Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 32

Aftermath

This is the penultimate chapter, thank god. I’ve already read ahead and by gum, this is perhaps the LAZIEST final chapter (not counting the epilogue) that I have ever seen in any printed book. That’s mainly because of the pacing, though. I was talking it over with Goose, and this book is something like 20% beginning/build-up, then a very, very drawn out 75% of ‘middle’, and 5% ending.

In the weeks that followed, my brother and sister did their best to tidy up the confusion that Jake had left behind. They visited the families affected by the crimes he’d perpetrated and spent a lot of time trying to rebuild trust in Venus Cove.

Okay, I would have thought that a couple of weeks would be more than enough for an angel ‘with limitless energy’ to recover from a demon attack, but what do I know, eh?

My sister wiped the memory of Jake’s activities from their minds, careful not to touch any other unrelated recollections. [...] When she was done, they remembered the newcomer Jake Thorn, but no-one recalled having any association with him.

“Hey, you guys remember that one guy who attended our school for a few weeks? Who nobody associated with? Yeah, ’cause he was British. Kind of deserved what he got.”

We cut to Molly asking after Jake, and Bethany informs her that he has been sent back to boarding school in England. (Which is certainly worse than hell. Ask anybody who’s been to one.)

“Shame,” Molly commented. “I liked his tattoos. Do you think I should get one? I was thinking one that says ‘leirbag’.”

[...] 

“Gabriel doesn’t like tattoos,” I said. “He says the human body is not a billboard.”

Yeah, which is why Ivy has that golden snake tattoo on her arm and… seriously, can we stop this conservative attitude towards tattoos? Like, forever? I know these guys are angels and they’re kind of paraphrasing Leviticus 19:28, but come on. Not carving your flesh or making tattoo marks is basically decrying the heathens who would flagellate themselves in times of mourning, and tattoos back in Biblical times were seen as idolatry. Some translations refer to ‘tattoos’ as ‘branding’ or ‘printing’. Come on, though, that’s serious Old Testament stuff. Do you think that somebody who lived a really good, virtuous life and got themselves a few tattoos along the way is going to be kicked out of Heaven for that?

Bethany’s hardly left the house since the incident with Jake, due to the emotional trauma, as well as having badly burned wings. Bethany cries for Jake, but not due to what he did to her, but because she could have saved him, if only he had let her.

Xavier’s visit was the only part of the day I looked forward to. 

*sigh*

He threw himself back into the task of looking after me

Looking after you? Like you’re a hazard unto yourself normally and you need a man to keep you safe? PLEASE.

[...] and seemed to have accepted the supernatural world without question.

That’s rubbish. Sorry, but it is. This guy is from a devout Christian family. Knowing that his religion is actually true would blow his mind and perhaps instil a further curiosity in him. I know I’d be asking tonnes of questions about religion if I ever met an angel. (Though I already know one thing: “Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God’s true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out.” Thanks, Alan Rickman.)

But then again, Bethany praises Xavier for his black and white outlook on the world. So I guess this is just normal behaviour for him.

“When I’m not with you, I feel like I’m wearing a pair of glasses that turns the world grey.”

“And when you are with me?” I asked softly.

“Everything’s in technicolor.”

"0182148_corn-and-cheese-chowder "

I feel like this has just been thrown down my throat. And for those of you who don’t recognise what that it, it’s not a bread-bowl of vomit — it’s a cheese and corn chowder.

God, this is so cheesy it’s almost like it really was written in the 1950s.

Despite Xavier’s presence, however, Bethany still has nightmares of being taken back to Heaven and not being able to say goodbye to Xavier.

Without him, nothing in my world made sense.

Look, Adornetto. Please, please don’t confuse love with dependency like this. There’s no reason to make Bethany such a weak excuse for a female character just because you think a hawt rich white boy should totally take care of you and settle down beyond a white picket fence and have a family of six kids or whatever.

Bethany has so many opportunities to be better than this. Many. I don’t want to shame anybody for wanting to be a housewife. But Bethany here is an angel on a mission, and she’s crowing over Xavier and his beautiful nutmeg hair and turquoise eyes like he’s the be-all and end-all of her existence, and unable to handle any form of separation from him. That’s not love, that’s dependency.

When her wings recover, Bethany wakes up late one night and decides to go out flying. She also creeps into Xavier’s room and prays to God that he has a blissful life, because clearly Xavier is the prime-time candidate whom God should be focusing on. You know, an able-bodied, wealthy, conventionally attractive cisgender white guy in a quaint coastal town is somebody who really needs God’s favour, as opposed to people in really disadvantaged situations elsewhere. Fuck this book.

There in front of me was His greatest creation of all. Angels may have been created as watch guards, but I felt like I could sense in Xavier a great power — a power to change the world.

How is this not idolatry? How is this not something God should cast Bethany out of Heaven for? Read fucking Angel Sanctuary. Alexiel goes against God’s orders, and what’s her punishment? Being cast in ice and having her soul thrown to the Earth, to forever reincarnate in individuals who are going to live miserable, pain-filled lives. Alexiel and Bethany ought to swap places. Seriously.

Also, why are you just now figuring out that Xavier is super-speshul? How the hell will Xavier change the world? Is he secretly Utena Tenjou? There is actually a basis in this, though. In the third book of this miserable trilogy, Ivy reveals to Xavier that she once came across a married couple, who were having trouble having children. Ivy made their bodies ‘healthy’ (which makes an IVF baby like me an abomination, I guess) and perhaps a tiny bit of her angelic powers rubbed off on Xavier. It doesn’t quite read as foreshadowing, though. It’s too crap for that.

Before leaving, I took a final look around his room. I took in the ll.A. Lakers flag pinned to the wall, read the inscriptions on the trophies that lined the shelves.

ll.A. Lakers? That’s a formatting error, I guess, because how you you spell LA with two Ls? We aren’t in Wales here, people. (In which case you’d be pronouncing it as a kind of throaty hissing noise. The *hiss*-A Lakers.)

Also, Xavier keeps the feather he found in his car after his and Bethany’s first date in a little wooden box. Isn’t that technically like the creepy old practice of keeping a lock of your lover’s hair?

Oh, whatever. ON TO THE EPILOGUE!

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 31

Deliverance

WARNING: SUM OF DIS CHAPTA IS XTREMLY SCRAY. VIOWER EXCRETION ADVISD.

Thankfully, this chapter isn’t about that horrifying movie from 1972. Nah, it’s the old, Biblical definition of deliverance.

When Bethany wakes up, she’s pinned down in a ‘long car.’ Presumably you mean a limousine? Whatever. She tries to fight her way out, but Jake’s followers force a pill down her throat to sedate her. In other words, the journey was far too boring to write and an excuse was needed for Bethany to black out again.

She wakes up again to discover she’s tied up in the lounge of a large Victorian-style home. Bethany being Bethany, she takes the time to explicitly describe the smell of the room, the furniture, the carpet, the wallpaper, the portraits and the light fixtures, rather than focus on the fact that she has her arms bound behind her and a foul-smelling gag stuffed in her mouth. I mean, I’d be fine with this if Bethany was scoping out an exit or considering the different weapons she could use if Jake tries anything once she escapes or is let out of her bounds. But no, it’s more important that we learn this:

Portraits in heavy gilt frames hung above the marble mantlepiece, and their faces watched me archly as if they were in on a secret I had yet to discover. There was one of a Renaissance-looking gentleman in a ruffled collar, and another of a woman surrounded by five nymphlike daughters, all with Pre-Raphaelite hair and swirling dresses.

I guess this is supposed to be a dream, though, since ‘everything reeks of decay’. No, it’s just Bethany coming out of her foggy headache. Also, we’re told that this room is dark and dingy and most of the windows are boarded up, with ‘only a few bars of light [filtering] into the room’ — meaning that no way should Bethany have been able to see things in such detail. So all that you would have read about the setting of the room is rendered completely pointless.

Bethany discovers that her human body is causing her to feel hunger, thirst, and pain. Well then, what about angels having ‘limitless power reserves’? Does it really matter if you turn into your true form here, in private?

When I focused my eyes and sat up, I saw Jake Thorn seated at the head of the dining table.

But you just said we were in a Victorian parlour… Okay, let’s just make up that there’s a big door leading to the dining room or something.

He was wearing a smoking jacket of all things and had his arms crossed.

Is he auditioning for Rocky Horror? 

Anyway, he un-gags Bethany and tries to ply her towards his side again. Bethany refuses, and this happens:

I saw Jake’s face harden. His cat eyes, which were black again, seemed to glaze over.

Okay, I really want to know what the author means here. Cat eyes as in shape, or cat eyes as in having a vertical pupil? If it’s the latter, then Bethany wouldn’t be able to tell. Also, if he does have Supernatural-style black demon eyes, then how do they glaze over?

Jake suggests keeping Bethany captive and making it appear to all the world as if she has been killed. Then he’d carry out a plan to make Xavier commit suicide. Bethany cries that he’s only doing it because he’s hurt, and Jake refuses to listen to reason. So, he cuts her out of her bindings and tries to make her bow before him. Bethany refuses, and Jake tosses her across the room and makes her feel all the pain and suffering of Hell on earth.

I was an angel, and I was being filled with all the agony and darkness in the world. I knew it would kill me. 

But no fear, Gabriel is here! Yeah, Gabriel bursts through the wall in a blaze of glory. He has his flaming sword too. Huzzah! Jake’s going to be turned into a pillar of salt. (Confession — little Christian school-going me though ‘pillar of salt’ meant being turned into a salt shaker. Oops.)

Ivy comes along behind Gabriel, followed by Xavier. Um, isn’t Ivy supposed to be way above Gabriel in terms of angelic hierarchy? She’s a seraph, he’s an archangel. Why is he in the vanguard when Ivy could basically destroy Jake with a snap of her fingers? Instead she’s relegated to trying to heal Bethany.

Oh, also, the sheer power of an archangel’s sword has absolutely no effect on Jake Thorn. Which means Jake just activated his flame shield. I’m here all week, folks.

What if Gabriel failed to defeat Jake?

What would become of us then? I became aware of my fingers wrapped around Xavier’s — his hands were cooling my seared skin. As he held me, I noticed that if I squeezed Xavier’s hand a little tighter and drew him a little closer, the light seemed to respond and spread farther out around us like a protective shield. But what was it? What did it mean? Xavier hadn’t even noticed — he was too focused on trying to still my quivering body — but Ivy had. 

So yeah, Ivy tells Bethany that she has a very powerful gift and she should use it. An almost God-tier angel telling a little 9th tier angel that she’s powerful and can obliterate a demon who is currently at a standoff with an archangel a rank above her. While almost God-tier angel is sat back doing nothing.

I summoned the last shreds of energy left inside me; pushed aside the pain that threatened to drag me under and lifted my head toward Xavier. As our lips met, every negative thought was driven from my head until all I could see was him. Jake Thorn leapt back as the light exploded in dazzling beams, streaming from our entwined bodies and flooding the room.

[...]

“What is that?” Xavier cried as he shielded his eyes against the blinding blaze. Ivy and Gabriel who were standing calmly as the light washed over them, turned to him.

“You of all people should know,” said Ivy. “It’s love.”

Pictured: Bethany and Xavier.

Delivered with all the panache of an old My Little Pony TV movie.

So, an archangel and a seraph can’t do anything against this entity of pure evil, but a low-tier angel and her human boyfriend can? What the actual hell.

Look, I’ve seen this premise kind of done before… Anyone ever play Clock Tower 3? Our  heroine, Alyssa discovers she is descended from a long line of female warriors who can travel back in time and magically dispatch the evil ‘Entities’ that are haunting the ghosts of people who died in tragic and brutal ways. (Via some really freaky survival horror segments no I don’t still have nightmares about that time Corroder snuck up on me really fast.) It’s revealed a little later in the game that the power of love is super important in defeating the Entities. That actually works, perhaps because even though Clock Tower 3 is a fairly crap game (that killed Kinji Fukasaku), it’s ten times better written than this.

Xavier and I held each other tightly as the room shook, and the light burned a gaping hole into the floor.

It was into this abyss that Jake Thorn disappeared. He met my gaze as he fell. He was tortured but still smiling.

Bye bye Jake!

Onward ho to what I hope is the final chapter.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 30

Raising Hell

As opposed to Raising Hope, I guess.

Hard as I tried, I couldn’t accept Gabriel’s proposal of waiting for divine guidance. It seemed very unlike him to respond in such a way, uncharacteristically cautious [...]

Yes! So, you’re going to find Jake on his own, kick his ass and rescue Molly?

What’s that? You’re going to the cemetery but you’ll be clinging to Xavier instead of showing yourself to be independent?

*sigh*

I seem to be doing a lot of that lately.

We saw a lone mourner, an elderly woman in black, tending one of the newer graves.

During afternoon tea, there’s a shift in the air. A bone trembling chill that tells you she’s there. There are those who believe the whole town is cursed. But the house in the marsh is by far the worst. What she wants is unknown, but she always comes back. The spectre of darkness… The woman in black.

Yeah, I’m just going to watch a few cute kitten videos to get rid of the memories of me watching The Woman in Black. (God that film was creepy.)

Anyway, me making random references aside, this is a spooooky cemetery. There are ravens all around the place and… bumblebees in the lilac bushes. Terrifying.

The graves were old and abandoned, their cast-iron railings rusted. Over time, a tangle of ivy had smothered all other vegetation and now ruled unchallenged, threading its tenacious tendrils through the iron railings like rope.

Oof, that’s so purple it hurts. “Threading its tenacious tendrils?” The alliteration is an okay idea, but… oh man.

Bethany and Xavier dither through the graveyard and finally find Jake and his minions.

Jake stood on a mossy grave facing them, his legs apart and his back arrow straight. He wore a black leather jacket and the inverted pentagram hung from a cord around his neck.

As Kira pointed out in her review, well… having a pentagram being inverted makes no sense. It becomes a pentacle. The universal symbol of white magic and healing. A demon — an entity typically associated with evil — would be wearing a symbol of pure white (as in good) magic. Makes sense to absolutely nobody but the most ardent of Bible bashers, I guess.

On his head was a grey fedora.

I am rolling. Oh dear, yes, MRAs! You are in fact the devil! But it reminds Bethany of something… *gasp* Could it be the weirdo stood beside the rugby pitch a few weeks ago? Speaking of that, Xavier seems to have recovered awfully well. I thought it was a nasty fracture, but nope! Here he is, ambling through the graveyard with Bethany and not feeling any discomfort whatsoever. If he broke his ankle only a couple of weeks ago, wouldn’t it still be hurting, and wouldn’t he still be in plaster or in a plastic boot?

The thought that he’d tried to injure Xavier sent a burning anger pulsing through me, but I tried to stifle it. I needed to keep my wits about me now more than ever.

Whereas when Jake’s killed a whole bunch of other people who you didn’t personally know, you barely reacted.

Rearing up behind Jake was a ten-foot angel made of stone. It had to be one of the most chilling earthly things I’d ever seen. Despite looking like an angel, there was something sinister about it. It had narrow eyes, huge black wings that reared majestically behind it, and a powerful body that looked as though it could crush anyone and anything. A long stone sword was melded to its muscular waist. Jake stood under its shadow as though it was protecting him.

Okay, so Jake’s about to be eaten by a Weeping Angel, or…?

The statue is supposedly ten feet tall. Unless Jake is much, much taller than average, there’s no way it’s ‘rearing up’ behind him. Also, if it’s made out of stone — a material that is primarily grey – how does it have black wings? Was there some stonemason who decided to get a slab of black slate and carve it into his wings? Or is this just some kind of demonic presence? Like, this is supposed to be foreshadowing to Lucifer or something.

Oh, wait. I know. It’s an Erika!

Amusingly enough for all of us Night Vale fans, it looks like Jake’s got a whole horde of Hooded Figures surrounding him.

They were dressed strangely, some in hooded garments that shrouded their entire faces [...]

Y’see?

[...] and others in tattered black lace and chains, their cheeks powdered chalk white and their lips stained bloodred.

This is like something from My Immortal, I swear to god.

So yes, the Goths are all happy to shuffle around and deposit votive offerings at Jake’s feet. You know, of all the people a demon would target, I don’t think it would be Goths. Surely it’s better for a demon to actually corrupt people who are the least likely to be interested in dark, Hot Topic-y things.

It turns out that Molly isn’t in the group of hooded figures. Could it be that she’s going to be bound to an altar and sacrificed? Oh noes.

Jake held up his hands and the group stilled. He threw off his hat, and I saw that his long, dark hair was uncombed and tangled. He looked almost wild. When he spoke his voice seemed to reverberate from the stone angel itself.

“Is this not simpler?”

Sorry, Loki, you’re not wanted here.

“Welcome to the dark side,” he said, and laughed coldly. “Although I prefer to think of it as the fun side.” There were murmurs of appreciation from his followers. “I can promise you that nothing feels better than sin. Why not turn to pleasure when life treats us with such indifference? We are here, all of us, because we want to feel alive!” He ran a slender hand over the coarse stone of the angel’s thigh and spoke again, his voice dripping like syrup. “Pain, suffering, destruction, death, these things are like music to our ears, sweet as honey on our tongues. We thrive on them. They are food for our souls. You must all learn to reject a society that promises everything and delivers nothing.”

God, this is a long speech. If Jake’s trying to speak like a cult leader or something, he’s doing a terrible job. He should be going around to individuals and convincing them of their new beliefs, rather than delivering some sermon from on high.

“Let us invoke the twisted spirits of the night to assist us.”

Ahahaha!! Oh god, that is Grade A purple prose right there. Sounds like something Christopher Paolini would write.

Anyway, Jake’s followers all do something akin a death metal scream into the air. Which puts me in the mind of a whole group of people screaming BWAAAAAUUUURGHHH!!! from Death Note‘s second opening, because I’m a fucking nerd.

Jake smiled approvingly then glanced at his gold watch. “We don’t have much time. Let’s get down to business.”

TO DEFEAT! THE HUNS!
DID THEY SEND ME DAUGHTERS?
WHEN I ASKED — FOR SONS!

God, this book and its ear-worms.

“Where are they? Bring them to me.” Two figures were thrust forward so they fell at Jake’s feet. Both were wearing hooded cloaks. Jake took hold of the figure closest to him and pulled back the hood, revealing an ordinary-looking boy whom I recognised from school, a fairly unassuming student who kept a low profile and was a member of the chess club.

Oh, of course it’s a member of the chess club.

Jake is handed a book, and only Jake recites something and the wind starts picking up does Bethany release that zomg he’s using a grimoire.

He spread his arms wide. “Exorior meus atrum amicus quod vindicatum is somes.” He was speaking Latin, but not like I’d ever heard it before. It had been altered, and somehow I knew it was the language of the Underworld. “Is est vestri pro captus,” Jake sang, his hands clutching at the empty air.

“What’s he saying?” Xavier whispered. I was surprised to find that I could translate the meaning of the words exactly.

“Come forth, my dark friend, and claim this body. It is yours for the taking.”

Yeah, it’s kind of like Supernatural, isn’t it? Demons speaking in a strange form of Latin, having solid black eyes… Also, why are they speaking in Latin? That’s a very Augustine thing — the original Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and then into many other languages. Latin being the lingua franca of the church and I guess the angels/demons in this book, is very much Catholic. I thought that angels communicated ‘without language’ — hence that long spiel Bethany goes on about in the first chapter or so about human language being frustratingly limited. Oh, what the hell am I doing expecting continuity in this book?

The chess club kid gets possessed by a vengeful spirit, and Bethany cries that she should have seen this coming.

“I befriended him, I wanted to help him… I should have sensed he was a demon.”

Why didn’t you before now? He acted weird and made several very transparent references in the poetry you wrote in class, as well as having a snake motif. You don’t need a firm grounding in semiotics to work out that he’s a being of pure evil, god damn.

Xavier put his hand on the small of my back. “This is not your fault.”

IT IS! IT FUCKING IS, XAVIER! DON’T TRY TO ABSOLVE THE ANGELS OF BLAME HERE! THIS COULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN CARE OF WEEKS AGO, NIPPED IN THE DAMN BUD. But what did they do? Twiddle their thumbs and wait for God’s approval whilst baking a cake for church coffee morning!

Bethany explains to Xavier what demons are, and how they’re never normally a problem for angels. “[...] Our powers are far greater than theirs.” Right, so why don’t you use those powers to get rid of ‘the demon problem’ before it can present a problem to your current area? Seriously, just sniff out demons using your angelic ‘sensing’ abilities, and cast them back where they came from. Boom. Done.

Of course, the next hooded figure kneeling before Jake is Molly. Her demonic possession is delayed by Jake paying attention to another girl, before finally dragging Molly to be possessed by teh evulz. Xavier comes up with a cunning plan… That is immediately ruined by Bethany being a complete fool.

I stumbled out from behind the tombstone, ignoring Xavier’s yell of protest.

“What are you doing?” I screamed. “Stop this! Jake, let her go!” When I looked at Jake’s face, it was distorted with anger.

[...]

“You!” I pointed a finger at Jake. “We know what you are.” He clapped his hands slowly and mockingly. “Well done. What a first-rate detective you are.”

Bwahaha okay, Jake, you get to wear favourite character crown for now. Sorry, Nicole. But yes, seriously, Bethany and her siblings should have been investigating. Instead, all they did was faff around for 25 chapters.

Jake insists that he’ll let Molly go, only if Bethany agrees to take her place. That’s not cliché at all!

He and Xavier also get into a taunting match, and it’s revealed that Jake was involved in the fire that killed Xavier’s girlfriend Emily several years ago. While the rest of her family got out alive, Jake made sure that Emily was tied down to her bed and couldn’t escape as the flames engulfed her. So I’m guessing her body was almost entirely cremated, because an autopsy of her body would perhaps find bruise and ligature marks on her somewhere. I don’t know, it would probably make more sense for Jake to just hypnotise her to stay in her bed, rather than physically tying her down like some old villain in a cowboy movie.

Xavier is naturally angered by this, and tries to take a swing at Jake. He simply gives Xavier a nasty case of magical stomach cramps. (What? He’s clutching his abdomen.) They’re so bad that Xavier is ‘shuddering in pain.’

In my head I tried to silently invoke God’s help by issuing a mental prayer: ‘Almighty Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth, deliver us from evil. Send your spirit to help us, and call forth the angels of salvation. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever…’

Bethany’s prayer doesn’t work, however, so she reluctantly gives herself over to Jake.

“You’re evil,” I said. “I’d never join you.”

“But naughty can be oh so nice.” Jake laughed.

Uh-huh. A being of supreme evil giggles about being naughty.

“Oh, shut up [Xavier],” Jake snapped. “Your pretty face can’t save her now.” The last thing I remembered before everything went dark was the greedy glint in Jake’s snake-green eyes and Xavier’s voice calling out to me.

Snake-green… What, the same colour as a little tree snake?

Terrifying.

Okay, so I think that should be it for this chapter. Check back next time. It’s going to be about as scary as your average Care Bears episode.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 29

A Friend in Need

Bethany wakes up to have a big breakfast with the family. After all, they have a big day ahead… of wringing their hands and waiting for the Heavenly authorities to give them the A-OK on Jake. Xavier’s been in charge of cooking breakfast, and what do you know, he’s pretty good at it.

“Xavier’s a man of many skills,” I told Ivy and Gabe glowingly.

No, he’s a Gary-Stu. Big difference.

Bethany goes to school and meets up with Molly, who is severely upset over Taylah’s death. Upset enough to consider dating Jake Thorn. Oh, the contrived drama! Jake has filled Molly’s head with rubbish at how she’s unique and she deserves to be happy, the way Bethany is with Xavier.

“I don’t want him anywhere near me or you…” I began.

“Why not?”

“Because he killed Taylah!” I yelled.

Molly gets angry at Bethany and eagerly goes off with Jake when he arrives.

“Envy is a deadly sin, Bethany,” Jake purred. His eyes were completely covered by a glistening black film, so I couldn’t distinguish between pupil and iris.

So… he’s supposed to look like possessed!Dean from Supernatural? Nice, Adornetto. Also, HOW are Jake and his followers supposed to be walking around with eyes like this? SOMEONE would notice. Some of the most well-known monsters ever conjured up by the human imagination either have no eyes, or their eyes are completely blank, or their eyes are staring out wide. Even with the death of a student at school, somebody would take notice and freak out about this.

After Jake walks away with Molly, Bethany goes to Xavier so they can go looking for her, although she is nowhere to be found. Molly let slip to Bethany earlier that Jake and his circle are going to meet up somewhere in Venus Cove on Sunday. Or, y’know, Jake could have been smart and organised a road trip.

“His followers… Think about what they look like, how they dress.”

“They look like goths,” I replied.

“And what is the centre of goth culture?” Gabriel said.

Ivy looked at him, her eyes wide. “Death.”

NO.

NO IT FUCKING ISN’T YOU ABSOLUTE MORON.

Look, okay, sure, the Gothic novel is preoccupied with dark and morbid tales, and certain elements of the Goth subculture do find some beauty in death and sadness and what have you. But… have you ever met a Goth, Adornetto? They’re some of the happiest people I’ve ever known! I’m sure there are some Goths who aren’t as sweet as some of my friends are, but come on. A demon targeting Goth kids and turning other randos into Goths? Sounds like the plot of a Jack Chick tract, designed to get kids away from this devilish subculture. 

Also, you know Gothic architecture is supposed to let in a lot of light and stir feelings of faith? Just because Gothic churches can look imposing doesn’t mean they’re connected with morbidity.

“Yes.” Xavier’s face was grim. “So where would be the best place for a bunch of weirdoes obsessed with death?”

The realisation hit me, and I drew a sharp breath. It was overstated, it was grim, it was dark, and it was the perfect place for Jake to stage his show.

“The cemetery,” I breathed and Xavier nodded.

*snorts forever*

Okay, let’s turn ourselves away from Halo for a second and look at my favourite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus. Released in 1992. When the protagonists are escaping from the witches, they run into the cemetery because it’s hallowed ground. No witches can enter. It’s heavily implied that the witches are also devil-worshippers too.

So, going back to Halo again, how in the hell is a demon supposed to hold a meeting on hallowed ground? It’s Sunday too, the day when the majority of people come to lay flowers for their deceased family members and friends. SOMEONE would notice.

“Honestly, you’d think the boy might be a little more original,” Ivy snapped. “The cemetery indeed.”

Ivy says what I’m thinking, and she deserves a high five.

Xavier somehow makes the assumption that it would be a bad idea to send an archangel up against a demon. What. I’m getting so fucking tired of all the logic fails in this book. He insists on going up against Jake himself, with Bethany as back-up.

Good idea, that. You have access to a seraph as well as an archangel, and you agree to send off the puny human along with a low tier angel.

*slow clap*

Gabriel decides this is a stupid idea, and announces that they should do nothing until they hear back from the Covenant. Which would leave them with no time to stop Jake on Sunday. You know, perhaps if you guys had been a bit more observant and called down the Covenant at the first sight of suspicious activity, this wouldn’t be happening!

So, it’s back to Plan A, with useless angel and milksop Hollister model boyfriend facing up against a character who is revealed in Hades to be an actual Prince of Hell.

*slow clap*

Xavier has to stay over Bethany’s for the weekend to stay safe, and his mother acts so irrational, whereas Xavier’s father is the voice of reason who allows him to pack his bags and stay over his girlfriend’s. *sigh* Women, right?

Please let next chapter be the last or at least the penultimate. Please. 

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 28

Angel of Destruction

Only one song to listen to during the writing of this chapter! Yep, Nobuo Uematsu’s One-Winged Angel. Or perhaps you’d like the rock remix by The Black Mages. Or the version from OC-Remix. Or Random & Lost Perception’s rap cover. Or Yoko Shimomura’s rendition from Kingdom Hearts. Or Takeharu Ishimoto’s take on it from Crisis Core. Or the orchestral version. Or the long version from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete. I know what’s on my playlist right now, either way.

In the last chapter, Xavier refused to take Bethany’s word about Jake accosting her and forcing her to kiss him. Nope, he only believed her when her brother came to set the record straight. Fuck you, Xavier.

So yes, Jake is running around at large and rather than hunting him down, apparently we’re just going to twiddle our thumbs and avoid confronting him. You know, I’m quite sure that if you did confront him, an archangel and a seraph could quite easily obliterate Jake without breaking a sweat.

Unless Jake casts Heartless Angel, in which our heroes would have only one hit-point left and have to avoid his follow-up attack. (Okay, sorry, no more Sephiroth references. I make no promises, though.)

Xavier insists on getting revenge to restore his lady’s honour or something like that.

“Jake is not like the other students. You mustn’t try to deal with him alone.”

What. Why not just come out with it? Say to Xavier that Jake is a demon and unless Xavier joins a seminary and takes Exorcism 101, he’s not going to be able to help much.

As it turns out, Jake’s been behind everything oh noes. You know, he was in town during the car crash in the school parking lot, and in school when the cook got hot oil all over her legs, and the prom zomg nooooo.

“I read about a boating accident at the jetty two days ago,” Xavier added. “And there are have been a couple of fires recently that the paper said were started by arsonists. That’s never happened around here before.”

So? Just means there are some arsonists in town. Or that some random jack-off wasn’t careful with boat safety. Correlation does not imply causation.

As it turns out, Jake is gathering followers. It’s kind of suggested that they’re hypnotised by him. Oh noes.

Acts of random vandalism also seemed to be suddenly on the increase. The doors of Saint Mark’s church were desecrated by obscenities, and the windows of the municipal offices were shattered by vandals, using homemade explosives. Fairhaven reported a virulent outbreak of food poisoning, and many of its residents had to be transferred to the hospital.

And it seemed that wherever disaster struck, Jake Thorn was there. He never allowed himself to be implicated in any way; he was always an observer, hovering at the sidelines.

THEN CATCH HIM ON HIS OWN AND TAKE HIM OUT. Root of all your problems gone. My friend Goose is reading this book along with me right now, and she’s pointed out that in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, an angel turned the person who assaulted them into a pillar of salt. DO THAT! LIKE RIGHT NOW!

But no, apparently Gabriel and Ivy need time off to recharge their batteries after a full week of cleaning up Jake’s messes. Wait, what was that about angels having limitless energy earlier in the book? You know, how Bethany is perfectly able to run miles and miles without breaking a sweat in her PE class?

They weren’t used to having so much to do, and despite their strength, the constant effort had left them drained.

Okay, Adornetto-verse God, there’s a massive flaw in your angel design. If you’re going to send angels to areas of war and natural disaster and what have you, perhaps it’s better to NOT make it so they need to recharge their batteries after a 7 day shift of helping people. Or perhaps you could make it so that they don’t need to spend a week or two ‘acclimatising’ to life on Earth. Just a little FYI.

Bethany heads to school one day and discovers it’s the scene of a tragedy — a student has committed suicide.

As I drew closer to the bathroom, I saw Dr. Chester standing by the door, along with two police officers. I saw one of the officers talking to Jake Thorn. Jake’s face was moulded into a mask of earnestness and concern, but his cat’s eyes glinted dangerously [...]

Why is Jake carrying two or more reflective road studs? Does he have a black cat tucked under his arm? Or do you mean that his eyes are like a cat’s. Editing!

The student’s body is taken out by paramedics. Bethany can sense that the student was driven by a compulsion beyond her understanding to jab a knife into her throat. See, this is what happens precisely because you didn’t take care of Jake right before he could present a problem to all of you. Fucking hell.

The student turns out to be… Taylah. Wow. Well I’m sure we’re going to miss her terribly. Just so you know, she shows up in the second book, trapped in Hell. Does Bethany rescue her? Nope! Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen.

Xavier ‘rescues’ Bethany from her grief, simply picking her up and walking to his car. Bethany insists that it’s Jake’s fault that this happened, but Xavier insists that it couldn’t have been. After all, a nice guy like Jake informed the authorities and noticed that she was absent! TO GET THE SUSPICION OFF HIS OWN BACK YOU FUCKING IDIOT.

Xavier was unconvinced. “Jake may be many things, but he’s not a murderer.”

Oh fuck you, you’ve just been told that he’s dangerous. The three angels you know are keeping an eye on him and they’re almost too scared to mention his name in private. Put two and two together and what do you have? BING BING BING BING BING. The guy’s a demon!

I didn’t tell him how different it was experiencing loss firsthand on earth, when the victim was your friend and the pain was amplified tenfold.

Since when was Taylah your friend!? All you ever did was look down on her for being promiscuous and a little less knowledgable in geography than you. YOU’RE her friend? Fuck you.

Bethany and Xavier arrive home, where Gabriel and Ivy have already been informed.

“We have to act now,” Ivy said. “This has gone too far.”

Oh, now it’s gone too far? People have been dying left right and centre thanks to Jake’s influence, and only now is it too far? What, do the Heavenly authorities not allow you to act before the local demons reach a body count in the twenties?

“We have to stop him,” I said. “Destroy him if that’s what it takes.”

“We cannot simply charge in and destroy him,” Gabriel said. “We’re not permitted to take life without reason.”

“But he’s taken someone else’s life!” I cried.

“Bethany, we cannot harm him unless we know without a doubt who or what he is. So, as much as we might wish it, confrontation is out of the question for the time being.”

Yeah, great. Why can’t angels just… I don’t know, simply cast Jake back into the pit? God in this book’s universe is terrible at preventing chaos from happening, isn’t He? No, I’m sorry, but you have a warrior archangel and you’re telling him to just sit and twiddle his thumbs while your adherents die?

Hey, I said I made no promises.

So yes, Gabriel and Ivy only now have the suspicion that Jake is a demon. Or an ‘agent of Lucifer.’ All because ‘his aura is growing.’ Well done, angels. Well done. You had one job to do and you spent the majority of it faffing around attending school and church coffee mornings, rather than researching the local area and its phenomena, and/or investigating into the mysterious deaths and sudden epidemics that have plagued the town.

*slow clap*

Bethany finds a written threat to Xavier in her bag later that afternoon, and this freaks her out. But of course, it’s only a poem, so Gabriel still can’t act.

“Listen, I believe that Jake is behind the murder and all of the accidents. I believe that he means to wreak havoc, but I need concrete evidence before I can act — the laws of the Kingdom demand it.”

Okay, so imagine that you act without Heaven’s prior approval. Are you going to be brought before a bureaucratic tribunal who are going to castigate you for not acting on solid evidence? I think they’d be too appreciative of the fact that you got rid of a demon to consider frowning at you at the next company AGM. Seriously. This isn’t like a police investigation, where people are innocent until proven guilty. You came down here because there was ‘dark activity.’ You’ve found the source of the dark activity. The evidence may be circumstantial and there’s no solid proof, but you have enough to build a case with. Bait him into a trap, show off the fact you’re divine retribution, and blast Jake with holy light or whatever it is angels are supposed to do.

Xavier wants to know what will happen if the Heavenly authorities do decide that Jake the Snake should be dealt with. Apparently killing his human form will put that thing back where it came from, or so help me.

Bethany lets slip that Jake said he’d been looking for her for centuries.

Gabriel and Ivy exchanged worried looks.

“Demons often search for a human to make their own,” Ivy said. “It’s their twisted version of love, I suppose. They lure the human to the underworld, and they’re forced to stay there forever. Over time they’re corrupted and even start to develop feelings for their oppressor.”

So Bethany is Persephone, is she? Well, it’s shame she doesn’t have Zeus and Demeter to bargain with Hades on her behalf. Demons like to spite God, and capturing Bethany is perhaps the best catch any demon could ask for.

“The corruption of His creations causes Him great anguish.”

Uh huh. Well, God, pardon my brusqueness here, but DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. You’re not supposed to be in the Odinsleep, as far as I can tell.

So, we have to wait for God to decide the path our angels have to take now. Great.

Jake was unpredictable, like a firework that could go off at any minute.

Indeed. How did this poor excuse of a simile escape the editor’s red pen?

Xavier called his parents and told them he was staying the night at a friend’s place so they could finish studying for an exam the next day. There was no way his mother would have allowed him to stay if she’d known he was at my house — Bernie was far too conservative for that.

Uh-huh.

Even though Xavier was only human, it seemed he could protect me from anything and everything. I wouldn’t have been worried if a fire-breathing dragon had torn off the roof, because I knew that Xavier was there.

Okay, you see, this is bullshit. I hate when people specify “fire-breathing” dragons in fantasy books. As opposed to what, dragons that breathe clouds of bubbles?

Nah, I’m only messing around. What I mean to say is WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU BETHANY!? Take charge of your goddamn life! Xavier is not your ‘protector’, he’s your damn boyfriend.

Bethany wakes up from another nightmare, thinking that the coat stand in her room is some dark figure. Xavier proves to her that it isn’t, and they get back to cuddling… and voilà, end of chapter.

Only a few more to go now!

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 27

Playing With Fire

*insert obligatory Beavis & Butthead reference here*

So, following Jake outright telling Bethany that he’s a demon and threatening her when she rebuffs his advances, Bethany is left outside in a moral quagmire. (Presumably after Jake tipped his fedora and went off to bitch somewhere online about being left in the friendzone.)

I suddenly felt like the night was pressing down on me, suffocating me. There were two things I was now certain of: First, Jake Thorn knew about us, and second, he was dangerous. I realised I had been completely blind not to see it before. I had so badly wanted to see the good in him that I’d ignored the blatant warning signs that screamed at me to retreat. Now those signs were flashing as bright as neon lights.

I love how part of that extract is almost lifted wholesale from Twilight.

Let me just go grab the quote…

‘About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him — and I didn’t know how potent that part might be — that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.’

Seriously, what in the actual fuck is it with these YA paranormal romances having to ape Twilight a good five to seven years after that book was bloody published? I was just watching the Nostalgia Chick’s interview with Lindsay Ribar, and I am SO pumped for literary agents like her talking about how they’re currently on the lookout for any manuscripts with books with LGBTQ+/MOGII themes, characters, etc. Certainly washes the nasty taste away of this shit.

Also, I love how Bethany describes herself as completely blind to seeing the obvious signs. You’ll notice that when you read all three of these books. Bethany ‘goes with the flow’ for far too long, then the world crashes down around her ears because she didn’t stop and think about what was going on earlier or try to prevent it happening. See also: the death of Father Mell in Heaven.

Bethany runs inside to get Gabriel and Ivy and breathlessly tells them everything that’s happened on the drive back home. Gabriel says he sensed an evil energy right when Jake stepped over the threshold, but he and Ivy simply assumed he was a human with a dark aura, stemming from pain or abuse or whatever. Um, did nobody notice Jake before then? Isn’t Jake supposed to be chummy with a bunch of music students? In that case, wouldn’t he also have run into Gabriel at some point? Or does Gabriel just direct the chapel choir, and won’t have anything to do with that devilish rock and roll music?

Gabriel vaguely says that Jake will likely be stronger than any human. Oh, just come out and say it. HE’S A DEMON. Or a “follower/agent of the darkness” if we are to use this book’s politically correct terms for angels and demons. But they also have to bide their time, just in case.

“If he truly is dangerous, he will reveal himself in time.”

BULL. SHIT. What do you think you’re dealing with? A human who just so happens to know that angels exist? What else could he possibly be? A Rainbow Person? A grim reaper? A vampire? A warlock? Only two out of those four technically exists in the Adornetto-verse, so… what the hell are they thinking?

Oh well, let’s all handwave it away so we can go into detail about how miserable our precious Bethany is feeling.

It was too late to call Xavier, although I knew that speaking to him would make me feel better.

Co-dependency. Lovely.

I wished so much that things could be straightforward and simple. Why was our mission fraught with so many complications? I knew it was childish, but all I could think was how unjust it all was.

WHAT complications!? Jesus fecking Christ girl, you’re in an upmarket town in coastal Georgia where the majority of the population are rich Christians! Aside from a few bystanders getting injured, and you falling in love with a human boy, what ‘complications’ is your mission fraught with?

Bethany doesn’t hear from Xavier for a few days, and finds a creepy note from Jake in her locker. Gabriel just rips it up and sighs. Uh-huh. YOU’RE A FUCKING WARRIOR ARCHANGEL. GO AND FACE HIM HEAD ON.

Also, why are they still attending school after prom? My high school’s prom was held on the last day of school (before having to go in just for exams), and I could swear that’s the same case with the majority of other schools I’ve heard of…

The day passed in a grey haze. I came alive for about five minutes during lunchtime when I borrowed Molly’s cell phone to call Xavier, but I descended back into greyness as soon as it went to voice mail. Not having any contact with him made me feel lethargic and heavy. A cloud seemed to have filled my mind, and I couldn’t catch any of the thoughts that skidded through my head because they disappeared too quickly.

So Bethany can’t even think for herself without Xavier. What the actual FUCK. How was this allowed to be published in 2010!? We’ve made so many advancements in feminism and gender studies, but oh no, here are books for youngsters to read that continually replicate poisonous male-strong female-weak relationships and stiflingly conservative gender normativity. Huzzah, hooray, publishing industry. Well done.

When I realised Xavier was absent from school the following day, my eyes burned and I felt hot and dizzy. I wanted to crumple to the ground and just wait for someone to carry me away. I couldn’t make it through another day without him; I could hardly make it through another minute.

Yeah, that’s normal behaviour. Christ, does Adornetto know that girls whose boyfriends stop talking to them don’t immediately turn into New Moon-era Bella Swan?

Molly takes Bethany up to the computer lab and logs into Facebook. One of the student photographers on prom night tagged Bethany in a photo on Facebook — a candid shot of her locking lips with Jake. SCANDAL!! HARLOT!!

What I love is how the angels are down here to do their mission but they refuse to engage in any technology whatsoever, besides their television or the DVD player. Like, none of the siblings have cell phones or even a computer, because even though it would be very useful on a ‘mission fraught with complications’ to have a device in your pocket with which you could call or text each other —  like, I don’t know, finding a den full of demons and being unable to use telepathy — is a corrupting influence. *sigh*

Bethany runs to Xavier’s house, and finds that he is now behaving very unkindly towards her. Wow, 10/10 catch there Bethany. You think it’s a good thing that he ‘sees the world in black and white’ now? He’s not even going to bother considering the grey area or that things weren’t what they appeared to be. Nope, he’s going to believe that you did what you did based on one goddamn Facebook photo.

Xavier doesn’t even let Bethany tell him that she was forced into kissing Jake. He just interrupts her and insists his trust has been abused. Insisting that everything is Bethany’s fault, and not Jake’s. Fuck you, Xavier. Fuck you. Here’s a song that exemplifies my feelings perfectly.

Bethany runs to the beach and sobs so hard she forgets that the tide is coming in, I guess. Gabriel and Ivy bring her home to clean her up.

I sat on my bed, staring into space and doing nothing but thinking of Xavier and trying not to think of him at the same time. The separation made me realise just how safe I felt with him.

This book is depressing as all hell, in that feminism just seems such a distant idea to it. Even though the star in its spotlight is a character who should by all rights be a celestially powerful female. Well, there’s no such thing as equality when boys and girls are so fundamentally different and y’know, should submit to normative gender roles rather than question them. That’s what we should be teaching to the youngsters who read this! Definitely!

*sigh*

Bethany falls asleep and has a nightmare about Jake killing Xavier, or something.

The next few days passed in a blur. I didn’t feel as though I was really living, but just observing life from the sidelines. I didn’t go to school, and Ivy and Gabriel didn’t try to make me. I didn’t eat much; in fact, I hardly did anything except sleep. Sleep was the only way I could escape the pain of longing for Xavier.

Remember, you’re nothing without your man. Why, you’re a catatonic weakling who needs to be supported by your family! Seriously, there’s lifting an element or two from New Moon, and then there’s this. I’m surprised we haven’t been subjected to months of sparsely scribbled diary entries yet.

Gabriel and Ivy, concerned about Bethany’s condition, go to confront Xavier.

And it works. Xavier comes back into Bethany’s room, apologises, and they hug for a long while.

Xavier reveals he’s scared of losing Bethany now, and they both strip in front of each other so they can continue to cuddle — just naked now. Right.

That’s where the chapter ends, and apparently something other than petty relationship drama is going to happen in Chapter 28. It’s named “Angel of Destruction.” I can’t wait. No, really.

That Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Cover…

Trigger warning: Discussion of child abuse. (Also, gifs are used.)

It’s been a while since Penguin Modern Classics thought that the musician Morrissey ought to have his biography designated under their imprint. That decision prompted a lot of discussion, and it looks like Penguin Classics are attempting to court controversy again with their new cover of Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The cover features a little girl in a pink dress and pageant make-up as her mother sits beside her. She stares doll-like and wide-eyed at the camera, lips pursed, and it’s horrendously creepy.

Bu where does the cover come from? Well, two photographers called Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello; it’s a cropped version of their retro fashion magazine spread from 2008, titled “Mommie Dearest.”

Those who have seen the movie it’s named after will doubtless take note of the similarities the subjects share to both Joan and Christina Crawford.

The movie itself is a rather harrowing adaptation of Christina Crawford’s biography, released shortly after Joan’s death. (Some say Christina was venting her frustrations in being cut out of the will, along with her brother Christopher.) Her tell-all biography was a huge seller, and it surprised many people to know that Joan Crawford – suffering from what is presumed to have been bipolar disorder – would beat her beloved children, or storm into their bedrooms in the middle of the night, screaming at them for an infraction that was actually the maid’s fault.

Of course, despite Mommie Dearest presenting the child abuse in a rather frank and uncompromising manner, the audience found Faye Dunaway’s histrionic performance absolutely hilarious, causing out-of-context lines like: “TINA! Bring me the axe! and “NO…. WIRE… HANGERS…. EVER!!!” to become semi-memetic in cult movie fandom. Mommie Dearest won five Razzies in 1982, and won the Razzies’ ‘Worst Picture of the Decade’ in 1990. The film’s marketers even changed the tagline to ‘The mother of all comedies’ within weeks of release, and both its star and director refuse to speak about this movie, at all.

Yet, as Brad Jones says in his review, the film is still very disturbing and uncomfortable to watch. Like him, I would argue that it’s really not worth seeing just to see the famous clips being used in context.

The photograph’s evocation of the movie/biography does not go amiss. The film’s palette uses washed out colours, usually in pastel, mimicked again in the photograph. The little girl evokes Christina, eyes glassy and face tightly knit. The mother is Joan, staring impetuously into the camera, clear to make herself the focus – the real Joan Crawford was supposedly extremely insecure as her star began to fade.

‘Christina’ is sat beside her as a prop; the film presents Joan wanting and adopting children as a fleeting obsession during a mid-life crisis, to give herself an extended fifteen minutes of fame.

This works for the film Mommie Dearest, as the photograph is trying to display the dynamic between mother and daughter. ‘Christina’ in the photograph looks uncomfortable and soulless, which is almost exactly how the real Christina Crawford felt.

That’s it for my brief analysis of a 1981 cult movie, so let’s go back to Roald Dahl.

Taking in the little girl’s appearance, many commenters assumed the cover model was supposed to be Veruca Salt, and others made comparison to young American murder victim Jon-Benet Ramsey.

Supposedly, the child on the cover is a stand-in for the beastly, spoiled children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yet… the message doesn’t particularly work here. Maybe the child is supposed to evoke some aspects of the children who go into Willy Wonka’s factory and don’t come out: Veruca Salt’s spoiled nature, Mike Tevee’s eyes dulled from years of watching television… Or something? Perhaps? I’m reaching a lot here, but I honestly cannot see the reasoning behind this photograph being used as the cover.

Penguin themselves have said it is focusing on Dahl’s use of ‘the light and the dark aspects of life’, and it was supposedly subversive. That’s fair enough – Dahl relished in fairly dark material for kids. But this is not the way to go about it. I agree with Ron Johns (an independent bookshop owner in Falmouth) in this Bookseller article: “I don’t like it at all, it’s so postmodern it’s not even relevant to the story, and why would we sell two versions of the same book especially as one is so strange?”

I grew up with the Roald Dahl books with Quentin Blake’s illustrations. My copy of Charlie has a light blue background with an illustration of Charlie and Willy Wonka on the front below the title. Naturally, it originally belonged in the children’s section of the bookstore. Adults might perhaps be embarrassed to be caught reading a children’s book, so there is usually some necessity to market an alternate cover. Covers such as this exist, after all.

The cover is extremely aesthetically unpleasing, bringing to mind Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. The Creative Review magazine praises this cover: “While the candy-colours hint at the sickly-sweetness of Willy Wonka’s confection, of more significance is the unnerving quality of the image which touches on one of the main undercurrents in the book: the relationship between children and their parents, and what can happen when fame and fortune enter into their lives.” I can kind of see that, but… Dahl’s dark humour and predilection for including the most grim parables into his stories is not communicated very well here. Your eyes are just drawn to the dead-eyed little girl. The dead-eyed little girl from a magazine spread named after a biographical drama about child abuse.

It’s nice that Penguin Modern Classics want us to revisit Charlie in adulthood, but the cover does not work. Penguin often release such great, thought-provoking covers such as the ones featured here:

So what the hell has possessed them to think that Charlie and the Pageant Girl With The Thousand Yard Stare the Chocolate Factory would work with this cover? It communicates nothing about the story, at all. The children in the book are spoiled, but they certainly aren’t dead inside, the way Christina Crawford admitted to feeling in Mommie Dearest.

But of course, Penguin Modern Classics is no stranger to controversy. The more people discussing this the better, right? Bad publicity is better than no publicity, after all. I don’t see quite how many people are going to pick up this copy, though. There are so many better ways to communicate ‘darkness within the light’, and presenting a soulless little girl as a stand-in for Dahl’s crocodile of poorly-socialised and/or bratty children is not the way to do it.