Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 21

Drowning

*claps hands* Ooh, I hope Bethany falls into the ocean or a very deep swimming pool and can’t get out, with nobody around to help her. That would be a marked improvement.

Bethany freaks out over Jake writing the first line of the poem they’re working on together in class. It reads: ‘She had the face of an angel.’ It immediately sets her off chasing after Jake wondering what the hell he means, which only makes her look more suspicious because, you know, who the hell else would run after their English partner looking guilty/scared as fuck about the word “angel” being included in a line of poetry?

Could he have possibly guessed my secret? Was this his idea of a twisted joke?

I love how demons can immediately pick up on an angelic presence, when Bethany’s sat right next to him in at least two classes now and still thinks he’s just some weird bad boy.

It’s framed as Bethany actually being more irritated that Jake is flirting with her when omg he knows I have a boyfriend, or something along those lines. Which makes no sense, especially when she brings up the fact that the assignment is supposed to take the romantic poem’s tradition of admiring your lady love from afar. Jake could be talking about any old girl, and Bethany’s self-centred enough to think that it’s her. Wow.

Bethany being irrational and clumsy and prone to grand emotions because she’s a female wouldn’t surprise me, going by what Adornetto seems to think of other women.

It was hardly Jake’s fault he’d come up with the word angel in relation to a poem about love. I was just paranoid about all celestial references.

“Hey, Beth? I’m going to watch a movie called Angels in the Outfield. Then I’m going to hop on over to Netflix and catch up on season 2 of Digimon. As a kid, I remember watching Angemon evolve into MagnaAngemon and then into Seraphimon. What’s wrong? Why have you frozen stiff? Is it because I said angel? So you freak out over the word because you’re worried about your cover being blown? GREAT! Now I know your identity.”

DOI.

Jake turns out to be okay with this, though, and smiles at Bethany before leaving.

I watched him stroll away to join a small group that included Alicia, Alexandra, and Ben from our Literature class, along with some others I recognised as music students by their straggly hair and loose ties.

Ah, the judgemental nature of this book…Presumably Jake and his pals are heading off somewhere they can sit and emulate these guys:

I went off to my own locker, still feeling as thought something was amiss. It wasn’t until I had gathered my books and was waiting for Xavier to come and meet me that I realised I felt physical discomfort. I focused for a moment and located the sensation. It wasn’t real pain — more like a mild case of sunburn. The skin on my arm, just below the elbow, was stinging in exactly the place where Jake had touched me. But how could his touch possibly hurt me?

Oh, I don’t know, it’s not like angels and demons are polar opposites. His touch hurts you BECAUSE HE’S A DEMON. Do some science where the variable is that part of your arm getting touched by a load of different guys at school. Chances are, they won’t have the same reaction as Jake. Why would that be? I KNOW, BECAUSE HE’S NOT FUCKING HUMAN.

He had only put his hand very gently on my arm, and I hadn’t experienced anything unusual at the time.

So he’s branded Bethany in some way? I don’t know.

Bethany and Xavier meet up and we get yet another nauseating couple moment about picking nicknames for each other. “Cookie,” “Bumblebee,” “Snookie-wookie”… Bloody hell. Just call each other by your own names, alright?

 In French class, Bethany and Xavier do a presentation on Paris, showing their extensive research on “the city of love.” Yeah, the city of love. Presumably their teacher is too kind to tell them about the banlieues and how many French people actually hate Paris for how expensive it is and how rude its residents are. City of love? Pah. But, it does provide Bethany and Xavier with a moment to kiss. A French kiss. Right in front of the class. Somebody says “get a room!” which is pretty much the same thing someone said earlier when Bethany and Xavier decided to snog in the corridors of their super private Catholic school.

At lunch, Molly pressures Bethany by asking if she’s had sex with Xavier yet. Bethany then worries that she’s not ‘satisfying’ her boyfriend, because you know, it’s all about what Xavier wants and not whether or not she feels ready yet.

They turn their attentions to Jake Thorn when he strides back into the room.

Jake’s circle of supporters all had a similar air about them. They had dark shadows under their eyes. They tended to keep their heads down and didn’t make eye contact with anyone outside their group.

Alright, we get it. Jake hangs out with the ‘weird’ kids. So clearly there’s something strange and DARK about him.

However, something horrible happens in the cafeteria — there’s a piercing scream as one poor cook gets hot oil all over her legs after a deep fryer tips over. But you know something suspicious? Bethany tries to direct her healing energies to the kitchen, but there’s some force blocking her. Gee, you think it’s got anything to do with the totally-not-a-demon guy with a snake tattoo and a strange air about him?

But there is one thing Bethany can’t help but notice as she strolls past Jake’s lunch table, after Molly decides there’s nothing they can do. His eyes. ‘For a second I felt I was drowning in their depth.’ Oh, please.

This is an uncharacteristically short chapter, oddly enough. Still, less painful for me. Yay.

Manga Review: The Limit volume 1 by Keiko Suenobu

Go with the flow.

In classrooms across the globe there are cliques.

These circles have set their own rules and standards that they attempt to impose on their peers, to varying success.

Sometimes these groups go beyond the principles of friendship and scholarship.

And in seemingly increasing numbers some of these groups turn to perversely righteous self-preservation.

Amazon | GoodReads | The Book Depository

Once upon a time, I read a little manga called LIFE and was promptly hooked. I watched the J-drama, I went on forums, and devoured volume after volume of the Tokyopop release from my local library. Then I discovered that Tokyopop weren’t going to publish it anymore, so I started to look for more chapters online.

But, after a while, the euphoria wore off. LIFE wound up dragging like hell and coming up with more and more contrived situations for Manami and co. to bully poor Ayumu in. Tokyopop got about nine volumes of LIFE out the door — the Japanese release is twenty volumes long, and from what I can tell, it hasn’t been picked up by a new English distributor, nor has it all been scanlated.

The Limit is a relatively new manga that had a J-drama adaptation last year. I haven’t watched it yet, but if it’s anything like the manga, I’m definitely going to watch it.

Konno is a high schooler, and a member of the popular girls’ clique. The clique is run by a shallow, two-faced girl called Sakura, who outright states that one classmate, Morishige, would be better off dead for daring to be ‘podgy and ugly.’ Konno, who was bullied at her junior high, doesn’t stick up for Morishige, and neither does Sakura’s friend Haru. Other girls in the class, desiring only a quiet life, have also kept quiet when Morishige is being picked on, and this has led her to becoming very very angry inside.

During a school trip to a model farm camp (or something like that), their coach crashes down into a ravine, and nearly everybody in the class dies horribly. The only survivors are Konno, Haru, Morishige, and two other girls. Kamiya is almost unnervingly calm and straightforward about having to survive as long as they can until help arrives, and Usui is immature and ridden with anxiety, terrified the other girls will hate her for being useless after severely injuring her leg in the crash.

If there’s one thing Keiko Suenobu is good at, it’s building up tense relationships. I mean, damn. When Morishige throws open her journal, with tallies of the people in her class she thinks should die for not helping her when she was bullied, and then insists that she’s going to become god of this new world… Well, I should be laughing at her for clearly taking lessons from Death Note, but I’m not. I’m actually just as freaked out as the other girls when Morishige pulls out the sickle their teacher had brought to help with the farm duties… Yeah. Don’t mess with Morishige.

Even if she is just a girl living under the thumb of her horrible, abusive and alcoholic father.

Suenobu is wonderful at humanising all these characters too — I mean, everyone has some kind of purpose or backstory to be revealed. Kamiya’s calm because she’s used to a hectic home life with four very young siblings, Usui essentially has overprotective parents who still make every decision for her, and Haru is devastated that their queen bee Sakura has died and Konno has survived. (There’s another hangover from LIFE here — Girl A deeply hates Girl B for being dippy and lackadaisical yet able to get into universities no sweat, whereas Girl A has to study her arse off and becomes severely stressed out.) Morishige insists that she has no desire to go back to her abusive home life, so she has absolutely nothing to lose.

What I like is the way the girls actually react. They’re just as freaked out as each other when Morishige starts throwing that sickle around, and after a while they almost stop talking about her behind her back, as if they’re really scared of her. Haru’s grief for Sakura makes her resent the fact that Konno survived, Usui’s scared to death and Kamiya just tries to make life as comfortable as possible for the other girls.

Kamiya’s great — I love how smart and rational she is. She scouts around the general area to find a river, salvages useful items from the bus luggage hold, looks to see if there are any paths out of the ravine (the cliff face they fell from is about 150 metres up, so no chance there), and even sneaks food to people that Morishige has deemed will starve. The other girls don’t understand how she can remain so level-headed, and again, they start to hate her for turning a blind eye  and ‘moving on’ from the fact that there are 30 kids laying dead in the wreckage of a bus only a few hundred yards away from where they’re making camp.

Let’s just say this is the kind of manga where you’ll finish volume 1 and immediately want to start reading volume 2. Keiko Suenobu’s manga are addictive like that. I totally don’t have the J-drama open in another tab because I could only find the first 10 chapters.

Verdict: 5/5

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 20

Warning Sign

Chapter 20 of Halo starts with Bethany walking in on Jake Thorn trying to seduce Miss Castle, the Literature teacher who’s shy as a dormouse and clearly uncomfortable with one of her students trying to hit on her. Thanks, Adornetto, it’s like I didn’t know he was a bad guy before now. I mean, he has that completely healthy interest in snakes and vague allusions to being evil. Naw, you’re telling me such a sweet, eccentric little guy is the villain?

“I’ll lose my job, I’ll never be able to work as a teacher again, I’lll…”

Yeah, my copy really has three Ls in ‘I’ll’ for some reason.

I didn’t want to look at Jake; I was shocked by what I’d seen. I knew I had no right to be.

Jake was eighteen, he was entitled to make a play for whoever he liked. But Miss Castle was a teacher; surely she deserved more respect. I shook my head resolutely; it was absolutely none of my business.

So basically, Jake has the right to harass women because he’s eighteen in Bethany’s eyes. I don’t know how you walk on in a scene where one partner is clearly uncomfortable with being “seduced” and go “eh it’s none of my business.” Fuck you, Bethany.

“Hello,” he said, his voice as slick as oil.

His voice has the quality of oil, are you comparing his voice to an oil slick? Charming.

There should be a line break in my edition, but there isn’t, so all of a sudden we get a spiel about how Bryce Hamilton school has improved for the better ever since the Church siblings have arrived. All to contrast it when Jake starts doing demonic things, because literally fuck all else has been going on in the plot except for Bethany and Xavier’s tedious romance.

I could claim no credit for these improvements; I’d been far too preoccupied with fitting in and getting to know Xavier to have given much thought to anything else. I knew the change was due entirely to the influence of Gabriel and Ivy.

YOU ARE AN ANGEL SENT FROM GOD TO TRY AND IMPROVE THE WORLD AND YOU’RE LIKE “HAHA FUCK THE MISSION HERE’S A HOT ABERCROMBIE & FITCH MODEL FOR ME TO IDOLISE!” I don’t mean to tell celestial beings their business, but I’ve been repeating it throughout these Dissections and I’ll repeat it once more: there is literally no need for Bethany and Gabriel to attend school. None whatsoever. Bethany could be doing what Ivy’s doing right now and spreading social awareness, Gabriel could either be a freelance music teacher or some kind of police officer to investigate into the recent deaths and eventually pinpoint surges in demonic activity or whatever. These demons are awful at their jobs, and so are the bloody angels. I know angels are supposed to be lacking in will, but do they and demons also lack plain old common sense?

But an indeterminate amount of time has now passed, and prom is just around the corner.

To my surprise, I now found myself as eager as everyone else for the big night to arrive. I clapped and squealed along with the rest of the girls whenever the subject came up and didn’t care how puerile it looked.

Wahey for being a judgemental snob. I thought angels were supposed to be compassionate?

And now we have the boring fucking equivalent of that scene in Twilight where Bella goes shopping with the two other girls from her school to get a dress for the winter dance or whatever. The town they’re travelling to (and Adornetto pads it out even more by describing the train journey there) is even called Port Angeles Circe. And believe me, it takes fucking AGES to get through. It’s so pointless in the end too, because you know what happens? Bethany can’t find anything she likes, so she just telepathically sends the image to Ivy, who winds up making the dress anyway. Great.

Also, Port Circe appears to have a cathedral. I don’t know about the United States, but in the UK, if you have a cathedral in your town, it’s automatically considered a city. Wells, a city I live near, has a tiny main street, three schools and a population of around 9-10,000 people, but it’s a city because of this whopping great church:

Also, Molly decries her friend Megan at one point for having cash coming out of her butt…” Sorry, but have you LOOKED at Venus Cove recently? Pretty much everybody we’ve met seems to live in a Georgian-style McMansion with silk rugs and a baby grand in the spare room, and you all ATTEND A PRIVATE SCHOOL. You ALL have cash coming out of your rear ends! Each and every last sodding one of you!

Apparently just above the knee was too schoolgirl, below the knee was geriatric, and mid-calf was only for people who bought their clothes at thrift shops.

In other words: “Hi, my name is Alexandra Adornetto and I really hate other girls my age. I’m far too emotionally immature to consider the fact that they have feelings too, and I wasn’t taught that it’s wrong to be snobby and judgemental, but I WAS taught in the ways of Jesus! Who would totally condone my behaviour!”

I followed them around like a somnambulist.

Don’t be a pretentious git. Just write that you were so bored you felt like you were following them in a sleepwalker’s stupor. There. Much better.

Part of me felt ashamed of my newfound vanity, but my desire to impress Xavier was stronger.

Hey, I’m going to just find a list of the seven deadly sins. Also known as the capital vices. Let’s see how many apply to Bethany!

  • Lust = Yep, and the way she drools after Xavier based on his physical attributes.
  • Gluttony = Nope.
  • Greed = I would say no, but the Church siblings live in this huge mansion and don’t ever question how they don’t particularly need all this material stuff, or how they could simply give a lot of it away to charity drives… so a tenuous yes.
  • Sloth = Yes, being lazy as FUCK with this mission should count, and admittedly shrugging off the fact that you’ve been too busy with your boyfriend to even try to help out.
  • Wrath = Raging, nasty feelings towards anybody who isn’t perfect like Xavier. TICK.
  • Envy = Well, nah. Unless envying Xavier and his perfect family is an example of envy. I’m going to say no anyway.
  • PridePart of me felt ashamed of my newfound vanity, but my desire to impress Xavier was stronger.

So that’s 5/7 sins that Bethany actively commits throughout the course of the novel. Wonderful.

I’d scoured the shops in Venus Cove weeks ago and all that remained were a couple of thrift stores.

What, are you too good to look in a thrift store? (I was going to make a Macklemore joke but then I was like nah.) “Like, oh my god I can’t possibly find a nice dress that I could fix up and save money on!” Seriously, a friend of mine went to Monsoon and looked through the racks of discounted dresses that were brought back for having a broken seam or something, bought one and used her sewing machine to fix it up. It looked amazing on the night AND she saved a hundred or so dollars/pounds/whatever.

Bethany’s ideal dress is this:

A shimmering ivory gown with an undergarment of soft cream silk and an overlay of antique lace. The bodice was studded with pearls and a row of satin buttons lined the fitted sleeves. It had a scalloped neckline with an intricate gold trim of tiny rosebuds.

Alright, so it sounds more like Miss Havisham’s dress than Kate Middleton wedding day couture, but we’ll leave it at that. Sleeves on a prom dress, though? Seriously?

But yeah, Ivy gets straight to it and thankfully we now get to avoid any more tedious shopping trips into town that highlight Adornetto’s myriad issues with teenage girls.

As usual, Xavier occupied my thoughts, even more so when we were physically separated.

When I found myself calculating how many more minutes needed to pass before I could see him again, I decided I should be making better use of my time…

Oh, these rare moments where characters actually see sense make me so happy…

But then, before Bethany can head to the library and do some homework, Jake Thorn shows up! Oh no! He’s now wearing the  school uniform, but you know he’s a bad boy because he doesn’t wear a tie and wears white Oxfords. And he has a diamond stud in his ear, and is smoking a cigarette on school property. Yeah, slow it down Adornetto. Next you’ll be telling me he spray-painted the Anarchy symbol nearby and is stood with his arms folded and one foot leant against the wall.

“[...] You must have had a lot of freedom at your old school.”

“Let’s just say I took some risks. Some didn’t pay off — hence my exile here. You know, the ancient Romans preferred death to exile. At least mine isn’t permanent.”

Yeah, because British parents are really going to take their kid and shove him in the middle of nowhere in Georgia.

Jake asks Bethany where Xavier is today, and she tells him he’s at practice.

“Ah, sports — the invention of pedagogues in an attempt to keep raging hormones in check.”

That makes no sense! Is Jake a young demon, because come on! Every ancient culture in the world has their own sport or sporting tradition, trickling down to today. It wasn’t as if our society started building schools, teachers noticed that students aged 13-18 were getting restless and needed some time outdoors, and voilà, sports!

Bethany asks Jake where he’s living in town.

“At the moment I’m living in the rooms about the tattoo parlour.”

Ooh, such a bad boy. He isn’t living with a host family or any relatives, what a badass.

“By the way, what are you doing Sunday morning? I thought we might work on our masterpiece.”

“I have church on Sunday.”

“Of course you do.” 

“You’re welcome to come along.”

“Thanks, but I’m allergic to incense.”

“Who said it’s a Catholic church? Oh, wait, the heavy smells and bells Augustine overtones in this book did. My bad.”

Anyway, Jake chucks the first line of the poem they’re supposed to be composing in class to Bethany, and the chapter ends with her gasping at some revelation.

Seven words he had written that sent my mind into a spin:

And presumably there’s meant to be an image there, but unfortunately my e-reader isn’t displaying it, so meh. It uses the word ‘angel’, though, so OMGWTFBBQ I HAVE TO CHASE HIM DOWN AND ASK HIM ABOUT IT AND MAKE MYSELF LOOK TOTALLY SUSPICIOUS!!

Next time, though. Next time.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 19

Into the Woods

Yep, we’re going into the woods alright. We’re literally meeting Xavier Woods’ family. Still, at least I get to meet a new favourite character! Want to know who that person is? Read on to find out.

Bethany is nervous about meeting her boyfriend’s parents, thinking that they’ll instantly kick her out if they don’t like the look of her. Just like one of Molly’s old boyfriends. Okay, what?

I was sure the Woods clan couldn’t object to me that strongly, but if they didn’t like me, their influence might be strong enough to affect Xavier’s feelings for me.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO YOU WHAT XAVIER THINKS

AND WHY ARE YOU NOT FOCUSING ON YOUR MISSION

A DEMON JUST TRANSFERRED INTO YOUR SCHOOL, BETHANY. You might not recognise Jake as being one yet, since he’s being super secretive about it with that Dark Mark and his obsession with snakes, but trust me, the book will be over so much quicker if you just dispatch him right now.

By the time we pulled into his street, I had a hundred negative thoughts whirring through my brain. What if they thought my pale complexion was due to illness or a drug addiction?

Oh, please. “SHE IS HAS AN ILLNESS THAT MAKES HER LOOK PALE, WE MUST CAST HER OUT IMMEDIATELY!” What happened to the Christian ideal of compassion, eh?

What if his doctor parents noticed there was something different about me. Wasn’t it their job to notice?

Yes, Bethany, because everyone with an MD has the uncanny ability to spot angels and chase them out of the house with inverted crucifixes or pentagrams or something. Also, why does the first sentence end with a full stop!?

This entire page is just a load of ‘what ifs’ followed by more stupid questions and clarifications. Not a good way to write. :/

Xavier reassures Bethany that his parents are in fact: “good, church-going people.” Yeah, as opposed to the good people who don’t attend church, or the good people who attend different religious temples.

“Beth–” Xavier cupped my face in his hands and made me look at him, “–you’re incredible. They’re going to see that right away. And besides, my mom didn’t like Emily.”

“Why not?”

“She was too impulsive.”

“Impulsive how?” I asked, puzzled.

“She had some issues,” Xavier said. “Her parents were divorced, she didn’t see her dad, and sometimes she did things without thinking them through. I was always there to keep her safe, thank God, but it didn’t make her too popular with my family.”

(Gif warning.)

Yeah, Xavier, it’s all because of her issues that make her imperfect, just to make Bethany feel better by comparison. The lack of a father figure and other personal issues automatically equals being manic and impulsive, and deserving of scorn rather than sympathy. How are the Woods family good Christians? Hey, here’s a Bible verse about  not judging others! Either the Woods family are cafeteria Christians, or they’re just horrible people who just so happen to go to church.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

Bethany does bring up one flaw in hers and Xavier’s relationship — the idea that Xavier is only with her as a replacement for Emily.

“But can’t you see, Beth?” He insisted. “I was never meant to be with Em. I was destined to love her and lose her. You’re the one I’m meant to be with.”

Well, fate works in mysterious ways, I guess. Sometimes fate makes your first girlfriend die in a fire just so you can get into an angel’s knickers two years later. Who knew?

Xavier lives in a house that’s almost exactly the same as the Church siblings’ home. Neo-Georgian build, pillars, a plush living room, shiny floors, etc. It’s just slightly messier than Bethany’s house, owing to the fact that the Woods family inexplicably have six children despite having jobs (a general practitioner and an anaesthesiologist) that would usually make them far too busy to have any more than two at the most.

Also, this amused me no end for some silly reason. Xavier’s mother is called Bernadette, and his father is called Peter. Bernadette Peters!

So yeah, apparently Bethany feels at home right away. Two girls are arguing elsewhere in the house, and then we get this GEM of creative writing.

A door slammed and a girl with brown curls pulled back from her face with a headband appeared.

Why… Just why… The way that’s written, you’d think the door slammed and WHOOSH, little sister Nicola here was conjured out of the ether. Nice to see Adornetto has the need to specify that her hair is pulled back, even though we’re told in the next sentence that she’s been exercising.

But, Nicola notices Bethany and has to drop her argument with her older sister out of politeness.

“Nice to meet you,” she said grudgingly. “I don’t know what you’d want to date him for anyway,” she added, jerking her head in Xavier’s direction. “He’s a total loser and his jokes suck.”

YES! YES! YES! NEW FAVOURITE CHARACTER AWARD GOES TO YOU. Sorry Gabe, but here’s a character who gets exactly how I feel about Xavier. Whoop!

“Nicola’s going through her angsty teen phase, and she’s lost her sense of humour,” Xavier explained. “Otherwise she’d appreciate my sharp wit.”

Believe me, there is no end to the amount of sharp, pointy objects I would like to introduce Xavier to, other than my own impeccable wit.

Xavier’s older sister introduces herself to Bethany and goes on about her boring bloody wedding that we never actually see in the books to my recollection, so this is just pointless fluff.

The younger Woods siblings make their appearance, and of course, they all love Bethany. Bethany Mary-Sue Church. Not much time to develop them as characters, though. Dinner’s ready!

I looked at the platters of barbecued pork and sausages and ribs and felt suddenly very worried. Xavier must have forgotten to tell them that I didn’t eat meat.

It wasn’t ethics so much as that our constitution didn’t handle meat well. It was difficult to digest and made us sluggish. Even if this hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t have wanted to eat it anyway. The very idea made my stomach churn.

So basically, angels are vegetarians because that’s the natural way that humans should be. It might interest you to know that, from what I can tell, Adornetto is a vegan. So she’s using Bethany as her mouthpiece to vocalise her dislike for teenage girls, for anybody not conventionally attractive, and for those horrid carnivores!! Bleh. Go eat a kale leaf or a tofu salad, a cow’s going to die whether or not us evil carnivores eat a burger or not. That’s the way the system works. Agriculture as we know it would collapse if everyone became vegetarian overnight, on a basic level. I won’t rant any further, considering I know a lot of really cool vegetarians, but goddamn do I hate being preached at. Makes me wonder why I’m reading this book at all…

Bethany is given baked potatoes, rice salad and grilled vegetables, and it’s Xavier’s turn to say grace.

Xavier made the sign of the cross.

“For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful. And may we always be mindful of others, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.” He finished and looked up, his gaze locking with mine for a split second before he broke away and took a sip of soda. In his eyes I could see so much understanding, a connection of faith between us, and in that moment…

I swear we were infinite?

…I couldn’t have loved him more.

I love how Adornetto rails against picking a boyfriend based on physical attraction in her article I linked to in the previous post, but Bethany and Xavier’s relationship is almost all to do with physical attraction. You’re slavering over a guy based on the way he says grace before meals? Okay.

We then turn to Nicola’s relationship woes. She’s in an on/off relationship with a boy called Hamish, and they constantly argue… for some reason.

“Nic’s going to be an old maid,” Michael said, giggling.

I love that. Not getting with a man = YOU ARE A SPINSTER WHO IS NOW OFF THE MARKET. I’d brush away this kind of thing if the book were published in, say, the 19th or 20th century, but no. It was published in 2010, ten years after the new Millennium. So much enlightenment and discourse on variant gender roles and sexualities, feminism, sociological questions to do with the family unit and childhood conditioning, psychology… and you know, here we have a book that celebrates this backwards-ass conservative rhetoric that idolises the 1950s, since hey, it was great to be a rich white person back then!! Gals were gals and men were men!

Claire’s cell phone rang, and she excused herself from the table to take the call. Seconds later she was back, her hand cupped over the mouthpiece.

“It’s Luke. He’s running later, but he should be here soon.” She paused. “It would be so much easier if he could just stay the night.”

“You know how your father and I feel about that,” said Bernie. “We’ve had this conversation before.”

Okay, fair enough. No sex before marriage in a Catholic household. But forcing it on this — on a 23 year old woman — is a bit… well, irresponsible, isn’t it? Surely her boyfriend is respectful enough that he won’t try to get them both rolling in the hay, and she’s far too old to be treated like this. Apparently it would be setting a bad example to the other kids if their eldest daughter’s fiancé stays overnight in a separate room.

“I’ve raised my children to adhere to certain values, and sex before marriage is not something this family condones. I hope you haven’t changed your position on that, Xavier?”

Uh huh. An appropriate topic at the dinner table in front of your new girlfriend, I suppose.

“Should I see the new Bond film?” Nicola asked at one point during the night.

“You won’t like it, Nic,” Xavier replied. “Too much action for you.”

What new Bond film? Going by the time this was written, I guess they’re talking about Quantum of Solace. Which is deathly boring. Not ‘too action-y’. I mean, what would Nicola prefer? Some fluffy rom-com because she’s a wispy little woman?

That night I thought about something that had never occurred to me before. Bernie’s comment about sex before marriage had struck a chord. I knew it was possible for Xavier and me to have sex because I had taken human form and could engage in any physical human interaction — but what would be the consequences of such a decision?

Nephilim. It’s amazing how ignorant you are of so much angelic lore and really important things an angel should know, Bethany. Then again, you’re outright told that your union with Xavier will result in Nephilim in the third book of this series, and yet 10 pages later you’re wondering what names to call yours and Xavier’s children. *sigh*

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.