First of all, I get the fortune of announcing that Michelle has won our ARC of The Replacements. After entering ALL of our contests and supporting WhatchYAreading from the day we opened, I am so pleased to hear that we get to give this to her! Michelle, please email us with your contact information and we’ll get the book in the mail!
Now, on to Halo!
In a time when young adult literature trends lend toward the “dead sexy” with an emphasis on the dead part, it’s refreshing to come across a book with more of a divine bent. With publishing houses always on the look for the next big thing, and the wizard and vampire market quite saturated, it’s not surprising to see a rise in other paranormal entities coming onto the scene. Alexandra Adornetto’s fourth novel (first one at the age of 14!), Halo pursues the heavenly angle by filling the pages with angels. And not even slightly shady and sexy ones as seen in Hush, Hush or Fallen. No, Adornetto has old school angels, pure white wings, halos, and beatific attitudes filled with goodwill toward mankind. They’ve been sent to Earth as emissaries to stop the progression of darkness and rekindle the world’s faith.
I know, you’re yawning and thinking skip, who wants Sunday school in a fiction book? Not I, and I was pleasantly surprised not to find it. What was there was a story founded on goodness and light but with a deep and abiding love story between young angel Bethany and her classmate and school captain, Xavier Woods.
While the beginning of the book is perhaps a bit thick on the exposition of how Bethany and her angel brother and sister, Gabriel (yes as in destroyer of Sodam and Gomorrah) and Ivy make their transition from heaven to Earth, it picks up once Bethany begins high school. Because really, can you think of any better place for saving souls? She meets Xavier Woods, classic all around “Good Guy” who plays five sports and acts as a mentor to the school, second oldest of six children and is raised by a strongly religious family. Despite his seemingly carefree life, he has withdrawn from his peers after the death of his long-time girlfriend and best friend Emily in a fire, and his other close friend had fallen to his death from a building. Yet despite his tragic experiences, he reaches out to poor lost and naive Bethany, and as their friendship and relationship grows, he loves and protects her with a ferocity rivaled even in heaven. He’s a strong character without the typical teenage angst seen in male archetypes lately. He’s reliable and loyal, keeping her secret without hesitation about her divine origins, and willing to move heaven and earth to keep her safe and with him. Their relationship has a bit of a Romeo and Juliet complex to it, (as was hammered home by multiple references to the play) seeing that one day she’ll go back to heaven and he’ll still be a mortal. I imagine this aspect will continue to be expounded upon as the series progresses.
Adornetto, merely eighteen now, uses her youthful perspective expertly. While perhaps not everyone could relate to overtones of faith from the angels, the way high school, and moreover high schoolers are written will definitely strike a chord. The boy crazy gaggle of girls speak like teenagers, the cliques while stereotypical are no less accurate for it, and the sometimes mob-like mentality of teenagers and their whip-lash mood changes are highly reminiscent of the average high school experience. Perhaps what surprised me the most, was how real a teenager Bethany herself came across. Honestly through the bulk of the middle-section of the book, it was quite easy to forget she was an angel. She worried about her relationship with Xavier, she had to learn how to interact with her peers, and even had to deal with finding a prom dress. Aside from when her wings came out and her sensitivity to human suffering, most of Bethany’s journey in the book was in being a senior in high school and less-so about determining how to positively influence her peers.
In light of this, I think audiences can relate to this book regardless of their religion or level of knowledge in the angel mythos. Personally I’m a big fan of the battle between heaven and hell- Paradise Lost ranks among my favorites, but those who aren’t can get by- Adornetto lays it all out for the reader in great, sometimes repetitive, detail. As her world grows and the series continues, I look forward to seeing more classic characters from above and below making an appearance.
So is anyone else into angels? Do you like them nice and innocent or more rebels fallen from grace? Comment below and tell us your preferences! Also make sure to stop by http://twitter.com/AlexandraHalo and tell the author you liked the book! Brownie points if you mention @whatchyareading!