Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 18

Dark Prince

That chapter title sounds like some kind of ridiculous Harry Potter fanfic title to me, but who cares? Jake Thorn is finally here and we’re breaking free of the tedium that is Bethany and Xavier’s relationship! At least, for the moment… :(

Even though it was my most interesting class by a long shot, I wasn’t in the mood for Lit. I wanted to spend more time with Xavier; to be separated from him always gave me physical pain, like a cramp in my chest.

I’d see a doctor about that, Bethany.

“Nope,” Xavier said, prying away my fingers that were now clutching his shirtsleeve. “You’re going to be on time.”

“You’ve turned into such a grandma,” I grumbled. He ignored my comment and deposited my books into my arms. These days, he rarely allowed me to carry anything for longer than was necessary. I must have looked so lazy to everyone else, always walking around with Xavier by my side, dutifully carrying my belongings.

Sounds like Xavier’s doing the whole i’m a nice, classy fedora-clad gentleman who always finishes last m’lady schtick. Ew.

Anyway, Bethany and Xavier snog near the lockers and make each other late for class. Bethany trundles on in to her Literature classroom.

” [...] Together you’ll need to come up with a poem to read to the class on the subject of love, to preface our upcoming study of the great Romantic poets Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Byron.”

Where the hell is the colon between the word ‘poets’ and ‘Wordsworth’? Also, why are you studying only male Romantic poets? Women made a HUGE impact in that field, don’t try and tell me Wordsworth was somehow more important than this entire list of awesome ladies because he once stole a boat and felt as if the mountain behind the lake was somehow judging him, or because he sat atop a hill and wrote about nature. Like I said previously, a lot of male Romantic poets fell over themselves to visit female poets of their era! Samuel Taylor Coleridge walked forty miles to visit Anna Letitia Barbauld at her Bristol residence. Percy Bysshe Shelley was respectful of his wife’s writing. Also, 3/4 of your teaching list, Miss Castle, is the second wave of Romantic poets. You should study the first wave more deeply, since it’s the progenitor of the entire movement and all that.

Miss Castle asks if anybody has a favourite poem that they’d like to share.

“I do,” said a well-spoken voice from the back of the room.

Well-spoken? What, because he has a British accent? As opposed to those utterly unintelligible Canadians and Americans and every other English speaker who wasn’t born/raised in the British Isles?

I scanned the faces to identify the speaker who had a distinct English accent.

Well, it’s great that Jake speaks in posh Queen’s English, I guess. Imagine if he’d had an unintelligible farmer-from-Hot-Fuzz accent!

Brave of him, I thought, to go out on a limb on his first day. Either that or he was enormously conceited.

Yeah, Bethany, keep being snotty and judgemental like that and see if that attitude gets you anywhere.

He was tall and lean, and his straight dark hair reached his shoulders. His cheekbones were sharp, giving him a gaunt, hollow look. His nose drooped slightly at the tip, and his brilliant jade-green eyes gazed out from beneath low-set brows. His lips curled in a permanent sneer. It made him look intolerant of his surroundings.

Oh god we’re dealing with Tom Hiddleston!Loki. Am I supposed to be rooting for Jake Thorn or not? Because currently I’m tolerating the presence of two kids from The OC versus a character who is actually interesting.

He was dressed in black jeans and a black T-shirt, and a dark tattoo of a serpent wound around his forearm.

A Catholic school allowing somebody to have their tattoos on display? Highly unlikely. Also, why does he have a Dark Mark?

So, what’s the poem that dear old Jacob is going to recite?

“‘Annabel Lee,’ a ballad by Edgar Allan Poe,” he announced smoothly. “It might interest you to know that Poe married his 13 year old cousin, Virginia, when he was twenty-seven. She died two years later from TB.”

I feel like booking a flight to Baltimore just so I can apologise to Edgar Allen Poe’s gravestone.

When he began to speak, his voice seemed to flow out like rich syrup and filled the room.

No, his voice was syrupy and perhaps charismatic. His voice itself didn’t turn into syrup and wind up filling the room. Bad simile! Bad!

So now, taking up a chunk of the chapter, is the actual public domain poem of Annabel Lee. I know these poems are nice to include, but they are so unnecessary 99% of the time. Take note, Colleen Houck.

“Want to be partners?” He purred. “I hear you’re new as well.”

“I’ve been here for a while now,” I said, not appreciating the comparison.

Wow, you’re a judgemental little snot, Bethany. I mean, it’s amazing how Adornetto can take angels — who are portrayed as so compassionate, especially Bethany, who’s supposed to be more empathetic to humans — and make them so two-faced. What was that “I’m pure goodness — I’m so clean I squeak!” spiel, then? Is it only given to people who are deemed ‘normal’ by society? Normal like Xavier? Ugh.

“I’m Jake Thorn,” he said, looking at me with his hooded, dark eyes. He held out a hand, the epitome of good manners.

“Bethany Church,” I replied, gingerly proffering my own hand.

Instead of shaking it, as I had expected, he turned it over and brought it to his lips in a ridiculous gesture of gallantry. “Delighted to make your acquaintance.” I nearly laughed outright. Did he expect me to take him seriously? Where did he think he was?

Right, so Adornetto thinks the ideal teenage boy is somebody chivalrous, like Edward Cullen. Men who are polite enough to open doors for women, make sure they meet her father, and would throw their jacket over a puddle so that their girlfriend wouldn’t have to get her feet wet. Something like that. Xavier meets Bethany’s ‘parents,’ opens car doors for her, makes sure she’s taken care of, etc. But when Jake is doing the exact same sort of thing – an ancient display of chivalry, that may look awkward nowadays but is still practiced and considered very respectful, it’s suddenly something to be ridiculed.

I would have laughed had I not found myself looking into his eyes. They were dark green with a burning intensity.

I could swear that “don’t describe a character’s eyes” is one of the fundamental no-nos of creative writing. I mean, you’re staring into somebody’s eyes — that’s weird direct eye contact. It might just be me, but meh.

He wore a silver pendant around his neck.

Okay, so we’re not dealing with Tom Hiddleston’s version of Loki. We’re dealing with Gary King from The World’s End.

Yeah, threatening.

Plus, the way Jake Thorn speaks, he’s just as verbose as Gary King, but has just as little to say as he does. So I’m calling it, Jake Thorn is an expy of Gary King.

[...] A half moon etched with strange symbols.

A half moon as in this? Or do you mean a crescent moon? Because OHHH MY GOD PAGANS ARE TEH EVULZZZZ.

“So,” he said. “Any thoughts?” I stared at him blankly.

“For the poem,” he reminded me with a raised eyebrow.

“You start,” I replied. “I’m still thinking.”

“Very well,” he said. “Any preference for particular metaphors?”

(Gif warning.)

I just have the mental image of Augustus Waters dashing in all like: “DID SOMEBODY SAY METAPHORS?” (And yes, I know that joke’s old, but it’s funny, so hey.)

He laughed at some private joke. “I’m partial to reptiles myself.”

How utterly stereotypical and boring. And OBVIOUS AS ALL FUCK. Bethany has a bad feeling about this guy, he has a dark snake tattoo (as opposed to the golden snake tattoo Ivy has), and he is partial to reptiles. For those of you not following, the devil TAKES THE FORM OF A SNAKE TO TEMPT EVE OUT OF PARADISE in the Bible, and here we are today. Want to make it more obvious? Make him have a pet boa constrictor that he drapes over his shoulders like Alice Cooper. Make him wear snakeskin shoes, pants and a snake-leather jacket. Give him a forked tongue. Slits in his pupils like the most obvious of anime villains. Make his nose look like a snake’s. Give him a giant snake that eats people. Make him a walking, talking snake person. Subtlety, what’s that?

Bethany asks Jake why he likes reptiles and he replies that it’s because they’re “tough-skinned and cold-blooded.” Uh huh.

He turned away from me suddenly and scrawled a note on a scrap of paper, scrunched it into a ball, and flicked it at the two goth girls, Alicia and Alexandra.

Alexandra… as in Adornetto, as a Goth. *snort* Also I love how the obvious demon guy is gravitating towards the goth girls. Since Goths are clearly UNGODLY and OBSESSED WITH DEATH AND MISERY and need salvation, am I right?

“Ah, there’s a boyfriend? How wholesome.” Jake smiled.

I get the feeling that Jake actually knows that Bethany is an angel and is just trolling her for shits and giggles. Bethany being ‘wholesome’ despite angels not being supposed to love humanity enough to settle down with boyfriends and girlfriends and other partners? High five, Jake. High five.

“Not that I’m surprised. Of course you have a boyfriend — with a face like that. Who’s the lucky guy?”

“Xavier Woods,” I said, embarrassed by his compliment.

“Will he be joining the priesthood any time soon?”

Pahaha wait I don’t get it. Since when does Xavier = holy name that assures you’re going to become a priest? I mean, sure it sounds Biblical enough, but… eh. Also, Xavier should join the priesthood. According to Catholic rules, he has to remain celibate and can’t raise a family. That would be an interesting angle, actually. What if Xavier really was attending a seminary and Bethany as an angel working in the same town. They both fell in love with each other through some meeting, thus realising their love was mutually forbidden?

Sigh.

I scowled at him. “It’s a beautiful name,” I said defensively. “It means light. Haven’t you ever heard of Saint Francis Xavier?”

No, Bethany, I have not. Not every branch of Christianity expects its adherents to know about every single saint who has ever been canonised.

Jake grinned. “Wasn’t he the one that went psycho and moved into a cave.”

Ableist language, wahey. Also, WHERE THE HELL IS THE QUESTION MARK IN THAT SENTENCE?? IT’S A QUESTION! Was this edited? At all?

“Actually I think it was more of a conscious decision to live simply,” I corrected.

Saint Francis Xavier actually lived in a grotto for a few years during a mission in Manapad, India, according to what I’ve Googled. For a second I thought Jake was referring to Saint Francis of Assisi, who is more famous for living in a cave and shares the same first name, I guess.

When Jake asks Bethany what people are like around here, she’s saved by the bell, ‘eager to go and meet Xavier.’ You know why? Being near a demon (well, unknowingly) has made Bethany feel like she needs Xavier to hold her. Yes, the insignificant human who can offer you emotional security… versus the incredible powers you have as an angel. Can’t angels repel demons in some way? Like, at all? I’m fairly certain they can. So why is Bethany whimpering back to Xavier?

So, following a hug where Bethany ‘clings to him like a limpet’ (lovely imagery there, you’re comparing yourself to a fucking barnacle), Xavier walks Bethany to his car to drive her home.

[...] He opened the door for me. I wasn’t sure what he thought might happen if I was permitted to open my own door. Maybe he was worried it would fly off its hinges and flatten me or I might sprain my wrist trying to open it. Or maybe he was just brought up with good old-fashioned manners.

Good old-fashioned manners that basically imply that a woman is too weak to do things for herself. *sigh* I feel like I need to apologise to all historical feminist pioneers…. For everything you accomplished, and for the society that we live in today, pap like this that asserts male authority over women being taught to young girls as the ideal, is still able to be published.

Xavier slowly edges out of the parking lot, because apparently he drives like Bethany is some precious piece of cargo. But then, out of nowhere, a black motorcycle cuts across them and nearly causes an accident.

*snort* Jake (because it so obviously is Jake) drives a black motorcycle. As if to drive home the point that he really is bad, yo. Am I supposed to be going “oh no, he’s such a bad guy!” or something? Because I’m not. I’m currently shaking my fist at the sky for Bethany and Xavier not being involved in a horrible car crash where Jake was the only survivor. Jake gets to take over the narrative, and uses his demonic powers to drag this little town down and all the shmucks who inhabit it into a hell-mouth, never to be seen again. PUNK’D!

“If I ever find out who that was, so help me God, I’ll introduce his head to a pole.”

“It was hard to see his face under the helmet,” I said quietly. 

“We’ll find out soon enough,” Xavier growled. “You don’t see too many Yamaha V Star 250s around here.”

“How do you know the bike model?” I asked.

“I’m a boy. We like engines.”

Oh, the Alexandra Adornetto drinking game… Take a whole shot every time Adornetto asserts that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, or something to that effect. You know, like how she says (through Bethany as her mouth-piece) that boys shouldn’t wear make-up and that girls are bad at science, but better at English than boys. You’ll be tipsy within several pages of Heaven.

Xavier and Bethany make their way home (sadly without Jake Thorn tailgating them and trying to get the car to crash into a ditch) and settle down to do homework. Riveting.

In truth, the homework I had been assigned and the grades I would be awarded for my effort, didn’t interest me in the slightest. The things I wanted to learn didn’t come from textbooks; they came from experiences and interactions.

THEN WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU ATTENDING SCHOOL??? WHY!? FUCKING WHY!? THIS WHOLE BLOODY BOOK MAKES NO SENSE! EVEN IF YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE INFLUENCING YOUNG MINDS INTO RECONNECTING WITH THEIR SPIRITUALITY, TEAM UP WITH IVY OR SOMETHING AND DO FUCKING VOLUNTEERING IN TOWN! SAY YOU’RE HOME-SCHOOLED IF ANYBODY ASKS, JUST GET BACK TO WHAT’S FUCKING IMPORTANT AND DO YOUR BLOODY JOB AS AN ANGEL FOR GOD’S SAKE! BUT OH NO, WE’VE GOT TO APE TWILIGHT IN EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN YOUNG ADULT PARANORMAL ROMANCE AND MAKE IT SO THAT THE TWO LOVE INTERESTS MEET IN A SCHOOL SETTING OR SOME SHIT RATHER THAN COMING UP WITH ANYTHING INTERESTING OF OUR OWN.

If I could pick fictional characters I would quite happily strap onto a rocket that was destined towards the sun and couldn’t be taken off autopilot, Bethany Church would be one of them. So too would Xavier. And Mayor Prentiss from Chaos Walking (a MUCH better book series, by the way), but that’s another matter.

This sodding book is draining my life force, guys.

Xavier put down his own pen and looked at me quizzically. “[...] What is the independent variable in the Stanford Prison Experiment?”

Wow, for somebody who’s supposed to be good at science, you have to ask Bethany what an independent variable in an experiment is? Plus, the Stanford Prison Experiment is complete pigswill. The participants were paid, and looking to impress the professor who was running it.

“Yawn,” I said. “I’m afraid some of us aren’t blessed with divine knowledge.” I sighed. “I can’t believe that stuff really interests you?”

THAT IS NOT A QUESTION WHY IS THERE A QUESTION MARK THERE.

He had just completed his third trig problem when I felt his hand wander over to my lap. I slapped it gently.

Ooh, naughty. Not.

He smiled and scrawled something at the bottom of the answer sheet. The solution now read:

Find x if (x) = 2sin3x, over the domain -2π < x < 2π

Ta da. (Thank you, Wolfram Alpha.)

“Stop goofing around!” I said.

“I’m not! I’m stating a truth. You’re my solution to everything,” Xavier replied. “The end result is always you. X always equals Beth.”

(Gif warning.)

STOP WITH ALL THE CHEESE I CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH FULL FAT PROTEIN IN ONE SITTING!!

This book is going to be the death of me. Sob.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 17

Calm Before The Storm

Just so you know, this is the sort of chapter that makes feminists like me weep. In fact, it says something about your book when the saving grace of this chapter is the fact that the demonic villain finally shows up.

Buckle in, folks, this one’s going to be really painful. I’m talking root canal with no anaesthetic painful.

My relationship with Xavier seemed to deepen after the dinner with my family. We felt we had been given permission to express our emotions without fear of reprisal. We began to think and move in sync with each other, like one entity occupying different bodies. Although we made a conscious effort not to disconnect from everyone around us, at times it couldn’t be helped. We even tried allocating specific times to spend with other people, but when we did, the minutes seemed to drag and our behaviour felt so contrived that we inevitably gravitated back together within the hour.

Wow. That’s love, apparently. Obsession to the point where you can’t be parted and feel physical pain when you’re not together. I’m sorry, but this is straying into Delightful Children From Down The Lane territory. Not actual romance.

Anyway, yeah, Bethany and Xavier now sit together at lunch and stare into each other’s eyes whilst trying to complete homework. Riveting.

“You’re a huge distraction and a very bad influence.”

“How dare you!” I teased. “It’s impossible for me to be a bad influence on anyone.”

“Really? And why is that?”

“Because I’m goodness personified — I’m so clean I squeak!”

God that last line is cheesy. Shame I’ve already used the joke about being force-fed Cheese Whiz, though.

Xavier seems to be preoccupied with something other than his homework… even though by the end of the chapter he’s a lot more diligent about the whole thing and crows about how he has to try and get into a good college to please his parents.

Now for some wangst about how this whole preternatural affair is so mean and targeting our perfect widdle couple in particular. Isn’t Bethany supposed to be at this school to influence people into reconnecting with their spirituality? What on earth does sitting at a private table with your boyfriend accomplish? WHY ARE THEY AT SCHOOL IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Bethany is going to be recalled up to Heaven one day, that’s inevitable. It could have been a really interesting thing to work into the plot, but here it’s just an excuse for angst. Nothing ever really happens in this regard that could threaten their relationship, except for Gabriel calling the angelic SWAT team on Bethany and Xavier for merely hugging on the beach. But still, I suppose angst keeps the plot wheel spinning.

Xavier turned to look at me, his turquoise eyes dark.

Did Xavier’s eyes change colour from blue to a darker blue? A character’s eyes can darken if they’re angry, sure, but putting their eye colour into proceedings is a bit silly.

More relationship angst later, and it turns out that Bethany has been distancing herself from Molly and all her other friends for Xavier. Good grief, why is Twilight-flavoured YA all like this? Your friends are so vapid and unworthy of your attention and you have to be rescued out of this situation by your man!!

One afternoon in town, Xavier and Bethany catch sight of Ivy being harassed by some dudebro who wants to ask her out. Under a large oak tree. What happened to that rule of Ivy being so bright she glows in daylight, and if she’s ever in the shadows her aura is so bright that it’ll be clear that she’s not human? Oh, I know. It went sailing out of the window along with all the other continuity flubs in this book.

Xavier rescues Ivy from dudebro by talking to him in the most ’90s of sports comedies dialogue.

“Hey, Bucknall,” Xavier called out. “Can I have a word?”

“Little busy here, dude,” the boy replied.

“Did you hear the news?” Xavier said. “Coach wants to see everyone in his office tonight after the game?”

“Yeah? What for?” Chris said without turning around.

“Not sure. Something about taking names for next season’s tryouts. Anyone who doesn’t show doesn’t get in.”

Chris Bucknall looked alarmed. “I gotta go,” he told Ivy. “I’ll catch you later.”

Rather than tell him to fuck off right away, we’ve got to suggest that perhaps there’s an event later that he totally cannot miss! Or something.

It turns out that Gabriel and Ivy actually like Xavier now, not only because he’s a good boyfriend to Bethany (erk) but because he can fix the DVD player! …Weren’t you guys watching old movies when you first moved to Venus Cove? Alright, I suppose the TCM channel exists.

Aside from being our tech angel, Xavier took his responsibility as my “bodyguard” so seriously that I had to remind him that I wasn’t made of glass and had managed quite adequately before his arrival.

(Gif warning.)

Cat Rolling Down Stairs Forever

Oh my god why. No, seriously, what part of chivalry (i.e., simply being polite) equals losing your right to be an independent person and turned almost into a fragile poor little maiden who needs protecting? Or needs help with the daily functions of life, because your poor lady brain short-circuits without his help?

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.

Yeah, at my school that sort of thing still got you a detention.

I knew that if it slipped my mind, Xavier would complete it for me and hand it in without my knowledge.

Meaning that Bethany has to bear the brunt of trouble when the school inevitably pick up on her for plagiarising Xavier’s writing style, and accuse her of cheating her way through the school year. Wonderful.

He became fiercely protective whenever anybody he didn’t approve of came without a two-foot radius of me.

OH MY GOD.

Okay, look. This is communicating to me, as I read between the lines, that the writer has daddy issues. I’m sorry, I know she was just sixteen when she wrote this, but… DADDY ISSUES. Not daddy issues that stem from the lack of a paternal figure, no. Daddy issues that stem from being daddy’s little girl and thus subconsciously wanting every relationship in your adult life to be the apple of “daddy’s” eye and to be cherished and protected as much as daddy dearest would look after you. Drunken YA Book Reviews sums this up rather nicely:

“[...] YA authoresses. All of you. Fucking have. Daddy Issues.

Let’s talk about those.

See, every time you write a Love Interest who just magically knows what’s best for the FMC—Daddy Issues.

Every time the FMC lets the LI micromanage her life—Daddy Issues.

Every time the LI needs to know where, when, and why the FMC went out or talked to someone with XY chromosomes or breathed someone else’s musk—Daddy Issues.”

At one point, Xavier gets a boy to leave Bethany’s presence, even though he simply asked her if she wanted to hang out. Fuck you, Xavier.

” [...] He’s off with the green fairy most of the time.”

Oh no, he’s 17 and drinking absinthe. How terrible. (I get the feeling that Adornetto thinks “green fairy” is a euphemism for marijuana. Which it’s not.)

“He’s good friends with Puff the Magic Dragon.”

You had two opportunities, Adornetto. That’s not a euphemism for weed either. Puffing the magic dragon is, even though Peter, Paul & Mary absolutely despised people guffawing about how their harmless 1960s children’s song is some secret message to get people smoking marijuana.

As it turns out, Venus Cove has a lot of kids drinking and experimenting with drugs underage. Wow. It’s just like every other school district in the world! Plus, living in a town that’s supposedly as wealthy as Venus Cove, these kids have cash to burn, so of course they’re going to try drugs and alcohol.

Trouble seemed to seek me out even though I did my best to avoid it. It found me one day as I was crossing the parking lot to get to English.

Oh god… okay, guys, this is a scene of attempted rape. A dudebro and his goons come up to Bethany with ill intent, and it’s all set up so that Xavier can rescue her. Way to trivialise a serious issue into showing us how your love interest is so wonderful and protective!

Xavier shows up just as dudebro puts his hand on Bethany’s shoulder. Of course, he’s a valiant knight in shining armour! Who even tries to get into a fight to protect dear Bethie’s honour.

“Let it go, man,” one of his friends advised and then lowered his voice. “That’s Xavier Woods.”

Xavier Woods is a professional wrestler, guys. Might not be wise to duel with him.

I love how like, they give out his full name too. It is a name to be feared, that rattles the bones of both young and old and casts a chill down their very spines. A terrifying opponent, who will bring you your reckoning should you ever cross his path.

Ugh, god. Let’s move on from this, it’s making me angry.

“Beth, I’d take on Megatron’s army to protect you.”

PLEASE, PLEASE DO. I would pay SO MUCH MONEY to see Xavier being obliterated in a variety of ways by every single Decepticon that has ever existed in Transformers canon. ALL OF MY MONEY, TAKE IT! It would be way more entertaining than the Michael Bay movies, at the very least.

“Who?”

You know, this would have been funny and shown that Adornetto had done her research if Bethany thought Xavier said “the Metatron’s army.” You know, the actual voice of God? Alan Rickman’s character in Dogma? (Which is an amazing movie that you all should immediately watch if you haven’t already?)

(Gif warning.)

I felt that Xavier supplied me with a strength and belief in myself that made me stronger for whatever my role in our mission was meant to be.

Right, great. GET BACK TO YOUR GODDAMN MISSION, THEN.

At the same time, his concern for my well-being bordered on obsession as he worried about even the littlest things, like my energy level.

[...]

“Here, eat this,” he commanded and pushed a health bar across the table. 

[...]

Sometimes it was easier not to argue with Xavier when his objective was taking care of me.

What in the actual hell!? This is what love is supposed to be? Being treated like you’re a weak little child who can’t do anything for themselves? Look, I know that Bethany is acknowledging that Xavier is overdoing it. But when she protests, he just drowns her out. He’s a spoilt brat and I despise him thoroughly.

“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.

Sure, this scene is being played for laughs by our characters. But it’s also got this really uncomfortable subtext that infantilises Bethany and yeah. I wrote an essay last year on Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, a book which is incredibly fond of using animal descriptors and similes for both the male and the female characters. The males are almost always described as being proud and/or powerful animals, like lions, cockerels, etc. The females are almost always described as being weak, helpless little infant animals or animals that are easily caged. Yes, I’m going for a rather basic thing here, but it does illustrate my point here. Halo does a similar thing to Clarissa. The narrative makes the women weak little milksops (who, despite their clever wits, are still taken in by more authoritarian males) and the men powerful authority figures who are better than the women just because they are! Progressive. When was Halo written? 2010. When was Clarissa written? 1748.

Can I emphasise that again? SEVENTEEN FORTY-EIGHT.

There is no excuse.

*sigh*

Xavier’s elder sister is supposedly getting married, and we get a load of expository information which could be trimmed with hedge shears and not impede the quality of the book whatsoever. Bethany just talks about how she wants to know everything about this wedding, from the colour of the bridesmaids’ dresses to who’s being the ring bearer and the location of the ceremony itself.

Xavier chuckled as he told me the story, amused by the irrational antics of the females in his family.

Because females = irrational and males = rational.

*sigh*

More wangst about the preternatural state of Bethany and Xavier’s relationship ensues. And it looks like within the next few chapters, we’re going to pad out the book even more by meeting Xavier’s family.

“Girls who are all good have never really appealed to me.”

Yeah, sure, Xavier, tell yourself that. While you’re dating an angel.

Xavier walks Bethany to her Literature class, and a storm bursts overhead.

EEIIEE! Jake’s here! Yay!

I saw Gabriel heading to the music wing, a troubled expression on his face. The umbrella he held was slanted by the strong wind that had blown up.

What happened to Gabriel parting the clouds in an overcast sky and making sure the basketball team could play their game on the first day of school?

“By the way, I hear there’s a new student, on exchange from London.”

Okay, it’s not like Jake is my favourite character or anything, but seriously, some break from the monotony that is Bethany and Xavier et al’s romantic worries is absolutely BRILLIANT.

I also love how Xavier kind of drops everything to exposit a load of crap about Jake to Bethany.

“According to the grapevine, he’s been expelled from three schools already, and he’s been sent here to sort himself out.”

Oh god, sent HERE with these losers? I’d take reform or military school. Anything but this!

So yeah, we’re now hitting a bump in the relationship of Bethany and Xavier. Dramatic.

The bump came all the way from England and had a name: Jake Thorn.

You know, it’s actually quite rare for British kids like me to have these fancy/meaningful names. Writers like Cassandra Clare seem to think every other person in Blighty has a surname like Thorn or Fairfax or Carstairs or Herondale or Wexwood or something. Nope, you’re far more likely to come across the surnames James, Jones, Smith, or Williams.

So, I’m angry now at this book’s treatment of gender roles and having Bethany accept her boyfriend domineering over her as the norm. I’ll release that tension beating up a few Heartless in Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix. Or finding a decent collection of books on feminism and gender studies to put in a box and ship, care of the publisher.

But hey, at least there’s only a few more chapters to go. Right?

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 16

Family Ties

So yeah, completely out of the blue Gabriel orders Bethany to invite Xavier over to dinner. Xavier’s got to be part of the family now, I guess? Ew.

This is such an uneventful chapter. Abscond now if ye must.

“[...] There are some ground rules we need to cover.”

“Such as?”

“Such as the importance of confidentiality for a start.”

“You don’t know Xavier, he’s as likely to blab as I am,” I said and realised the irony as soon as the words were out.

“Well, that really doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?” Gabriel remarked.

Okay, that was pretty funny. Gabe is still my favourite character, you know.

Xavier being invited over for dinner is just a precaution for Gabriel and Ivy, which makes sense. But still, there’s no need to force Bethany to phone him up and invite him, Gabe.

So, Bethany phones up Xavier and reveals to him that her family now knows that she told him she was an angel.

“How’d they take it?”

“Not well,” I admitted. “But then Gabriel met with the Covenant and…”

“I’m sorry, the what?”

Haha, imagine if Xavier’s family recorded their calls.

Well, anyway, Bethany reports that the Covenant saw fit to allow the Church siblings to stay on Earth. What was that about the Covenant having this fearsome absolute power and being particularly punishing to any angel who breaks their rules? Oh no lol a higher power hand-waved it all away. God, this series hand-waves more than Colleen Houck does.

Xavier arranges to come over for dinner at 7pm, and for some reason Bethany is super nervous about it.

“It’s just that our whole relationship is kind of hanging by a thread and they’ve been merciful so far, but this dinner could make or break it and I’m not sure why Gabe…”

What do you mean, you’re not sure? You lied to Gabriel several times and went behind his back. Of course he’s going to be a bit suspicious of you and perhaps want to make sure that Xavier is a trustworthy character. For all he knows, Xavier could pretend to be a star athlete at school but have a less charming personality in real life.

Xavier hangs up, and arrives at the door some time later in ‘a pale gray pin-striped suit and blue silk tie.’

Uh, that’s a bit of a strange outfit to wear to dinner around your girlfriend’s house. But whatever, we’ll roll with it. Really, pin-stripe suit + silk tie just makes me think of The Wolf of Wall Street.

Under his arm he carried a bunch of long-stemmed yellow roses, wrapped in green cellophane and tied with raffia.

In Victorian flower language, Xavier is communicating friendship and devotion to Bethany. Nice little touch, I guess.

[...] At that moment all I could think was that Xavier was mine and that we belonged to each other. He might have been over-dressed for a casual impromptu dinner, but he cut a pretty striking figure with his broad shoulders, fathomless blue eyes, and smoothed-back hair. He was my very own fairy-tale hero.

I’m sorry, but my mind keeps inserting a young Patrick Bateman into this. It’s the slicked-back hair, the silk tie, the pinstripe suit… Just don’t get into a conversation with him about Huey Lewis & The News. Or Whitney Houston.

Also, please stop describing the colour of his eyes. The next time you do, I’m going to create a headcanon that Xavier wears party shop colour contacts all the time and you need to specify that they’re blue now because if you didn’t I’d assume he was wearing a pair of these. All right? All right.

[...] Like a fairy-tale hero, I knew I could rely on him not to run for cover when the going got tough.

THE TOUGH GET ROUGH!

Xavier would stand his ground, and any decisions he made would be based on reasoning of his own. If nothing else, I knew I could depend upon that.

WHY aren’t you depending upon your own reasoning?? You do have a mind of your own, Bethany. Don’t you?

So yeah, it’s kind of like every stereotypical boyfriend’s first dinner with girlfriend’s family. Male authority figure is suspicious and looks like he’ll snap at any moment, whereas the females are nothing but pleasant hostesses. Gag.

My sister had gone to a good deal of trouble with the menu — she’d made an aromatic potato and leek soup followed by whole baked trout and a tray of roasted vegetables. I knew there’d be crème brûlée for dessert as I’d seen them in the fridge, wobbling in ramekins. Ivy had even sent Gabe out in search of a kitchen blowtorch to caramelise the sugar topping.

Okay, how did Ivy make this? The time skipped around so much. I assume Bethany went downstairs in the morning, Gabriel was called into a meeting that lasted quite a long time, then he came back with the results, then he got Bethany to invite Xavier over for dinner some time around mid-afternoon. I highly doubt that in the few hours between Xavier arriving on the doorstep, Ivy was able to make a soup, a main course (trout, no less) and crème caramel (which becomes crème brûlée when you burn the sugar topping) for pudding all while waiting for Xavier to pop back from Lakeland’s with a kitchen blowtorch. Unless they used their angelic powers to make all this food appear, or something.

So, this dinner is more tense than your average Come Dine With Me episode. Gabriel is almost silent, and Bethany wonders why he’s trying to do this. Hell if I know. This chapter is so boring I’ve almost fallen asleep a few times.

I caught Xavier staring intently at his plate as though the unfinished vegetables there might reveal the mysteries of the universe.

You know, writers really ought to try and imagine scenarios like this in their heads. If somebody — anybody — I knew was staring at their food like an oracle or medium trying to divine the future out of tea leaves, I’d take note of it. I’d think it looked damn weird. Just because your book contains paranormal creatures doesn’t mean you can totally ignore how actual human beings would interact.

Also, Xavier. Eat your bloody vegetables.

Bethany’s a clumsy git and manages to kick Xavier under the table and make him spill his drink when she meant to nudge Ivy! Oh, Bethany! We can’t take you anywhere, can we?

“What sports do you play?” Ivy asked, with a little too much enthusiasm.

“Water polo, rugby, baseball and lacrosse.”

I have it on good authority from several American friends of mine that, in the Southern US, there is no way that Xavier would be playing rugby. It’s way more likely to be gridiron/American football. Just a little FYI.

Also, Xavier does rowing. Hence why he was at rowing camp in an earlier part of the book. Did you forget, or were four sports enough?

“He’s actually captain of the water polo team.” I couldn’t seem to stop babbling. “He’s also captain of the schooll… but you already know that.”

There is no such thing as ‘captain’ in American high schools, unless they’re super private. That’s a really Australian thing.

Xavier then brings up the fact that he now knows that they’re all angels. Xavier insists he intends to protect and cherish Bethany. It’s so, so cheesy. I think even a cheesemonger would say “Whoa, calm down there.”

“You see, you and I have one vital thing in common,” Xavier continued. “We both love Beth.”

Uh huh. They’re her siblings. Their love for her is a little bit different to what you feel, champ, but hey, who am I to judge? Hillbilly county is probably only a few miles up the road.

So yeah, more talking about how Bethany is a fragile widdle flower who needs protecting!! Bethany may be foolish at times, but seriously, there is absolutely no reason to discuss with her boyfriend the means in which he’s going to protect her. Bethany is a bloody angel with healing powers who can fly and do all sorts of other cool things, and yet she’s downgraded to being unable to protect herself and having to rely on some cute boy next door who’s only really considered a ‘protector’ because he happens to be male. This book really was written by an MRA, wasn’t it?

But yeah, Bethany objects to Gabriel making it sound like Xavier’s going to babysit her for the rest of her life. Good! Shame she’s just laughed at, though, and Xavier just makes a complete joke out of it.

So anyway, dinner is over and Xavier is allowed into the bathroom with Bethany while she brushes her teeth. Um. Okay…?

“I thought you didn’t use make-up,” Xavier said, picking up a stick of eyeliner from the counter.

Where do you get a ‘stick’ of eyeliner? It’s a pencil or a tube.

Also, eww, “I’M NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS I DON’T LIKE WEARING MAKE-UP WEH” coming in 3… 2… 1.

*sigh*

Bethany teases Xavier with the eyeliner pen.

“No way.”

“Why not?” I sulked.

“Because I’m a man,” Xavier said. “And men don’t wear make-up unless they’re emo or play in a boy band.”

(GIF warning.)

Angry Dog

NO.

Seriously, fuck this assertion of the gender binary. I don’t care if it’s only supposed to be a joke. It’s not funny. Plus, men wearing make-up… who seriously cares?? Pretty much every man you drool over in Hollywood or on American TV programmes is highly made up before most public appearances. There’s an entire half of the make-up industry that caters towards men. Not just ‘metro men’ (as Adornetto calls them in her horrible article), but quite a few teenage DMAB men use moisturiser and maybe even some concealer for spots or whatever. Look at young Adam Ant. 10/10 would bang (even though his most popular song charted 10 years before I was even born, I DON’T EVEN CARE).

His brilliant blue almond-shaped eyes seemed to sparkle.

Thanks for reminding me that Xavier has blue, almond-shaped eyes. It’s really terrible, you know, having this terrible short-term memory on a par with Dory from Finding Nemo.

Xavier then complains that perfume is for girls, but I think Jean-Baptiste Grenouille would have something to say about that.

So, our loving couple have to go and sit out in the swing in the garden. Phantom comes to join them.

Phantom always retrieved but then refused to relinquish.

ddb2b-thesaurus_t-shirt

Bethany breathes in Xavier’s clean, woody scent. You know, I’m almost exactly sure that’s what the package said the last time I bought a car air freshener in the shape of a pine tree. So, Xavier smells like one of them. Nice.

“This might sound corny, but I feel like I’ve been asleep for a long time, and you’ve just woken me up…” He paused. “I can’t believe I just said that. What are you doing to me?”

“Turning you into a poet,” I teased.

“Me?” Xavier growled in mock anger. “Poetry’s for girls.”

Xavier, sweetheart, a large majority of European and American poets you study in school were males and probably 900 times better at romancing somebody than your pathetic ass. Plus, when did this nonsense about poetry being for girls kick in? Go watch Dead Poets Society or pick up something by Oscar Wilde, June Jones, Allen Ginsberg or Walt Whitman. (There’s this one female poet called Anna Letitia Barbauld, by the way, who was a right badass in her day and had Samuel Taylor Coleridge walking from his country village into her city residence 40 miles away just to admire her. So yeah, put that in your pipe and smoke it.)

Bleh, anyway, Xavier and Bethany kiss for a little while and he eventually goes home.

Gabriel we knew was an insomniac. It wasn’t unusual for him or Ivy to stay up till the early hours of the morning.

The hell is with that grammar, editors? The Gabriel we knew was an insomniac. There, better. But why specify only Gabriel, if Ivy is afflicted by the same insomnia? Plus, what was that shit about ‘boundless energy’ or ‘energy that didn’t need to be conserved’ or whatever from the earlier chapters, where Bethany could run laps in PE class no sweat? Why does she need to go to bed at all?

Our angels all decide on going on a predawn flight up a nearby mountain. A nearby mountain that is somehow snowcapped. They drive there in their Jeep. I have no idea why they don’t fly there either. No, seriously, it’s way past midnight and Bethany describes how the township looks absolutely deserted and you’d think angels would be able to fly above the clouds and ensure they wouldn’t be seen. Unless there are any red eye passenger planes flying past, in which case I welcome the idea of Bethany being sucked into a jet engine.

I had tried spreading [my wings] and floating around my bedroom with the curtains pulled tight shut, but I’d only crashed into the ceiling fan and bumped my legs on the furniture.

Um, why can’t you just find a really deserted place and take off from there? As in, somewhere no human in their right mind would want to go near. No? All right, then, suit yourself.

The sea looked solid, like a velvet mantle that had been draped over part of the earth.

God, that’s about as bad when I used to write when I was 14. I once described the night sky as looking like a piece of black velvet with moonstone beads. Yikes.

They get up to the mountain path and head into the forest.

Ivy was the first to cast off her jacket and do what we were all waiting to do. She stood facing us, her back straight and her head thrown back so that her pale hair cascaded like a golden nimbus around her face and shoulders.

Oh god, the over-writing. It burns.

In the moonlight she glowed like a lamp, and her sculpted figure looked like marble, white and flawless. Her body curved perfectly, each limb as long and elegant as a sapling.

Yeah, elegant.

Her wings, slender but powerful, sliced through the loose T-shirt she wore and reared Heavenward like living entities.

what is this i don’t even… wings as living entities? That’s like saying my spleen is a living entity. Yeah, sure it is, but I don’t think it’s a living entity in that it could function all by itself outside of my body.

I broke into a run and felt my own wings begin to pulse and then tear through their cage of cloth.

A cage of cloth. Pfft.

More painfully purple prose about flying ensues.

We flew like this for what must have been several hours, until Gabriel emitted a low melodic hum, like the note of an oboe, which we knew was the signal to come down.

Has Adornetto ever heard an oboe? Sure, they can be low and melodic, but they’re generally kind of… well, they can be quite squeaky too. But hey, I guess Gabriel can’t blow his trumpet yet. It’s not the end of the world, after all.

And there the chapter ends, with a euphoric segment about Bethany getting to do exactly what she wants, and the pleasure that comes from her getting her own way.

I have a few more chapters to go.

Pray for me, friends.

The Curious Case of Nik and Eva Speakman

Reality TV is just a constant in our lives now. There’s always some new gimmick for a production company to exploit, and reality TV programmes enjoy enough of an audience and are cheap enough to produce that they come in waves over and over again. There are American reality TV programmes headed by unorthodox ‘healers’ like Yogi Cameron that take on people who have suffered terribly with various phobias and other psychological conditions yet have never been able to be cured by the main health industry, whether they’ve taking medications or saw a variety of therapists.

The majority of these reality programmes follow a very specific story model.

  1. Show us a problem to do with a person or an animal.
  2. A few (sometimes tearful) testimonies from family or friends on how difficult said problem is.
  3. Insert shot of the presenter/unorthodox healer/expert in this field striding in.
  4. Finally, the presenter and the person/animal meet. The presenter seems to clock on to something that nobody else has ever thought of.
  5. Now for healing time, in which we get to learn all about the ways in which the person has their problem, and how they could potentially get over it.
  6. Insert tearful shots of the person and their parents, sometimes in the form of reading letters aloud.
  7. Show the person/thing starting to get better.
  8. Have them declare how much better they’re feeling.
  9. End of programme, exeunt all.

Now, this is perfectly fine if we’re watching a programme about badly-behaved, screaming children whose parents are at their wits’ end, or perhaps a dog who is one step away from really hurting someone and needs to be trained by good old Cesar Milan.

Of course, I’m not going to be a snob here and insist that I never watch trashy reality TV and instead prefer BBC4 documentaries. Almost everybody watches this stuff, because it’s so easy to hook you in. There’s a problem, and a talented expert will take all the clues from their observation and turn it into a definitive answer as to how the problem can solved by the end.

But I do take a bit of issue when it’s to do with mental health issues, and the ‘cure’ is being peddled by people who have no real background in psychology, psychoanalysis, therapy, or even counselling. Nik and Eva Speakman, the dual presenters of ITV’s current 2:00pm slot only have two diplomas in… something or other (they’d prefer not to disclose it), and while they do maintain that they would be out of their depth in trying to assist somebody with a severe psychological disorder, episode 1 of The Speakmans would convince you otherwise. (Hey, remember that time several years ago where we allowed a ‘nutritionist’ with only basic academic credentials to host her own show, presented to the audience she were an eminent biological scientist? Hi Gillian McKeith, if you’re reading this. Also, Dr. Ben Goldacre’s chapters on her in his book Bad Science are hilarious, as is everything else he writes about.)

Episode 1 (aired Monday 14/07/2014) concerns Becky, a 26 year old who has been rendered housebound by her severe emetophobia (that’s the phobia of vomiting, to you and I). So scared is she of vomiting that she carries laxatives in her bag just in case, and needs a hot water bottle on her person at all times. She loves animals and used to ride horses, but no longer has any hobbies and fears leaving the house, for even a short period. Her mother bought her a Dalmatian to encourage her to start going outside again, but Becky remains trapped in the house by her phobia. She has even missed her sister’s wedding due to her phobia flaring up on the day the family were due to fly out to Cyprus. It’s a sad situation, and even sadder still is the fact that multiple therapies over the years have not worked on Becky, even the slightest jot.

Less kind people than myself would consider Becky to be selfish and “ugh, she should just get over it.” This hideous attitude to genuine mental disorders is what contributes to the stigma against them, with so many people just assuming a mental disorder is just some kind of made-up disease to garner unwarranted attention. That seems to be the audience that The Speakmans are reaching for, as Becky is subjected in episode 1 of The Speakmans to being forced into a panic attack (I cannot stress enough what a terrible thing that is) and actually handcuffed to a baby gate to get her to realise that her mother is… babying her, or something. Also, Becky’s phobia and anxiety issues are brought into question at one point, as if she is actually faking it for the attention. It’s dehumanising and belittling, and I fail to see what lesson you could draw from this brand of therapy if you were in Becky’s shoes. But it’s all for the greater good, since Becky claims that she has been cured by the end of the episode. Happy days, apparently.

The Speakmans (perfect name, really, for a couple peddling talking therapy, of course) have a flashy website that contains more than a few testimonials, including one by British celebrity Kerry Katona, who has been diagnosed for several years with bipolar disorder. While I am not going to critique her turning to a ‘super-couple’ of talking therapists rather than the more esteemed psychiatrists she could potentially afford, I do not see the real merit in picking these guys over somebody who has been trained to help with and has extensively studied psychiatric disorders.

While The Speakmans does not try to present the couple as being the be all and end all of psychiatry, presenting them as being this magical last resort that gets the job done where all else has failed lends them an unwarranted credibility. Certainly, not every person can afford hundreds or thousands of pounds for psychiatric therapy to help them. But neither can they afford the fees charged by these highly in-demand celebrity therapists who have sailed on a wave of mild fame and success since their appearances on UK magazine show This Morning, and other unqualified talking therapists who will doubtlessly come in their wake. (There’s talk of them educating others in their methods — their website has news of them starting up a Speakman Institute.)

According to the Guardian article I linked earlier (dating to 2006), Nik and Eva Speakman used to advertise themselves as life coaches. That’s fair enough. People can become life coaches with a diploma or less. It’s not like you need a specific degree in that field, but in terms of psychiatry and helping people with more complex disorders… I think you actually do need at least a BSc or an MSc.

If the Speakmans have said they aren’t willing to help people with more serious psychiatric disorders, then why are they on television assisting somebody with a phobia so severe they aren’t able to leave the house, and claiming to have aided Kerry Katona with her bipolar disorder? How about their website, where they claim to have helped people with misophonia, anorexia and post-traumatic stress disorder? And why does their TV show, which will have a captive audience (since it’s daytime TV and since BBC are willing to shill some rebrand of Antiques in the Attic That We Can Flog Under The Hammer that is deathly boring, this comparatively looks like an oasis in the desert), display them as this amazing whirlwind that can completely cure the people featured, where more qualified professionals have failed?

It’s just wrong and particularly sinister, and like I’ve said before, delivers this message that people with severe issues just need to be talked out of it. “Gee whiz, my condition often makes me think about my misery and how much my life has gone downhill has never been fixed before with a simple conversation that gets to the root of my fears and doubts! Whee! I’m cured!”

If you suffer with a mild form of anxiety, then perhaps, yeah, fine, I can see the appeal in calling forth people like Nik and Eva. If you’ve always been scared of cats since one bit you as a small child, they’re probably quite helpful. But severe phobias that render one housebound or compulsions that people have suffered from for years? Nik and Eva are not going to be a whirlwind cure, and perhaps if the programme acknowledged that I would be a lot more forgiving. But no, it doesn’t, as far as I can recall, presenting their brand of talking therapy as something that cures severe conditions within the confines of an hour-long daytime reality TV show.

Relevant links:

Filipa Jodelka’s hilarious Guardian article.
Sarah Dempster’s 2006 article,  back when the Speakmans branded themselves as life coaches.
The Speakmans’ Contact page on their website.
The Speakmans’ About Us page.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 15

The Covenant

Not a song title/lyric this time! Wow. Instead, it’s a fairly cheesy guilty pleasure of a movie about male witches in an American high school. It even stars dear old Sebastian Stan!

This chapter of Halo, though, is dedicated to the major trouble Bethany finds herself in after revealing her angelic nature to Xavier.

He promises to keep Bethany’s true form a secret, but Bethany reminds him that she’ll be taken back up to Heaven some day soon.

[...] Signs of strain suddenly materialised on his face. His ocean eyes darkened, and his mouth turned into an angry scowl.

“If you leave, will you ever come back?” He asked in a tight voice.

“I don’t think so,” I said quietly. “But if I do, it’s not likely to be anytime soon or even to the same place.”

Xavier’s body stiffed beside me. “So you don’t get a say?” He said with a note of disbelief in his voice. “Whatever happened to free will?”

Xavier, go back to Sunday School. Also, Bethany does have free will while on Earth, right? I suppose it wouldn’t make much sense if she didn’t (in terms of the story), but if that’s the case, shouldn’t her angel form be completed devoted to God and kind of casting Xavier aside?

Also, let’s realise something. Bethany loves Xavier more than she loves God. The way she describes Xavier and drools over every physical attribute he has (because let’s face it, the guy doesn’t have a great personality), how she can’t stop thinking about him and feels incomplete when he isn’t near for her to dribble over… isn’t that kind of idolatry? Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Commandments #1 and #2 in AUGUSTINE CATHOLIC DOCTRINE. As in, the ones that are pretty hard to miss!

“That gift was given to humankind, remember? It doesn’t apply to us. Look, if there’s a way for me to stay I haven’t figured it out yet,” I continued.

Oh, just go to the beach, find Dennis Franz. He’ll tell you where to go. (Yeah, I like City of Angels. So what?)

“Well, you can’t go,”  Xavier said simply. By his tone he might have been giving a weather report: Today there will be late showers. He spoke with a confidence that challenged anyone to defy the decision.

Haha, okay, well, I’m sure God will have something to say about your massive ego, Xavier Woods. (Also, Xavier Woods is the name of a WWE pro. It’s funny when characters in books share names with real celebrities. I never pegged Adornetto as a wrestling fan, but there you go!)

Xavier insists on renegotiating the lease that Bethany’s on, so she can stay on Earth. I actually jumped into the book itself and obtained a recording of Xavier’s prayers that night. “Soli Deo gloria, beata Maria. …Uh, God? This might be a bit of an odd request, but… could you remove one of your angels from service (even though that can’t happen since angels really do differ from humans since they’re on a higher level) so I can satisfy my lust for her? Thank you and Amen.”

“We’re here together right now, let’s not worry about the future. Okay?”

Um, no, you should be talking about the future, Bethany.

But no time to focus on the woulds, coulds, and shoulds! It’s kissing and hugging time. Bethany and Xavier do nothing for a good hour or so except lay tangled together on the sand canoodling. Be right back, I need to jump into this book again, move the moon slightly out of alignment… and there we go, the tide should come in and drown them both. Yay!

Bethany gets up and dusts herself off, even though they really should have gotten wet from the tide. No, I’m sorry, is this one beach in Georgia not affected by the tides? Surely high tide would have come in during the afternoon or some time while they were cuddling, meaning the sand would have been wet and kind of gross to lie on. But hey, what do I know? Couples in fiction are always supposed to find some way to get comfortable on the beach, even though it’s kind of a horrible place to cuddle in real life.

As she turns to walk away, Xavier reminds Bethany that her wings are still visible. You know, because Bethany’s weak lady brain is so preoccupied that she couldn’t have possibly noticed herself. She gets to wear the bae’s sweater though! Which is so big it comes down her thighs. So… is Xavier 6 feet tall and is Bethany about 5 feet tall? Okay then.

Bethany returns home and curls up in Xavier’s sweater on the wooden swing in their garden. As she can see through the window, Ivy is knitting and Gabriel is playing his guitar. Hey, let me just find an infographic I found on Tumblr.

Images (c) http://failmacaw.tumblr.com/
Original post: http://failmacaw.tumblr.com/post/68936265178/the-nine-choirs-of-heaven-an-info-graphic-for-my

Okay, see how Gabriel is #8 out of a possible 9 in terms of angelic importance? And how Ivy is… hmm, where? NUMBER ONE. So why on earth is she relegated to doing all these maternal tasks when she could be out there kicking some serious arse?

Bethany gets freaked out by an angel statue briefly. No, sadly it’s not a Weeping Angel.

(Gif warning.)

So yes, Ivy and Gabriel hear Bethany outside and come to investigate. Bethany suddenly feels really guilty and comes indoors.

“Have a good night?” He [Gabriel] asked with a smile.

I tried to return the smile but found that the muscles in my face were frozen. I felt as though the weight of what I had done was pressing down on me, like a wave crashing over me, forcing my head underwater so I couldn’t breathe.

Okay, you gave away your identity and if Xavier blabs, it could potentially compromise the mission. But all you did was cuddle him! Apparently that’s worthy of being stoned to death…?

I didn’t regret revealing the truth to Xavier, but I hated subterfuge, especially where my family was concerned. I was terrified of how my siblings would react when they found out what I’d done. Could I somehow make them understand why I’d done it? But most of all I was afraid the powers in the Kingdom would end our mission or demand my immediate withdrawal.

It’d probably be the latter option, Bethany. Since the mission failing is mostly driven by you refusing to simply avoid Xavier, even when he gave you the option to break up with him. I really hate having to blame Bethany for this, but seriously, she COULD SO EASILY HAVE STOPPED THIS FROM HAPPENING.

Gabriel suspects nothing, so Bethany is allowed to go up to bed with Phantom. His kindness makes her cry, even.

I swore I could feel my lies slithering inside me like snakes, wrapping themselves around me and constricting. I felt they were squeezing the air from my lungs, tightening around my heart. Aside from the raking guilt that was coursing like a poison through my body, there was also a terrible fear. When I woke up, would I still be on Earth? I didn’t know. I wanted to pray but I couldn’t. I was too ashamed to speak to Our Father after the sins I’d committed. I’d only held on to my secret for a few hours and already I was undone.

What sin? No, seriously, what sin?

Oh, wait. I know what’s going on.

Mingled with my guilt and shame was a new latent anger at the thought that my fate wasn’t mine to determine. Xavier had put that idea into my head. My relationship with him would be decided for me, and the worst part of it was that I didn’t know when it would happen.

My time on Earth came with an unknown expiration date. What if I didn’t even get to say goodbye to him? I kicked off my bedclothes, even though my skin felt as cold as ice.

She’s willing to sacrifice!

Oh, so it looks like we do get an ear worm in this chapter after all.

I was beginning to think I couldn’t envisage an existence without Xavier. I didn’t want to.

Oh god, YA insta-love. Why are you so unsubtle and awful?

Vengeance is mine;

MINE, MINE, MINE! TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE!

I will repay, saith the Lord. At one point I woke to see a hooded figure that I imagined had come to seek retribution, but it turned out to be my coat hanging from a stand next to my door.

Oh, please let it be The Rake or Slenderman. Somebody to take away and/or replace our TSTL heroine. PLEASE!

By the time morning came I was an emotional ruin.

Why? It’s not like your actions have directly killed someone. I love the disparity between Bethany’s emotions. Cuddling Xavier = OH MY GOD I AM SO GUILTY WHAT WAS I THINKING I’M GOING TO BE PUNISHED TERRIBLY!! Getting married to Xavier in the third book, even though Heavenly doctrine forbids it and Father Mell is indirectly killed for marrying them = I’M GOING TO BE A LITTLE MADAM ABOUT IT BECAUSE THIS IS SO UNFAIR TO ME IN PARTICULAR!

I now even looked the part of an angel that had fallen from grace.

Oh, shut up.

Bethany finds Gabriel and Ivy standing very solemnly in the doorway in the morning, and she knows she’s not going to be forgiven so easily.

Despite the common portrayal of angels as endlessly loving and compassionate, I knew there was another side to them, one that could be harsh and unforgiving. The forgiveness was reserved for humans. They were always let off the hook. We had a tendency to regard them as infants, to conclude that the “poor things” didn’t know any better. But for me, the expectations were higher. I wasn’t a human, I was one of them, and there was no excuse.

Goddamn are you annoying, Bethany. Seriously, stop with the whole “wahh poor little me everyone else is being so mean to me” excuse. It’s perhaps the most immature mindset anybody could have, and when people read this book, it’s difficult to empathise with you because nobody in their right mind behaves this way past the age of two.

“Please, say something,” I begged. “What’s going to happen now? We’ll be recalled to the Kingdom, won’t we? I’ll never see him again.”

I love how like, not seeing Xavier again is Bethany’s primary concern. Not the punishment that’s probably going to be doled out by the Heavenly authorities, or how God’s never going to trust them with an earthly mission again so they can fulfil the angelic imperative to spread goodwill to the world. No, I WON’T GET TO SEE XAVIER AGAIN SO I’M GOING TO THROW A TEARFUL HISSY FIT!

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” He asked. “Do you realise the danger you have put us all in?” His anger was mounting, the signs were evident. Outside, a fierce wind began to blow, rattling the windowpanes, and a glass on the counter shattered into tiny fragments. Ivy put her hands on Gabriel’s shoulders. Her touch recalled him, and he let her guide him to the table where he sat with his back to me. His shoulders heaved as he tried to bring his rage under control. Where was his endless patience now?

That endless patience doesn’t apply to you, Bethany, because you’re not a human. Like you said earlier.

“Don’t say it.” Ivy turned to me, a warning look on her face. “Don’t say you love him.”

“Do you want me to lie to you?” I asked. “I’ve tried not to feel like this, I really have, but he’s not like other humans. He’s different… he understands.”

Yeah, for about a millisecond you considered the possibility of life without Xavier. He even gave you the option to separate on amicable terms. And yet because you’re so in wuv and can’t imagine a world without him… ugh, god. It’s your own fault, and if you perhaps had a lick of sense you would have moved on rather than consider continuing with the relationship!

Okay, here’s where the angel/Twilight angle doesn’t work. Bella fell in love with a monster. She thought Edward was fascinating, but he was still a vampire. Meanwhile, these are angels sent on an important divine mission, and while Bethany could be doing that, she instead just disregards it completely to drool after Xavier. Perhaps if a handful of angels lived on Earth anyway, and occasionally used their powers to help out in sordid situations around the world, that could work. Not SUPER IMPORTANT MISSION TO EXTERMINATE DARK FORCES THAT HAVE KILLED A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THIS ONE PARTICULAR TOWN.

“Understands?” Gabriel’s voice was tremulous, so different from his usual calm. I’d always thought nothing could ruffle his composure. “Only a handful of mortals throughout history have ever come close to understanding the divine. Are you suggesting that your school friend is one of them?”

Gabe, there’s a high five coming your way right now.

“What can I do?” I said softly, tears spilling out and pouring down my face. “I’m in love with him.”

“That may be, but your love is futile,” Gabriel said unsympathetically. “It is your duty to show understanding and compassion to all of humankind and your exclusive attachment to this boy is wrong. You are from different worlds. It cannot be. Now you have endangered your own life and his.”

EXACTLY! I mean, even the most immature teenager in the world would think that Gabriel is taking sense and that Bethany’s done nothing but jeopardise their mission!

So yeah, as it turns out, this could potentially endanger Xavier’s life too. I thought the angelic authorities would simply wipe his memory, but that’s not the case.

“I have to know what’s going to happen!” I cried. “Will they call us back to the Kingdom? Please, I have a right to know.” I hated to be seen like this, so desperate, so completely lacking in control, but I knew that if I wanted to keep my entire world from falling apart, I would have to keep Xavier.

WHY!? FUCKING WHY!? HE’S JUST A STUPID LITTLE RICH WHITE BOY WITH A SLIGHTLY AMIABLE PERSONALITY. THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF OTHER GUYS LIKE HIM. YOU ARE AN ANGEL WITH DIVINE KNOWLEDGE AND A SPIRITUAL UNDERSTANDING GREATER THAN THAT OF HUMANS. AND YOU’RE IDOLISING A USELESS WANNABE ABERCROMBIE & FITCH MODEL!!!

Grahhhh!

Sorry for the rant, it was a long time coming.

“It seems to me that you have forfeited any rights you had. There is only one thing now that can be done,” said Gabriel.

“What?” I asked, trying to keep the hysteria out of my voice.

“I need to speak with the Covenant.”

Alright, so Gabriel’s going to meet up with Sebastian Stan, Steven Strait, et al., to discuss Bethany. Since, you know, there’s such thing in Christian mythology as the Ark of the Covenant, but nothing about the Covenant of Archangels. Also, Gabe, rather than speak with your archangel buddies, why not appeal Bethany’s stay on Earth so she gets sent back to Heaven and can no longer be the irritating third wheel and continually wreck your mission?

They were the strongest and most powerful of our kind — together, they could bring the world to its knees.

Oh, right, Bethany’s love is so strong it heralds calling all the angels who could bring the apocalypse together. But yeah, they’re not the most powerful tier of angels. Ivy is a Seraph. You know, the number 1 highest rank of angel? FREAKING USE HER! Rather than just hand out flyers to encourage people to buy fair trade products or knitting baby booties, use her Seraphic powers once in a while! It’s NOT THAT HARD. Ivy could have been great, but oh no, the archangel who’s at least seven ranks below her gets to call the shots because he’s a male and wimmenz should bow to male authority hyeh hyeh hyuck.

Was this book written by a sheltered sixteen year old girl, or an MRA?

“What’ll happen then?”

“They will give their verdict and we will obey.”

…Oh god my brain is leaking out of my ears again.

We didn’t know where Gabriel had gone, but Ivy said it was most likely somewhere desolate and empty where he could communicate with the archangels without human interference. It was a bit like using wireless Internet — you had to find the best place to connect and the fewer humans around the better the connection.

Uh, no, the fewer humans using the network, the better your connection will be. That’s like me saying if I set up a wireless router in the middle of a field with nobody around for miles, I would somehow have Internet speeds on a par with South Korea.

Now we get all the angel names and what they do! Not being a scholar of angelic lore or belonging to any Christian tradition that taught me about them, my knowledge will be limited, but still.

Michael was the leader of the arc. He was a Prince of Light, angel of virtue, honesty and salvation. Unlike the others, Michael was the only one who served duties as Angel of Death.

Raphael was known as the Medicine of God because he was a healer and it was his duty to oversee the physical well-being of his charges on Earth. He was talked of as the warmest of the archangels.

Uriel was called the Fire of the Lord as he was the Angel of Punishment and was one of those called upon to devastate Sodom and Gomorrah.

Raguel’s purpose was to watch over the others in the arc and ensure they behaved in compliance with the code set by the Lord.

Angel of the sun, Zerachiel, kept constant watch over Heaven and Earth.

Ramiel’s role was to oversee divine visions given to the chosen ones on Earth. It was also his duty to lead souls into judgement when their time came.

And of course there was Gabriel. He was known as the Hero of God, chief warrior of the Kingdom. But unlike the others, who were distant and removed, I looked upon Gabriel as my brother, protector and friend.

Well, I suppose all of the above is factually correct. But it would be far more interesting, in my reckoning, to bring down all these archangels at once rather than restrict them to cameos in the second and third books. (Michael shows up in Hades, and Raphael is actually one of the saving graces of the shit-fest that is Heaven.)

“We were given clear instructions not to allow ourselves to be exposed. Nobody expected that rule to be violated, and so the consequences were never discussed.”

That’s stupid! Surely something would have happened! Preparing for every eventuality is plain old common sense that every business or organisation follows! I mean, you put these angels on Earth and give them the slight hindrance that their wings are still a tiny bit visible, any wounds they get heal up instantly, they don’t leave footprints and they have an aura that glows brightly and thus hinders the amount of time they can be out per day since they have to avoid dark areas or shade. SOMEBODY IS GOING TO NOTICE THAT. Angels in actual lore have no trouble taking on a human form that is indistinguishable from any other human being, so why do Adornetto angels have to have glowing auras and wings that only highlight how not-human they actually are?

Surely it’d be better if Xavier was simply spiritually-aware and sensed that there was something different about Bethany. Not “oh we have some obvious markers that we’re not human hehe but most people don’t notice because… *hand-wave*.”

Ivy and Bethany talk about how difficult this is for them, and it turns out that Bethany seems to be a weird kind of angel who prefers Earth to Heaven. Hey, you know what happens to those angels in actual Christian mythology? One way ticket down to the Pit.

“Do you think Gabriel will ever forgive me?”

“Our brother inhabits a different plane of existence,” Ivy explained. “He is less used to mistakes. He feels that your errors become his. He will see this as his failure, not yours. Can you understand that?”

It’s so important that we think of what a pain in the backside we wimmenz are to a male! Ivy, you guys, is a much more powerful angel than Gabriel, and yet she’s thinking about how a pithy archangel (in comparison to her being a Seraph) understands this matter.

Bethany then worries about the chance of her not being accepted back into Heaven.

Our Creator, gracious and loving as he was, didn’t respond well to defiance. There was a chance I could be excommunicated. I refused to let myself picture what Hell might be like. I had heard stories and that was enough. Legend said sinners were hung from their eyelids, burned, tortured, torn to pieces, and stitched up again. They said the place reeked of seared flesh and singed hair and the rivers ran blood. Of course I didn’t believe any of it, but the thought still gave me shivers.

Right… you don’t believe in Hell or bother to acquaint yourself with what you’re really dealing with. I’m sorry, but the Heavenly authorities in this book are awful at their jobs. You’d think: “How to think like a demon so you can hunt them down and send them back where they belong” would be part of the training but no. It’s just hand-waved away.

Plus, Hell in the Adornetto-verse… it’s laughable. It’s supposed to be rows upon rows of seedy motels and nightclubs where people listen to LMFAO and take drugs and dress provocatively. Bethany gets put up in a “luxury” hotel for Hell’s standards in Hades, for goodness’ sake. Perhaps it’s hell to a Puritan, but it’s hardly lakes of fire and brimstone and ongoing torture.

Gabriel finally comes back into the room with his decision.

“The Covenant regrets recommending Bethany for this mission,” Gabriel said, his sharp eyes focused on me. “More was expected from an angel of her standing.

But you know what? Bethany’s not going to face any repercussions whatsoever! Nope, ‘a higher power’ overruled the Covenant’s decision at the last moment. The Church siblings are staying in Venus Cove, and Bethany can see Xavier all she likes as long as he keeps their secret. Bull shit. BULLL SHIT. >:(

“Please don’t be angry with me, Gabriel. Actually you have every right to be angry, but at least understand that I didn’t do it intentionally.”

I’m sorry, but when you ran out to date Xavier at the cinema/promenade that one time, you intended to go out there. When he tried to break up with you, you intended to keep the relationship alive. You intended to show him your true form! I really hate laying blame on a girl like Bethany with a gross domineering boy like Xavier, but you can’t read this book and say that she didn’t have ample opportunity to just shrug off Xavier and focus on the Heavenly mission.

“I have no interest in hearing what you have to say, Bethany. You have your boyfriend, now be satisfied.”

YES GABRIEL YES. FAVOURITE CHARACTER CROWN GOES TO YOU. Bethany is a horrid, selfish little madam and I’m just as angry as you are at this miscarriage of justice that should have had Bethany dragged kicking and screaming back from whence she came.

“Go and help Ivy,” he said more agreeably, an idea taking root in his head. “There will be four of us at dinner tonight.”

Three guesses at who’s coming over for dinner. And the first two don’t count.

Yeah, it’s Xavier.

Ugh.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 14

Defying Gravity

Here’s your earworm for this chapter, as is growing to be customary with these posts. I don’t know why, Adornetto just seems to keep picking up on song lyrics that burrow into your brain for her chapter titles. Well, I suppose only every once in a while. There’s not many songs I recall that are titled ‘French Class.’

Presumably, Bethany defies gravity in this chapter by flying… with those ridiculous wings you see on the right, which would not get her off the ground even if she had the world’s lightest skeleton and had her body specially streamlined for flight.

Okay, I know that if real wing mechanics worked, Bethany’s wings would take up an absolutely huge portion of the cover, rather than looking like a pair you would slip on over your back for a fancy dress costume.

Xavier was now behaving as though we were a couple, which I loved. It put us in our own exclusive world that no one else had access to. It meant that we took our relationship seriously and believed it had a future. It wasn’t some infatuation we were likely to outgrow. We were making a commitment to each other. Every time I thought about this, I couldn’t keep my face from cracking into a broad smile. Of course I remembered Ivy and Gabriel’s warning and their belief that there was no chance of a future for us, but somehow that didn’t matter anymore. I felt like the skies could open and rain fire and brimstone, but nothing could wipe the smile from my face.

Alright, that’s a nice way to describe love, I guess. And it’s infinitely lucky that some people find their soulmate at such a young age when others never find their ‘other half’ at all. But sweetie, you’re still seventeen years old. Pipe down and stop thinking you’re going to get married tomorrow morning. You’re stuck in a fluffy YA novel, not a Disney princess movie.

Over dinner, Gabriel reveals that one of his students asked about the existence of Limbo. I’d have replied: “Well, the Trinidadian dance tradition of Limbo certainly exists.” According to what I’ve been bothered to Google, though, Limbo is where you go if you die with Original Sin, according to Catholic teachings. (Though it’s awfully morbid to damn a baby to that if it dies suddenly before it was Christened, in my reckoning…?) Limbo is described as being the very edge of Hell, and Purgatory is actually another place entirely. Purgatory is where souls that are judged as good enough for Heaven but not quite go to be purified before they can enter the pearly gates.

I found it ironic that the conversation had turned to punishment for sins.

Punishment? Babies who don’t make it to their Christening deserve to be punished for their sins? Or people who aren’t quite damnable enough to go to Hell and are being purified? I don’t know about you, but Purgatory wasn’t part of my Anglican education. Even when I did learn about it though, my Religious Education teacher said it was just like a waiting room where you were judged.

Gabriel says that he gave his student a non-committal answer, because:

“[...] Good deeds have to be voluntary,” my brother explained. “If a person knows for sure they’ll be judged, then they’ll act accordingly.”

This makes no sense.

“What’s Limbo like anyway?” I knew enough about Heaven and Hell, but no one had ever told me about the eternal midpoint.

But… in one of the earlier chapters, you said you didn’t know too much about Hell, or its inhabitants.

Anyway, yes, Limbo is terrible. Being stuck in a celestial waiting room for years, decades, centuries and ends can wind up with souls actually trying to throw themselves into Hell to escape it. That’s fine, and that’s actually an interesting take on the idea of Limbo. Not that the church I used to belong to believed in it.

Ivy gives a detailed description of Limbo, and all that Bethany can say is:

“Sounds like crap.”

Indeed.

I wondered if an angel could be exiled to Limbo.

Hmm. Well, wouldn’t that happen if you fell? Maybe not hard enough to go into Hell, but it’s a possibility that you could land in Limbo. It reminds me of The Vintner’s Luck (which, by the way, is a much better book than this), when Xas the angel falls in love with a human and the Archangel Michael ambushes and attacks him to remind him of the sin he is committing. Why isn’t something like that happening to Bethany? Seriously, Michael. I know you show up in the second book in this series. Just threaten Bethany with your sword and she’ll forget about Xavier and get back to focusing on the mission at hand. Hopefully.

Jump cut to Bethany sitting on the lawn of Bryce Hamilton with Molly and her posse.

I was feeling bold and ventured to tug my skirt up above my knees.

So… In your eyes, being a ‘slut’ is this instantaneous transformation that takes place when you’re in a relationship? Like, oh my god boys don’t look at my poor virtue I must wear a skirt down to my toes but now I’m with somebody, hell yeah I’m going to be immodest! I’m going to bring my skirt a millimetre above the school uniform dress code.

“Way to go, babe!” The girls applauded my progress, commenting that I was becoming ‘one of them’ before falling into their usual routine of gossiping about teachers and absent friends.

Right.

“Miss Lucas is such a cow,” Megan complained. “She’s making me redo my Russian Revolution assignment because it was too ‘sloppy’. What’s that supposed to mean?”

That you wrote it in an unacademic register, didn’t give any clear points or muddied the argument before trying to conclude it in a slapdash way.

Oh, sorry.

Anyway, Americans — please tell me, because I’m quite sure of myself when I say this: NOBODY IN AMERICA USES THE WORD ‘COW’ TO NEGATIVELY DESCRIBE A FEMALE THE WAY WE DO IN ENGLAND OR THE COMMONWEALTH. If you’re not familiar with that usage of the word, basically, ‘cow’ is usually a gendered slur against women who are viewed as mean or generally unpleasant and nasty. It can also be used with numerous adjectives, or in a jokey way. But yeah, absolutely nobody in the US (from my experience) would say that.

“I think it means you did it in the half hour before it was due,” Hayley said. “What did you expect — an A plus?”

Megan shrugged. “I reckon she’s just jealous because she’s hairy as a yeti.”

“You should write a letter of complaint,” a girl named Tara said with a serious expression.

“She’s totally discriminating against you.”

Oh Adornetto, your teenage girls are so realistically portrayed! Did you have a marathon of Clueless, Teen Witch and 10 Things I Hate About You on repeat when you were writing this, or something?

Gabriel comes across the field to do nothing except provide the girls a new subject to gossip about, and apparently he doesn’t dress like a teacher really should.

He had abandoned school protocol regarding dress sense some time ago, and today he was wearing his torn jeans with a white T-shirt under a pin-striped vest. No one had dared to query it.

Do you mean a T-shirt with a waistcoat, or a T-shirt with a sweater vest, or a T-shirt worn underneath a wife-beater? The latter two options sound ridiculous, so let’s go for the waistcoat option. Either way, the headmaster should be handing Gabriel his notice soon enough. It’s a private school with a uniform, and they let one of their most prestigious teachers walk around like an Abercrombie & Fitch model? I went to state school, and our teachers were only ever allowed to wear business or business casual clothing.

“What can we say about Mr. Church?” Taylah speculated when she spotted him, eager to resume their usual sport. I had been quiet for so long, absorbed in my fantasy of being stranded on a secluded island somewhere in the Caribbean or held captive on a pirate ship, waiting for Xavier to come and rescue me, that it seemed they had temporarily forgotten I was there.

RESCUE YOUR OWN DAMN SELF. Also, seriously, these are popular girls. They’re likely to be mean. They’re not going to accept somebody as weird as Bethany’s acting, pulling her skirt down like a Puritan housewife, dashing out of lessons and spacing out for no real reason. You can’t just tag along as an observer in those kinds of crowds.

So yeah, Molly has a crush on Gabriel out of nowhere and gushes about it for a little while. Then Bethany arrives home (although it doesn’t transition well at all), and Ivy is making cupcakes. Picture that. A Seraph, the most powerful angelic rank, a seat in God’s choir… And she’s reduced to making cupcakes for the church coffee morning.

I think that Adornetto knows that there’s different theological stations for angels, but not just how immensely powerful they are in comparison to one another and how they definitely would not be rotating around as siblings. Also, time probably doesn’t pass the same way in Heaven, so Bethany definitely wouldn’t be a naïve little seventeen year old. She could still be naïve, but perhaps a century or two old. I mean, seraphim are so hugely powerful that God keeps them around in his choir and they sing His praises almost constantly. Archangels tend to be messengers or they’re here to declare that the world is doomed. Gabriel is supposed to blast a horn or a trumpet at the Apocalypse, for goodness’ sake, not sit around middle class America making burritos!

We spotted our brother seated on a prominent rock, looking out to sea. With the sun reflecting off his white T-shirt, he seemed to be surrounded by an aura of light. He was too far away for me to see his face, but I imagined his expression as one of deep longing. Sometimes there was an inexpressible sadness about Gabriel that he struggled to conceal. I thought it must be due to the burden of knowledge that couldn’t be shared. He was more attuned to human suffering than Ivy and I, and this couldn’t have been easy for him to bear alone. He knew all the horrors of the past, and I imagined he could see tragedies that were yet to occur. No wonder he was somber. But there wasn’t anyone he could confide in. His service to the Creator of the universe resulted in his own isolation. This gave him an austerity of manner that made those who didn’t know him uncomfortable. The young adored him, but adults invariably felt as if they were being judged.

It’s so weird that Bethany almost keeps drooling after her brother. Also, um, what about Ivy? Wouldn’t it be the same case with her, considering she’s on a more powerful level with God than even Gabriel?

Bethany asks Gabriel if she can go to the school prom, and Ivy chimes in that it would be useful for research.

No, I’m sorry. Attending prom is not research. Going to the library and looking up old newspapers is research. Going through official records and books about the history of the town is research. Prom is neither of those things.

“Exactly,” I said. “We’ll be in the thick of things. If we wanted to watch from the outskirts, we might as well have stayed in the Kingdom.”

But… you currently ARE watching things from the outskirts and avoiding human contact! No, seriously, why did you not take a day or two off to acclimatise to life on Earth, and then throw yourself into researching, volunteering, and doing everything within your power to do your mission? And DON’T give me that rubbish “oh, we have to wait for the Heavenly authorities to tell us what to do next”. In that case, the Heavenly authorities aren’t doing their jobs properly. Surely it’ll be a credit to your cause if you do go against their orders and uncover precisely what is unearthing all this demonic activity. *sigh*

Apparently, even angels want their alone time every once in a while. Ivy actually goes down into the guesthouse with her sketchbook when she feels the weight of the mission is too heavy on her shoulders.

  • They live in a mansion.
  • With marbled floors and bathrooms.
  • With cashmere rugs and enough space for a grand piano in the music room.
  • And a guest house. As in, an entire house that a guest could live in. Not a little bedroom, a separate house.

Remind me again why they’re here when there’s much worse things going on elsewhere in the world??

Skipping past the needless, fluffy scene where it turns out that Bethany’s dog doesn’t bow to female authority, (… *facepalm*) Bethany walks down towards the beach to find Xavier and his friends. Then they walk off into the distance together, and now Bethany can tell him her biggest secret.

The warm pressure of Xavier’s arm made me feel safe and protected from everything. I knew as soon as I left him that cold uncertainty would return.

When I cut my foot on the sharp edge of a shell, Xavier insisted on carrying me.

I don’t know about you, but uh, that’s pretty controlling and overly protective. It’s a cut on her foot, for goodness’ sake, not a broken shinbone.

Anyway, yeah, just like Twilight, supernatural partner A has to admit to human partner B that they’re not human zomg.

Bethany demonstrates this by walking in the sand and leaving no footprints. Also, the cut on her foot has healed. She also has no belly button.

Oh god. She’s one of the leftover clones from S Club: Seeing Double!

(By the way, if you don’t get that reference, it’s a weird movie starring a famous British pop group from the early 2000s who discover they’ve been cloned by way of their clones having no belly buttons. It had a theatrical release and everything.)

There’s no mention of Bethany’s glowing aura that only shows up in darkness. But anyway, she throws herself off a cliff, only to ‘transform’ into her angel self. Incandescent aura, wings, halo, all that. Wings that are apparently big enough for her body to sustain flight, too. It’d be funny if Bethany transformed and, like a lot of angels described in lore, was just a fiery morass of eyeballs and other terrifying things that couldn’t be comprehended by the human mind. Like the angels in Night Vale (which we do not speak of because they definitely do not exist).

Bethany’s transformation actually reminds me a wee bit of the transformation sequence in Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne. And yes, that is a much better story than this and I wish my hard drive with all the episodes on it hadn’t crashed.

“Holy crap!” Xavier blurted.

“Would you mind not blaspheming?” I asked politely.

Wait… Bethany said “crap” earlier. I have no idea if she meant that you shouldn’t put “holy” in front of it, but come on.

Also, this scene really does not work. I hate to use Twilight as an example, but… okay, let’s go. When Bella discovers that Edward is a vampire and Jacob is a werewolf, that’s fine. They’re two different supernatural monsters. Here… well, with angels, there’s serious religious implications there. Xavier’s mind should be blown a lot more than “whoa my girlfriend is an angel.” It should be more along the lines of:”Whoa my girlfriend is an angel and angels exist. So that means the Abrahamic religions are the only true religions. The concept of Heaven and Hell is actually real, and it’s no longer an uncertainty in my life.” It would be much more interesting to have Xavier reject Bethany and need some time to consider his spirituality. Right now, he’s treating it as “Wow, this is so… neat!”

“Okay, so angels exist,” he conceded eventually, speaking slowly as though trying to explain things to himself. “But what are you doing here on earth?”

“Right now there are thousands of us in human guise spread right across the globe,” I answered. “We’re part of a mission.”

“A mission to achieve what?”

“It’s hard to explain. We’re here to help people reconnect with one another, to love one another.” Xavier looked confused so I tried to elaborate. “There’s too much anger in the world, too much hatred. It’s stirring the dark forces and raising them up. Once they’re unleashed, it’s near impossible to tame them. It’s our job to try and counteract that negativity, to prevent any more disaster from happening. This place has been pretty badly affected.”

“So you’re saying the bad things that have happened here are because of dark forces?”

“Pretty much.”

“And by dark forces I take it you mean the devil?”

“Well, his representatives at least.”

Xavier looked like he was about to laugh, but then stopped himself.

“This is crazy. Who’s supposed to have sent you on this mission?”

“I thought that part might be obvious.”

Xavier gazed at me in disbelief.

“You don’t mean…”

“Yes.”

Xavier looked shaken, like he’d been tossed around by a hurricane and thrown back down to earth. His fingers scraped the hair back from his forehead.

“Are you telling me that God really exists?”

Bit slow on the uptake there, aren’t we, Xavier? Also, counteracting negativity by spreading goodwill and joy around the community? Please, that’s like me going down into the garden and trying to stop the weeds from growing by themselves rather than applying a treatment that kills them at the root. Either the demons are actually in hiding within the town, or they’re silently influencing accidents to happen. If that’s the case, go after them! I know that getting people to become spiritual again is like preventative treatment so this doesn’t happen again, but I really don’t like that idea. The world’s becoming more secular and scientific, therefore religion is threatened, and by extension, the entire world! So anybody who doesn’t believe in religion or anybody who follows a different, non-Abrahamic path is doomed. Thus asserting the superiority of Christianity in particular.

So yes, Xavier, your girlfriend is an angel.

“Surely I’ve got to be the luckiest guy in the world.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I’ve got my own little piece of Heaven right here.” He wrapped his arms around me, pulling me closer to him. I nuzzled against his chest, breathing in his scent.

That felt just like Adornetto pinned me down and put an entire can of Cheez-Whiz down my throat, along with a tin of corn. That made me literally go “DOHHH, NOOOO.” That was awful!

Xavier insists that Bethany is staying with him, even when God fixes the tractor beam and brings Bethany back up into Heaven for disobeying and making two of His most powerful angels serve such a useless mission.

Joy to the world, glory, glory, gloria. Xavier has just discovered that his girlfriend is in fact an angel. Even though there wasn’t much of a reason for Bethany to tell Xavier what she really was. Just her own internal guilt at keeping a secret from him. She’s definitely going to get into trouble for this, but she doesn’t care because she wuvs him sooo much! Getting into trouble, by the way, merely means she’s going to be told off. Not brought back to Heaven, or forced to take the fall, like you’d expect.

*sigh*

“Can you promise not to ask too many questions?”

“If you answer just one,” Xavier replied. “I suppose this makes you and me a big no-no?” He clicked his tongue and wagged his finger to emphasise the point. I was happy to see that the shock had passed and that he was behaving a little more like his old self.

“Not just big,” I said. “The biggest.”

“Don’t worry, Beth; there’s nothing I love more than a challenge.”

You know, this is the kind of thing people in Biblical and in pre-Biblical folklore used to get smited on the spot for? It’d be funny if God actually took this pride from a mere mortal the same way Zeus would. Tactical lightning bolt.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 13

His Kiss

Shoop, shoop. Cheers for another earworm, chapter title.

The beginning of this chapter is all about how great it is to attend Sunday Mass.

Ivy and I were altar servers on Sunday, and Gabriel helped Father Mell in giving out Holy Communion.

I was actually looking at religious demographics in the US, and in Georgia in particular. Out of all 50 states, in terms of Catholic presence, Georgia comes in 38th place. Georgia has a much large Baptist community. And yes, I know that the Baptist church also does Holy Communion and probably has similar Sabbath church traditions. But the books just seem so oddly Catholic? Maybe it’s my reading of the other two books, but yeah. Even Kirkus Reviews notes that the book has ‘Catholic overtones.’  So I’ve been guessing all along that the author herself is Catholic. Seems like she’s familiar with the practices, at least.

Although… I thought Catholics kind of don’t like to anthropomorphise angels in this way? I mean, angels and saints are really sacred, and bringing them down to human level is a bit… eh. Then again, I wouldn’t know since I’m a dirty heathen. (Any practicing or lapsed Catholics in the audience? Feel free to comment!)

“The congregation is growing,” he [Father Mell] observed one day. “Every week, I see new faces.”

“Maybe people are starting to realize what’s important in life,” Ivy said.

I will admit that there are people to whom spirituality and religion are very important aspects in life. But it’s not THE most important, is it?

Although we’d never so much as hinted to Father Mell about where we came from, there was a tacit understanding between us. It was only natural, I thought. He was a priest — he spent all his time trying to connect with the forces above. “We can only hope that He will bless this town,” Gabriel added.

Father Mel’s blue eyes flickered over us all. “I believe He already has.”

Okay, so is the priest’s name Father Mel or Mell? How was this not picked up in editing? Also, big whoop, the church population continues to increase a little bit  every week. That’s really combatting the forces of darkness, guys.

Jump cut, and Bethany winds up being invited out shopping and to a beach bonfire by being so passive. Why’s she in such a miserable mood? All because Xavier isn’t around.

Some purple prose about how she constantly wants to be touching him later, Bethany admits to Xavier that she has a secret.

“I understand that for one reason or another you can’t or won’t talk about it,” Xavier said.

“But you don’t have to. I can respect your privacy.”

“That’s not fair to you,” I said, feeling more torn than ever. The idea of walking away from him left a physical pain in my chest, like my heart was slowly breaking in two.

Although there’s a line break for no real reason, Xavier was actually being pretty respectful there! Not trying to pry, just accepting that Bethany has a secret. But oh no, Bethany insists that she’s victimising him and being unfair. When, ALL SHE HAS TO DO IS WALK AWAY FROM THIS RELATIONSHIP. Twinge in your heart be damned! I just don’t see why Bethany doesn’t, I don’t know, get back to working on the mission. Maybe when the Church siblings are beamed up to Heaven again, Bethany can become his guardian angel, loving him from afar. I mean, sorry girl, I don’t make the rules. Angels and humans cannot love each other, and no silly YA love story is going to change that.

Bethany insists that she’s ‘protecting’ Xavier from herself, and he scoffs.

“I’m just not what I seem.” I shrank away from him, as if trying to hide myself from the truth. My whole body felt weak and drained of energy. I sagged against a wall, unable to meet his gaze.

This kind of behaviour is… well, odd. Bethany’s just highlighting the fact that something is wrong, and thus, she’s going to get more questions out of Xavier.

“[...] Look, you think I haven’t figured out there’s something different about you?

All I have to do is look at you.”

What’s with the unnecessary line break there? Seriously, is this just a formatting error in my copy, or was this edited at all?

“What is it?” I asked curiously.

No need to add ‘curiously’ there, hon. The fact that Bethany is asking something emphasises the fact that she’s curious.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “But I know it’s what I like about you.”

And just like that, I have this song stuck in my head.

Bleh, this conversation is getting boring. Let’s fast forward through it.

 Xavier suggests they keep their distance for a while. Of course, Bethany freaks out over this.

“So that’s it then?” I choked out. “I won’t see you anymore?” Xavier looked confused. “Hang on–isn’t that what you want?”

“Is that all you’re going to say?” I demanded. “You’re not even going to try and change my mind?”

Another weird issue with the line break. This time, Xavier’s line of dialogue is tacked on to the end of Bethany’s for some reason. Which is… confusing, but hey.

You know, it’s a sign of something when the romantic squabbles in the Tiger’s Curse series are more riveting than this.

And it’s kissing-time!

A delicious heat started to spread through my body, and I strained towards him, reaching for his lips again. I returned his kiss with passionate urgency and clung to him.

A delicious heat?

“Well?” He asked, folding his arms across his chest.

Okay, what’s with the guarded body language, Xavier?

My mind was a blur.

“Well what?”

“Did that help you make up your mind?”

Great. So… Bethany having conflicted feelings towards you can be remedied immediately by a French kiss? Amazing just how well that works.

By way of an answer, I twisted my fingers into his soft nut-brown hair and pulled him toward me.

Again with the ‘nut’ brown. Like I said last time, unless Xavier dyes his hair every other page, why do we need it repeated that he’s got brown hair?

That day taught me that I wanted more than his company; I craved his touch. There wasn’t a doubt left in my mind. I could feel my face burning where he had touched me, and I wanted was for him to do it again. Just hours earlier I had truly believed there was no option but to cut myself off from him because I could see no way to make him understand who I really was. Now I saw that there was another way.

What other way? You fretted about having a secret you could never tell him, he said he’d keep his distance, you quibbled and nearly collapsed, and then he flirted and you guys French kissed. You’ve already been keeping your relationship a secret, so what else can you do? …Basically go back to having a relationship?

It would be seen as a serious transgression and punishable by who knew what [...]

Who knew what? Um, you’re an angel, right, with a link to God and the Heavenly authorities. Not ‘who knew what.’

[...] but it felt less frightening than parting from him. If it meant sparing us the pain of separation, I would face the consequences.

Oh yes, Bethany. Falling from Heaven and down into the pits of Hell where all the fallen angels wind up just because you didn’t just make the decision to get out of this relationship. I said earlier that it could be perfectly possible to complete the mission, go back to Heaven, and become Xavier’s guardian angel. It’s a nice enough compromise, and you still get to love him, albeit from afar, but without the wee problem of Heavenly retribution coming down on your head.

“I want us to be together,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more.” Xavier stroked my palm and entwined our fingers. His face was so close the tips of our noses were touching. He leaned in to whisper in my ear. “If you want me… you’ve got me.” I couldn’t stop myself from sighing aloud as he kissed a path from my ear down to my neck. The physical surroundings of the classroom melted like snow in the sun.

I haven’t mentioned this so far, but it’s amusing to me how much Bethany focuses so much on Xavier’s appearance, when Alexandra Adornetto decried all teenage boys (and insisted she was waiting for her own Edward Cullen) based on one bad experience she had with a boy with little personality but “an endearing upturned nose and a preppy schoolboy haircut.” Halo was released in August 2010, and the above article was written in July of that year. So… um, okay. Semi-autobiographical, perhaps? In an ironic way?

Bethany agrees to show Xavier her biggest secret at the beach bonfire the next weekend, and there ends the chapter. The next chapter is called Defying Gravity. I can only apologise profusely to Idina Menzel.