Halo - Alexandra Adornetto This novel was quite honestly the worst YA PNR (paranormal romance) I've ever read, setting the bar even lower than Hush, Hush, the previous holder of the title. One might wonder how this book could possibly be worse than a novel where the love interest continually sexually harasses the heroine, almost rapes her, and attempts to kill her on several occasions. I, too, asked this question, and this review is my answer.

Halo follows Bethany, a young angel sent to earth with her older siblings, Gabriel and Ivy, to fight the Agents of Darkness in Venus Cove, a small costal town in Georgia. Almost as soon as they arrive, Bethany meets and instantly falls in love with Xavier Woods, who she continually chooses over God and her mission. As a consequence of her disobedience, God banishes Bethany from Heaven, and places her in everlasting chains of darkness to await judgment day with the other fallen angels. (Or, that's what should have happened.) Inexplicably, Bethany and Xavier are allowed to continue their unholy relationship with little resistance from Heavenly forces. A comically obvious villain arrives halfway through the story, but decides to "play nice" with the angels until the last fifth of the novel. In the end, the villain is defeated by Bethany and Xavier's love, and everyone lives happily ever after—until the sequel.

Halo has absolutely no redeeming qualities. The characters are poorly constructed, the romance is unoriginal, unbelievable, and unhealthy, the plot is nonexistent (yet somehow still manages to have gaping holes), the writing is atrocious, and the messages, both implicit and explicit, are harmful.

Starting with the characters, we have Bethany, who is the classic author self-insert. The wish fulfillment aspect of the character is simultaneously hilarious and irritating. Just look at a Mary Sue Litmus Test and tell me Bethany doesn't fit the formula. Beauty. Check. Good looking popular sports star boyfriend. Check. Affinity towards animals. Check. Intelligence (as shown by good grades). Check. Prom queen. Check. Healing magic. Check. And the list goes on. Despite being told how wonderful Bethany is, what we are shown is a person who is self-absorbed, shallow, and very judgmental. On top of these ugly personality traits, she is also one of the weakest and least intelligent heroines in YA literature. To give you an idea, Bella, Nora, and even Luce compare favorably to her in terms of strength and intelligence.

Her love interest, Xavier, doesn't fair any better. He is an arrogant, controlling, chauvinistic pig. His general attitude about women is that they are stupid, weak, and silly, and he constantly pats himself of the back for being able to protect them from both themselves and the world. In his relationship with Bethany, he is extremely controlling and disrespectful. He tells her who to be friends with and even physically prevents other people from approaching her, he often talks for her, and at one point he force feeds her in the most demeaning way possible:

He picked up the bar and waved it through the air making a whistling noise with his mouth. "It'll be a lot more embarrassing if we have to start playing airplanes."
"What's airplanes?"
"A game mothers play to get stubborn children to eat."
"I laughed, and he seized the opportunity of flying the health bar straight into my mouth.

Bethany and Xavier's relationship is also codependent. According to Bethany, they can't be apart for more than an hour. When they briefly break up, Bethany practically goes into a coma a la Bella Swan after Edward leaves her, only she's even less functional. Bethany stops going to school, doesn't leave the house, doesn't eat much, and sleeps all the time. Even Bella made it to school.

Like so many other YA romances, there is no real build-up. Bethany and Xavier instantly fall in love without having one meaningful conversation. Within weeks, they can't live without each other, and are willing to die for one another, but nothing in the story has justified this sort of devotion. This makes their relationship come across as very shallow, especially considering that Bethany spends an exorbitant amount of time gushing about Xavier's looks and his smell, oddly enough.

As for the secondary characters, none of them are particularly compelling. Gabriel and Ivy prove to be only slightly more intelligent than Bethany. For example, they fail to research Venus Cove or modern technology before actually going to earth. Molly shows promise but her obsession with prom and overall shallowness keeps her from being a truly likable character.

Then we have the villain, Jake Thorn, who is randomly referred to by both his first and last name throughout the book for some inexplicable reason. Although not explicitly stated until the end, it's clear from Jake's first appearance that he is the novel's antagonist. His last name is Thorn, he has a serpent tattoo, he likes reptiles, and he dresses in black. But for some reason none of the angels recognizes him for what he is: a demon. By keeping the characters in the dark, but making his true nature obvious to the reader, Adornetto insults the reader's intelligence, and makes her characters look like complete morons.

In addition to the terrible characterization, the novel has no plot. It is just a series of scenes that didn't flow cohesively together. One scene does not build on another, and many have no impact on the overall story. For example, there is one scene where Bethany and Xavier go to a carnival, and have their fortunes read. This scene added nothing to the story. It did not develop Bethany or Xavier as characters, it did not develop their relationship, and it had did not move the plot forward. Neither the carnival nor the psychic are ever mentioned again.

As impossible as it sounds, a novel with no plot can still have major plot holes. The most serious one in this novel has to do with Adornetto's disregard for Biblical teachings, which is indefensible considering that her angels are pretty clearly Catholic. They hold Catholic-specific beliefs (e.g. Limbo), attend Catholic church on Sundays, and have a friendly relationship with a Catholic priest, who is the only human to recognize them as angels. As such, they should be consistent with Catholic beliefs about angels such as the belief that angels who sin are cast out of Heaven.

One of the most egregious sins is putting the love of another above God. Bethany time and again does exactly this by neglecting God's mission to spend time with Xavier, and threatening to fight Heaven to be with him. This means that the entire story should not have happened, which is a major flaw. If Bethany's relationship with Xavier weren't bad enough, she is also guilty of many other sins including vanity, lust, and pride, three of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Adornetto's lack of research is not limited to theology. She also failed to research American culture and customs despite setting her story in the United States. For example, Xavier is the "school captain" not the "student body president," and he's on the rugby team rather than the football team, both of which were changed in the sequel.

Another irritating plot hole is the lack of an explanation for why these angels are sent to Venus Cove. Instead of sending two of his highest-ranking angels to a place with real problems, such as war, famine, and genocide, God sends them to an upscale small town in the United States where the misfortunes appear to be limited to some suspicious fires, a handful of deaths from the flu, and some freak accidents. No explanation is given for why they are there as opposed to the more deserving parts of the world.

In terms of writing style, Halo doesn't fair any better. The book is ridden with both grammatical and punctuation errors. The editor should be fired, and Adornetto should be asked to take a few more English courses before submitting another manuscript. Even more irritating are the descriptive errors. Colors are constantly described as objects. For example, Xavier has "nutmeg hair" or "walnut hair" instead of nutmeg-colored hair or walnut-brown hair. Technically, nutmeg hair would be hair made of nutmeg, which I'm guessing is not what Adornetto meant to say.

Other times, she uses descriptions that don't make sense like "rain gray" eyes. Rain is not actually gray. Rain clouds can be gray (although they can be a host of other colors), but not the rain itself. In one humorous example that includes both of the aforementioned descriptive errors, Jake is described as having "cat-green" eyes. Cats are not green. He could, however, have cat-like green eyes.

All of the above make this a very painful read, but I was most perturbed by the disturbing messages present throughout the novel, especially those regarding women. Women are portrayed as weak, shallow, and trivial. They are obsessed with makeup, prom, and finding boyfriends. Bethany even states that the prayers of teenage girls are mostly about being popular and wanting a sports-star boyfriend.

Women are also regularly dismissed by men. Xavier is condescending towards all females in his life, including his mother, sisters, Bethany, and his ex-girlfriend. Xavier's father and Gabriel are also dismissive of women at times. If that weren't bad enough, the women also constantly defer to men, validating the idea that the men should be in charge. Nine times out of ten, Bethany defers to Xavier, and Ivy and Bethany both defer to Gabriel despite the fact that Ivy is a higher ranking angel than Gabriel.

The novel is also very preachy about other subjects. Bethany tells the reader that technology is evil and destroys family value, Xavier preaches about the importance of children deferring to their parents (although he doesn't follow his own advice), and the reader is told that virginity is a gift, and that sex before marriage is wrong (but it's okay to sleep together in the same bed, and lie naked together). Women who are sexual are looked down upon, but men rarely get the same treatment. Xavier admits to having sex with his ex-girlfriend and he's still considered the paragon of perfection, while girls who have sex before marriage are seen as shameful and slutty.

This novel was an agonizing read, and I would not recommend it to anyone. It presents a disturbing picture of relationships, God, women, men, and the world. There is absolutely nothing positive to say about the substance of this book.