Ashleigh Paige

I'm a full-time college sophomore pursuing my B.A. in English with hopes of one day working as an editor. Cats, musicals, documentaries about cults/disasters/tragedies, and curse words are just a few of my favorite things. Also, check out our blog or I WILL FIND YOU.

Review: Heaven by Alexandra Adornetto

Heaven - Alexandra Adornetto

In the first two chapters of Heaven, a priest dies solely because he officiates Bethany and Xavier's wedding and Bethany's response is a childish "I didn't know that would happen!" when she is confronted about what she did. The rest of the novel is this bad and worse. Bigotry, rampant girl-hate, a complete disregard for the tenants of Christianity, purposeful misinformation about abusive relationships, and more make this the worst of the Halo trilogy.

On the bright side, the pacing is better. Whether it had to do with my desire to get this book read as quickly as possible, I took less issue with the prose. That's... about it.

Before anyone asks, I read this to get back my peace of mind and put the series behind me for good. A few weeks ago, I realized I'd never be rid of the thought of these books if I didn't read Heaven and get all my questions answered, so I did some legwork and managed to procure an ARC. Are we clear on that? Good. Anyone who asks "Well, why did you read this?" will be ignored now.

Bethany regresses to the behavior and logic of a three-year-old in Heaven. Funny how she says she said she'll never forget that her actions led to a priest's untimely death and yet she only brings it up once or twice after she says that. Multiple people get killed because Xavier and Bethany go on the run and yet the body count their actions rack up don't matter to them. Those people are merely bits of collateral damage incurred on the way to their happily-ever-after (as I believe Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead once put it). Why Ivy and Gabriel put all their effort into defending Bethany and Xavier when they would be well within their rights to force the kids to deal with the tempest they've wrought upon themselves is a mystery.

Then there's this line is uttered by Gabriel: "Marriage is an indissoluble covenant between man and woman (ARC p. 37)."

Outright marriage bigotry. The implication that gay marriage is wrong is clear and it made me, a staunch supporter of LGBT-and-beyond rights, have a fit. Friends will be reporting back to me on whether or not this proclamation makes it into the final copy. I don't want this to be like the "gas pedals on a motorcycle" gaff from Hades that I raised a stink about only for it to not appear in the final copy. Unfortunately, since the purity myth bull permeating Hades didn't get cut, I have a bad feeling this offensive statement won't be cut either.

Girl-hate is everywhere in Heaven. Bethany presents herself as nonjudgmental, but the way she describes other women's clothes and behaviors is pretty judgmental, and the portrayals of human girls is twice as bad as that. Bethany's roommate Mary Ellen is portrayed as obsessed with Xavier and clingy. One girl is deemed bad for asking Xavier (who was undercover with a fake name/background as an unmarried college guy named Ford McGraw) on a date. What is wrong with creating a female character who isn't bad, one-dimensional, an airhead, or a punching bag?

Does this book even know what Christianity is? This is supposed to be an uber-Christian book, but it violates most of the religion's tenants and every rule in the angel handbook gets broken, including an angel and a human having sex (in a forest!). The only rule-breaking that comes with repercussions is Xavier and Bethany's marriage and that's because of the rogue Sevens, who aren't really following the rules. It's implied that God has no problem with Bethany breaking every angel rule she can get her hands on. That's a very large bird being flipped at Christianity.

Oh yeah, and there's something about Hell being up in arms, but that's not important. A visit from Lucifer halfway through the book when he possesses Xavier and a cameo by Jake's ghost is all Hell has to do with this book. That little plot thread about Hell's reaction to Jake's death in Hades gets left hanging there, snipped by a pair of Deus Ex Machina scissors. The real villain is Hamiel (a POC angel; making the only POC character evil was a bad idea) and the Sevens.

Double standards are nothing new in the Halo series, but applying double standards when comparing Xavier and Bethany's unhealthy relationship to Molly's unhealthy relationship is purposely spreading misinformation about what defines an unhealthy relationship. Xavier calls Molly insane for changing schools and making decisions based on what her boyfriend wants. That Bethany decided what college to go to, who her favorite football team was, what her favorite food was, and more based on what Xavier liked is not brought up or challenged. There are multiple jabs at the codependency Xavier and Bethany have and they're all either shut down or ignored. At one point, both characters say they will kill themselves if deprived of the other.

Why was Molly even in this book? The poor girl is a constant punching bag and putting her through an abusive relationship in this book was unnecessary, especially when that is the only time she plays a major part in this book. It almost felt like another jab at critics who say Bethany and Xavier have an unhealthy relationship. "You think they have an unhealthy relationship?" the situation seems to scream. "Well, you're wrong! Molly and her boyfriend Wade are going to show you what a real bad romance looks like!"

This isn't even funny anymore. This is dangerous. There is more than one shade of abuse in the relationship spectrum and ignoring Bethany and Xavier's shade to focus on Molly's like hers is the only one that exists is wrong. Young men and women need to be educated on all the ways, big and small, a relationship can go wrong, not just one or two ways.

And in the end, the only one who has to make a sacrifice so they can be together is Bethany. She has to give up an integral part of herself to be with Xavier and he doesn't have to give up one little thing to have Bethany back. Not even an eyelash. Supernatural or no, I'm disappointed and angered she is the one who has to conform to his life and start all over while he doesn't have to make any adjustments.

Now I am done. That's what matters. I am dancing around in my Jaguars pajamas because I am finally done and after this, I don't expect to pick up any more books I know I'm not going to like. It's all about the good books now, baby. (But I read a book I think I'll like and it turns out to be bad, any jokes at its expense are fair game.) Speaking of good books, I'm going to read some Courtney Summers in order to get over Heaven's mess. In my eyes, Summers just can't write a bad book.

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The pre-review I put so much love and hard work into is here:

 

[...The fuck? That cover? That is probably one of the cheesiest covers I've ever seen and I know cheese. It also looks painful. I wouldn't want to imitate that girl's posture for fear of joining my brother when he goes to get an MRI done on his back.

YA needs a lot of help right now. YA needs editors who will not let manuscripts like Halo and Hades slip by, manuscripts that may as well be written with ink made of fresh shit. YA needs authors who have original ideas, can do their research, know what is and is not romantic (like Bethany and Xavier's relationship? Not romantic. I think Virgil and Andi from Revolution, Alona and Will from The Ghost and the Goth, and Isobel and Varen from Nevermore are far better examples), and know what they're talking about, such as that motorcycles don't have gas pedals. (Full disclosure: that appeared in the ARC and was fixed before final publication.)

YA needs to take risks and publish a book that is different. Not just give-it-a-little-tweak different. Storylines, characters--I mean everything should be more unique and more diverse. Seriously, most of the YA I read and can find is about straight white people with no eyesight problems, medical disorders, or anything. Where's the YA book with a Korean main character or the girl who has to take medication every morning for her bipolar disorder? You can include details like that without making the story all about said details. YA's got to stop clinging to the trends!

Most of all, YA doesn't need authors like Alexandra Adornetto, Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, and the entire fleet of wanky authors seen in the first few weeks of 2012. The slut shaming and purity myth indoctrination and glorification/justification of abusive behavior has got to stop before it does even more serious damage to our generation of young women. Girls are worth a hell of a lot more than their virginity, their weight, or their appearances no matter what anyone has to say. They're worth their thoughts, their feelings, their passions, and most of all, they're worth themselves. They're sure worth more than a douchebag who controls them, keeps secrets from them, and won't let them be who they are. No one should be telling them any different.

There are many problems with YA and it's going to take a long time to fix them. I hope I'll be working to fix it from the inside one day, but it's the readers who can make a difference. Don't buy their books even for snark bait. Make noise. Support the good books. Do what you must to stop authors who want to keep preaching such damaging messages.

I get this is Adornetto's hard work and she has put a lot of effort into it. That doesn't mean I can't call it out for the badly written, misogynistic shit it turned out to be. Ignoring the problematic issues of a story just because bringing them up might hurt someone's feelings is much worse than calling them out on it. A book is not just a book; it is media by which people are seriously influenced. Letting her have the power to influence people through her books without holding her responsible for the terrible message she sends out is wrong.

Also, God looking down on haters? Seriously? He's God. He has more important things to do. Why would He condemn a group of people for being honest and speaking out against what they feel is an injustice?