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Book Review

This contemporary fantasy novel by Alexandra Adornetto is the first in the " Halo Trilogy" and is published by Atom in the United Kingdom and by Feiwel & Friends, a division of Macmillan, in the United States.

This book is written for ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Early one morning, Bethany descends to Earth with her companion angels, Ivy and Gabriel, arriving in the small town of Venus Cove. The three have been sent to help stem the tide of the bad things happening in town. As the youngest, most inexperienced and most human of the angels, Bethany enrolls in the local high school to blend in with the other teenagers, her brother angel, Gabriel, becomes the music teacher there, and her sister angel, Ivy, starts volunteering in town to make changes that better the community.

Bethany finds high school overwhelming because her angel senses are attuned to all the new physical sensations around her. She meets Molly, who helps her navigate the hallways and social traps of high school. Bethany tells her that Gabriel and Ivy are her siblings and that they are waiting for their parents to return from overseas. On her first day of school, Bethany also meets Xavier Woods. She immediately falls for this charismatic young man, even though attachments to their human charges are forbidden. Gabriel and Ivy warn Bethany to be careful, both in her friendship with Molly and her attraction to Xavier, but Bethany allows her new emotions to lead her astray. Molly also warns Bethany about Xavier. Ever since his girlfriend was killed in a tragic house fire, he hasn't had a relationship with anyone.

Molly asks Bethany to her house for a makeover party. After pleading with Gabriel to let her attend, Bethany is shocked to discover the makeover emphasis has been replaced with drinking alcohol. The young angel knows she should leave immediately, but she is curious to see what her classmates are doing. She accepts someone's offer of a drink; in fact, she has several, not realizing they have alcohol in them. When she begins to pass out, Xavier finds her and takes her home. Bethany fears her fellow angels' rebuke, but Gabriel and Ivy take care of the physical ramifications of her evening without punishing her. They understand that in her human form she's bound to make some mistakes. They spend a quiet day together, although Bethany is angered when she reads an article about violence in the Middle East and is told by Gabriel that they cannot intervene. Their jurisdiction is Venus Cove. They must let others take care of the rest of the world. Later, at a store, Bethany decides to help an elderly woman who must put her dog up for adoption. Bethany agrees to take care of the dog and bring it to the nursing home to visit the woman. Gabriel and Ivy welcome their new pet.

Xavier asks Bethany out on a date. Her fellow angels caution her not to accept. Although upset at first at their intrusion, Bethany realizes they are probably correct. She tries to ignore her feelings and plans on standing Xavier up, but on the night in question, she sneaks out of the house and meets him at the movie theater so she can tell him in person. He convinces her to have coffee with him. The two have a wonderful time talking, although Bethany can share few facts about her life. Gabriel is angry when Bethany returns home, but she cannot see what harm can come from her relationship with Xavier. At school, he becomes overt in his feelings for Bethany, sitting with her at lunch and asking to spend more time with her.

One day, the two come across a car accident outside the school. Bethany and two other students drag the driver from her car, unconscious. Before the driver can die, Bethany wills her to breathe and stay on Earth. Gabriel arrives and helps to heal the girl's internal wounds. Bethany passes out from the exertion, surprised later to learn that she had used her own life force to save the girl's life.

Bethany's feelings for Xavier continue to grow. At a bonfire she gets Xavier alone and tells him the truth of her identity, going so far as to unfurl her hidden wings and show him how she can fly. She is afraid that once he learns the truth, he will leave her, but he accepts her for whom she is and promises to keep her and the other angels' secret. Gabriel is furious with her betrayal and leaves to speak with the other archangels to determine what should be done. Gabriel returns, aggravated that a higher authority has overruled the covenant and that Bethany will be allowed to stay on Earth. She is delighted until Gabriel invites Xavier over for dinner. She fears her brother angel will make things uncomfortable for her new boyfriend. Xavier makes a good impression on the other angels and promises to help protect Bethany.

A new student, Jake, arrives. His English accent and bad-boy attitude quickly make him popular with the students. He and Bethany become partners in their English class and must write a love poem together. Jake's flirtations make her uncomfortable, but she tries to remember he is new to the area and makes friends with him. She overhears him trying to seduce the English teacher, who, although clearly attracted to him, tries to halt his advances.

Things begin to change around the high school. Bethany puts it down to Ivy's charitable work. There seems to be a new camaraderie among the students, although their primary concern is still the upcoming prom. Molly is bewildered that Bethany and Xavier haven't had sex yet. Her disbelief causes Bethany concern as she wonders whether Xavier is hiding his desires from her. Molly visits Bethany's house and tries to get Bethany to help her win Gabriel's affection. Bethany warns her that Gabriel is not like ordinary men, but Molly refuses to be swayed. She even starts volunteering with them in the community.

Xavier breaks his ankle and gets a concussion at a rugby game. Although he will heal, he is unable to take Bethany to the prom. At first, she wants to stay home, but Xavier insists she attend. Ivy has made a dress for her, and all her friends will be there. Jake asks if he might escort Bethany, and she agrees after talking it over with Xavier. She is wary when both Ivy and Gabriel have a negative reaction to Jake, but she ignores the warnings, as she knows both her angel siblings will be at the prom if she needs their help.

Bethany and Jake are named prom king and queen. After a mandatory waltz, Jake finds a way to escape the venue and get some fresh air. They argue when Jake insists that Bethany should break up with Xavier and date him. Jake stops her from leaving and kisses her. When Bethany refuses him, Jake threatens her. She begs Gabriel and Ivy to take her home. Bethany spends the rest of the weekend stressing about Jake's actions. She begins to worry when she doesn't hear from Xavier that something has happened to him. The following day, Molly shows her a picture of Jake and Bethany kissing that has been posted on Facebook. Bethany leaves school and heads to Xavier's house. He has seen the picture. He refuses to listen to her excuses, convinced that she cheated on him with Jake. That night she dreams that Jake pushes Xavier off a cliff. She becomes despondent over the breakup, refusing to eat or leave her bed. After several days, Gabriel and Ivy ask Xavier to come visit her. When he sees the state she's in, Xavier forgives her. They express their undying love for each other.

The angels and Xavier suspect that Jake is more than just a troublemaker. Several accidents have occurred in and around the school since his arrival, especially since the prom. When one of Bethany's friends kills herself in the school bathroom, Bethany sees Jake talking to the police. He flashes her a satisfied look before leaving the scene. Bethany has a vision, in which she sees her friend struggling not to kill herself, but unable to resist some unseen force compelling her to take her life. Later, Jake sends a poem threatening Xavier's life.

Molly is excited when Jake asks her out on a date, but when Bethany cautions her against him, Molly turns on her. Bethany fears Jake will hurt Molly, but Xavier insists Jake won't do anything while he is recruiting students into his inner circle of friends.

Gabriel and Ivy warn Bethany to wait until they've consulted with a higher authority before going after Jake and Molly, but she decides against it. After they figure out that Jake has taken Molly to the local cemetery, Xavier and Bethany go after him. They find him holding a ceremony among the graves in which he calls on demons to possess the bodies of the "friends" he's brought with him. After they watch one boy being possessed, they are shocked to see Molly brought into the circle of followers next. When they try to stop the ceremony, Jake attacks Xavier. First Jake tells him that he killed his first girlfriend, and then he attacks Xavier physically. Bethany rushes forward, offering her life for Xavier's and Molly's. Jake drains her of her powers, drugs her, and then transports her to his home. There he tortures her with images of violence and hatred, threatening to blacken her soul so badly that she will not be allowed back into heaven.

Gabriel, Ivy and Xavier arrive to save Bethany. She is almost dead, but Xavier's voice begs her to hang on. Gabriel and Jake battle, but Gabriel's sword of light seems unable to fatally wound the demon. Bethany sees that there is a bright light surrounding her and Xavier. Ivy tells her to use her gift, and Bethany understands it has something to do with the light. She and Xavier kiss, and Jake is thrown back by the light exploding from the couple. He is wrapped up by tentacles of darkness and dragged into a black abyss. When Xavier asks what happened, Ivy explains that it was their love that drove the demon away.

The demons that possessed the other students are driven away, and Ivy helps the students forget what happened to them. Bethany has trouble recovering from the ordeal, still remembering all the horrible images Jake forced her to see. After three months, everyone seems to be recovering well — until Bethany discovers a threatening note in her locker from Jake.

Christian Beliefs

The novel centers on Bethany, a young angel sent from heaven with two other angels to improve the life of the residents in and around Venus Cove. They all pray with Father Mel, a priest at St. Mark's. Bethany describes heaven as being a city with no physical presence, but still being the most wonderful place to see. She says that Gabriel is an archangel, created to be an emissary between God and humans. But he is also a warrior. He watched Sodom and Gomorrah burn.

(Note: Although Halo provides an unscriptural depiction of angels, we have included the following descriptions in this section due to their reliance on the reality of God, heaven and spiritual warfare.) Ivy is a seraphim, the closest class of angels to God. In the kingdom she has six wings, which represent the six days of creation. In battles, seraphim spit fire. Bethany is a transition angel, one who helps humans, after they die, to enter the kingdom. She also listens to the prayers of teenagers.

A character says to be grateful for small mercies. After Xavier rescues Bethany from Molly's party, she wonders what God, in all His wisdom, was thinking. Bethany dreams that she is standing before a heavenly tribunal that cast her out of heaven. In the vision, her wings break as she falls into a void. She calls the void perdition and says that she is lost. Bethany says that she has never met God. That honor is reserved only for the seraphim. She may not know what He looks like, but He is the embodiment of love. The angels attend mass at St. Mark's. Bethany is afraid that revealing the truth about her identity to Xavier is a sin, but she is unable to speak to God about it. When Gabriel learns what she's done, he secludes himself to talk to the other six archangels to decide Bethany's fate. Their desire to send her back to heaven is overruled by a higher power.

Xavier wears a crucifix. Xavier's mother threatens to not attend her daughter's wedding if it's not in a church. Jake jokingly wonders when Xavier will join the priesthood. Bethany defends St. Francis Xavier, saying that he wasn't crazy, but chose to live a simple life. Xavier makes the sign of the Cross and says grace before he eats. Bethany tells Xavier about Lucifer being cast out of heaven. Jake reminds Bethany that envy is a sin. Statues in the cemetery represent Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Gabriel offers Jake the chance to turn from Lucifer and be forgiven.

Other Belief Systems

A mysterious white robed figure with no visible face acts as a liaison between the angels on Earth and the powers in heaven. Ivy believes the reason why people don't feel safe is because they have no faith in each other. When Gabriel manipulates the weather in order to make the sun shine, a woman comments that he brings good luck. Xavier and Bethany have their palms read by a fortuneteller. Limbo is described as an eternal place of nothingness between heaven and hell. Some believe it to be worse than hell. Gabriel tells a student that nobody knows if there's a limbo. When Bethany wonders why he didn't tell him that there was a limbo, Gabriel explains that a person must decide to do what is right out of desire to do what is right, not a fear of judgment.

Bethany has heard stories about sinners being hung by their eyelids in hell. They are burned and ripped apart only to be healed so the process can begin again. The rivers there run with blood. Xavier's sister comments that she must have broken a mirror because she's having such bad luck planning her wedding. Bethany says there are seven levels to heaven. The Trinity resides in the seventh level. God's throne and the angels are in the first level of heaven. She compares the system to that of a corporation with the CEO being on top. It is said that there are more dimensions to our world than the living and the dead, and we exist parallel to other beings.

There are immortal beings called Rainbow People consisting of only wisdom who can travel between worlds. Bethany tells a dying woman that the Father is all forgiving and that when she dies she will be one with all the creatures of this world and others. Jake claims to be psychic when he correctly guesses Bethany's middle name. Gabriel says that demons search for humans to claim. They trick them to the underworld where they are forced to stay. Eventually they identify with their kidnapper and are corrupted. Jake brings a book of dark magic to the cemetery and uses the spells to call demons and raise the dead. Bethany says he speaks the language of the Underworld. Dark smoke pours from the statue of an angel. Jake forces open the mouth of a captive boy and the smoke goes down his throat. The boy's eyes turn black, and it is intimated that a demon has possessed him.

Authority Roles

As the oldest and most seasoned angel, Gabriel is the leader of the trio. He is seen as strict and brooding, but also caring and merciful. Xavier's mother is loving, but also very firm in her Christian and moral beliefs. Xavier's parents both influence his choices.


The word h--- is used both as an exclamation and a place. Someone is told to go to h---. B--ch is used alone and with son of a. The word d--n is also spoken. God's name is used in vain with oh, oh my, so help me and thank. The term good Lord is also used along with Jesus. Other objectionable words include suck, butt and holy crap. The acronym MILF is mentioned, although not entirely explained.

Some teens are involved in a fight at Molly's party. A young woman is pulled, nearly dead, from a car accident. A kitchen worker tips over a deep fryer and severely burns her legs. Bethany has a dream in which Jake pushes Xavier off a cliff. Xavier is deliberately hurt in a rugby game, breaking his ankle and sustaining a concussion. In a vision, Bethany watches a friend commit suicide by slicing her neck. Jake forces a young man to be possessed by a demon. Jake fills Bethany's mind with images of violence, illness and death, which are described. They cause her a great deal of pain, nearly killing her. Gabriel attacks Jake with a flaming sword, but Jake is able to shield himself from harm until the power of Xavier and Bethany's love overcomes him and sends him into an abyss.


Bethany imagines Xavier kissing her before they become a couple. Their first kiss and Bethany's physical reaction to it are described in detail. They share several more kisses. Jake forces Bethany to kiss him at the prom. After gym class, a girl dumps a cup of water down her shirt and makes a suggestive comment to the boys in the class. In a discussion about Romeo and Juliet, a boy says that Juliet's mother was a MILF. Another claims that Romeo just wanted to get into Juliet's pants. Bethany's friend Molly sits on a boy's lap while he strokes her back. A girl arches her back to give a boy a better look at her figure. At Molly's party, the teenagers play a game called "Treasure Hunt" in which the boys throw marshmallows at a girl's chest. If the marshmallow goes down her shirt, the boy uses his mouth to get it out.

Xavier and Bethany kiss so passionately in the school hallway that another student tells them to get a room. Xavier's parents refuse to let his sister's fiancé stay the night in the house, even in a separate room. Sex outside of marriage is not condoned. Jake tries to seduce the English teacher, promising her that he can be discreet and sliding his finger along her lips and neck. It is intimated that they would have kissed if not interrupted by another student.

Molly talks frankly with Bethany about sex, wondering what kind of things she and Xavier have done in the bedroom. She is surprised to learn Bethany hasn't even seen his penis yet. When Bethany expresses concern that they don't have that kind of physical relationship, Molly assures her that it's OK to take her time. Molly admits that she's done almost everything with a boy. Jake makes suggestive comments to Bethany, promising that he can make her feel wonderful things, but she refuses his advances. A friend asks Bethany if she wants to give up her V-plates, meaning virginity. She advises her not to give up her virginity to someone she loves because it won't hurt so much if they break up later.

A boy amuses himself by drawing a picture of giant genitals on the school entrance. Bethany and Xavier strip off their clothes and lie naked on her bed together but do nothing more than hold each other.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • How did you feel about the author's portrayal of angels?
  • What did you like?
  • What didn't you like?
  • What does the Bible say about angels? (See Psalm 103:20, Matthew 13:41, Hebrews 1:14.)

  • Bethany chose to stay at Molly's party, thinking she could speak to her friend, than make a quick exit.

  • Was she able to stick to her plan? Have you ever thought you could control a situation, only to find yourself in trouble?
  • If so, what did you do? What should Bethany have done?

Additional Comments/Notes

Drugs/Alcohol: Many teens get drunk at Molly's party, including Bethany. One boy drinks so much he vomits. Gabriel serves wine at dinner. Jake drugs Bethany.

Smoking: Several teens smoke cigarettes at Molly's party.

Lying: Bethany lies to Gabriel and Ivy regarding her relationship with Xavier. Xavier's father lies to his wife so Xavier can slip out of the house.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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