hated this book.

I could not freakin believe the feminist comment, especially as at no point in the book did Bethany espouse anything regarding feminist philosophy.

I suppose this means we won't be seeing any sexytimes in the later books.

And, I've only read her article on Edward Cullen and pretty much remember snorting with laughter over it, as clearly Adornetto is deluded and needs to leave Meyer-town and meet some real people.

Liz said...

Hi Kaybear, It's Liz.
Haven't read the book but thought I'm comment to say excellent review :D

I once had an RS teacher who drew a circle on the whiteboard she calledd the "virginity circle" and said thet each time we have sex, we lost a piece of it, and lost our connection with god. She was batshit crazy :P
My response was "If our reproductive system is a gift from god it'd be a bit rude not to show him we appreciate it"
I don't think she ever said two words to me after that. How un-christian of her!


Ana said...

"If our reproductive system is a gift from god it'd be a bit rude not to show him we appreciate it"

You should have a Tshirt made! That is pure awesome.

Anonymous said...

Came here via one of your comments on "bookfails". Nice job. As a feminist myself who loves pretty clothes, I'm not sure where the idea that feminsts can't enjoy such feminine things came from.

One great comment on the "Edward as Perfect Man" article pointed out how shallow the author was in several places, and this book sounds like one great big hardbound mess of proof.

Anonymous said...

I shall make a joke now: Adonetto and Bristol Palin both read from the same thesaurus, then, when it came to sounding intelligent. #oldcanard (She's just 17? I'm a week away from 22; what the hell have I done with my life?)

Also, if an angel wishes to fight evil, they need to just float into the Republican and Conservative headquarters places. That should help.

Feminist philosophy had been abandoned. Well, shit. I checked out right then.

I mean, I wrote stuff when I was 17. It probably wasn't as good as my stuff now because I'm simply more mature and have learned and grown more. *shrug*

Anonymous said...

Ugh. The book looks insipid, and that second article was just bizarre. I mean, I personally want to be in a committed relationship when I take that step, but seeing virginity as some sort of treasure to be guarded reminds me way too much of views in hardcore patricarchal societies, where "purity" determines a woman's worth. I do think that indulging in sex too young can be harmful to both genders - one of my friends has cervical cancer because someone lured her into something when she was 13 - but heck, if you're an adult you should be able to make your own choices without worrying about being a "loose woman." And there certainly shouldn't be a double standard when it comes to men vs woman who have sex.

Alex Merges said...

I, for one, love it when an author decides to kneecap my beliefs in an otherwise apolitical book and lets her obvious biases shine through like a Sparklepire in the daylight.

If by "love it," you mean "loathe it with ever fiber of my being."

I can't stop cringing.

Arithonne said...

See, I think that "dignity and self respect" can be worked into a conversation about virginity well, my Mum did it. It's just used in the "respect yourself and don't become sexually active just because your partner wants to" way not the "if you have sex before marriage you're going to hell" way. Of course, my Mum was a high school guidance counselor, so she helped a lot of girls deal with consequences they weren't ready to handle, and so probably knew better than most a good way to approach the subject to get the results she wanted.

fromthisgirl said...

Ah, total fail. *removes book from to-read list*

Anonymous said...

How well did this book do anyway? I swear, I read an article a while back from a respectable publication, can't remember which one, touting this as the next big thing.

Shiori@Panic in the Lingerie said...

*here from bookfails*

As an Aussie, I became familiar with Adornetto through her pieces in The Age rather than her novels. The fact that she agreed with Tony Abbott's comments on virginity in a Fairfax paper kind of says it all. Most of her contributions to the publication are equally insipid and baffling, though perhaps no more so than any other columnist for The Age.

That she would slip in some ignorant aside about feminism into "Halo" isn't particularly surprising. I can't believe people keep giving her a platform, ugh.

(Great review though!)

Liviania said...

Things like this make me really happy that nothing I wrote in my teens was ever published.

RI said...

hey so this is awkward but i felt like i had to complement you: your blog is sick. it's awesome. i love the raging feminism in this article. i also read your clockwork angel book which i just finished and i have to say i agree with everything (it WAS exactly like her other books and no, she can't write).
thanks for being a sensible voice in a world of YAlit crap :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another mind-boggling review. I followed the link to Ms. Adornetto's article, and was somewhat surprised at it. Anyway, the whole article put me off my orange juice for this morning, so I just went back to reading your review instead.

Anonymous said...

This book was AMAZING.
Sorry you couldn't enjoy it.
Sucks to be you. :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't read the review.
Too uhhh blah. <---- first sentence.

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