on 10 April 2016
On the surface it’s frivolous material based pleasure, but the faintest breeze of logic or critical thinking sends this book crashing down.
I can understand why this book can be fun to read, it’s a wish fulfilment fantasy where you can to live vicariously through the protag Bethany as she gets a rose-printed en suite room with a balcony overlooking the beach in her large, airy beachfront house with her siblings and perfect dog, hangs out with the most popular girls in school, gets stared at for being beautiful, comes top of the class in everything, gets the perfect fantasy boyfriend while living in the quaintest small town in the world, gets an awesome prom dress.
Oh yeah she’s an angel send from God on a heavenly mission too.
Three angels are send to the sleepy town of Venus Cove to stop the growing evil developing there, only this book had a serious case of telling and not showing.
We’re told repeatedly that Venus Cove is a sleepy, hick town of around 3000 people along the coast of Georgia, only what’s shown is an uber-rich commuter town. A tiny, sleepy, rural town in Georgia yet it has a French bakery, several quirky cafes where the kids can milkshakes from after school and dance to music on the jukebox and high tea is served on mismatched china, a high-class restaurant, a retro cinema, botanical garden, two beauticians, a hospital, a tennis club, a collection of local artists, several boutiques, and a massive private Christian school with more faculties then you can spread out across a few hundred children who attend.
It’s a town where apparently everyone knows everyone else yet a no-one calls the police on an extremely loud, underage party with liberal amounts of alcohol which sounds like it’s in danger of veering into a full-on orgy at any moment in the heart of the Baptist Deep South.
Only it doesn’t sound like the south at all, it barely sounds like it’s set in America. There’s a school Captain who’s a star at playing rugby, rugby is apparently now huge in the South, football isn’t mentioned at all, the school’s water polo team is apparently huge, people take the train to The City.
Yet apparently in this charming town some sort of evil is growing. Again, we’re told that a great evil has started engulfing the town and there’s no time to waste and the angels need to stop it by gently nudging people into buying organic food and doing volunteer work. What we’re shown is the most perfect town ever which has had a few freak accidents over the course of about a year. A house fire with one death, a student fell off the roof of the school and died, there was a measles outbreak, a cook burnt themselves with hot oil. Combined that those few freak accidents and lavish, purple prose descriptions of how lovely and charming and quaint everything is in Venus Cove as a reader I never felt any sort of challenge presented to the protagonists.
We’re told that the angels are almighty warriors of God who can reign terror and destruction, who are a source of pure light and powerful, heavenly beings. What we see them lazing about all day eating fruit, playing games and having splash fights on the beach.
We’re told that the antagonist of the story is evil, heartless and manipulative, an “Agent of Darkness”, who will stop at nothing to destroy the town of Venus Cove and capture Bethany along with it. What we see is him telling us that he’s responsible for the deaths of two characters the reader doesn’t care for and him forming his own goth cult. He might as well be wearing a sign which says “I am the bad guy.”
The plot makes next to no sense because it’s not there half the time. Instead we get treated to chapters on end of Bethany going to a house party, adopting the perfect dog, shopping for prom dresses, having a splash fight in the sea, meeting her boyfriend’s family, hanging out with her friends.
Also, any plot holes which get brought up, like why on earth these angels are at Venus Cove in the first place or why Bethany is allowed to stay on the “mission” when she’s proven herself all but useful are hand waved as, literally, “He works in mysterious ways.”
And the angels send aren’t just like Bethany, a very young mere angel. Nope, there’s a Seraph, Ivy (such a Biblical name) the highest rank of angels and the guardian of God’s throne. Yet somehow the archangel Gabriel (yes, the Gabriel) outranks her despite being only one rank higher the the mere angels which Bethany belongs too. That’s probably to do with the book’s insufferable sexism and gender roles but I’ll discuss that in a bit.
Ivy is a housewife who happens to also be an angel who does volunteering and makes the perfect prom dress for Bethany while they all scoff at newspaper about how terrible all of this killing is and do nothing about it.
Gabriel is the Man; the stern authority figure who Ivy always defers to despite him being a full six ranks below her. He does things like be a music teacher, conduct a church choir and dislike Bethany’s love interests.
And I can’t understand why they’re in Venus Cove. They even acknowledge there are worst things happening in other parts of the world, you know, like famine and war. I’m sure even in Georgia they could be faced with actual issues, rural poverty, urban poverty, lack of healthcare, substance abuse, prejudice – anything else will do apart from a handful of freak accidents.
Bethany even listens to the prays and dreams of the school students and all of them are really shallow, apparently no-one is praying for the insurance company to cover their dad’s illness, for their mother to stop drinking, for a family member to stop abusing them, for them not to be pregnant, for their sister’s cancer to be cured, for their parents to get a job, for them to move out of a toxic home, for a bully to stop harassing them. Nope, everyone just wants perfect hair or to get a boyfriend.
But of course, it wouldn’t be a Mary Sue dream fantasy if things were hard or difficult so they get to live in the most perfect, quaint town on the planet because God works in mysterious ways.
Apparently they’re meant to not be conspicuous yet they still have wings and apparently look enchanting, and little children see their halos to which I say why? Also, they’re meant to being keeping their distance from humans which means not making friends in a tiny town, being the strange, beautiful loner family in a supposedly, tiny sleepy town is not fitting in.
And despite being angels they love material wealth, staying in a large beachfront property with only the best interior design, en-suit rooms, a large garden, balconies over looking the beach and a seemingly endless budget.
This book is stupid and really sexist, as shown in these lovely quotes from the love interest.
“Because I’m a man,” Xavier said. “And men don’t wear makeup unless they’re emo or play in a boy band.”
“Me?” Xavier growled in mock anger. “Poetry’s for girls.”
“I’m a boy. We like engines.”
“Girls that are fake or try too hard are a major turnoff.”
It is full of statements like that, even if it’s meant to be passed of as a joke it doesn’t change the fact that they’re sexist jokes. Apparently enjoying dressing up and going to prom is the abandonment of feminism for some reason. All of the girls are obsessed to a near clinic level with boys, Bethany included as she will stand in front of her mirror practicing things to say to her own love interest.
Again, Ivy, a Seraph, defers leadership to Gabriel despite her being a being only second to God and Gabriel one rank above Bethany. Ivy does feminine things while Gabriel does masculine things. Despite being an angel it’s clear that Bethany defers to her love interest, Xavier and comes so co-dependent it’s acceptable for him to pick her up and carry her across a beach after she cut her foot on a shell. At one point Xavier has to come and recues Ivy from a teenage boy trying to ask her on a date.
Makeup isn’t for boys; boys are meant to be a provider, only boys care about cars and mechanics. Girls are meant to be innocent and delicate, only girls care about dresses, a boy is meant to ask a girl on a date, if you’re a good girl you don’t need makeup and go the parties, you nibble at desserts dainty and even if you’re an angel of the Lord you still need a man to save you.
If you’re a good and ideal girl like Bethany then you remain virginal, you don’t wear makeup, you don’t wear revealing clothing, you don’t party, you don’t drink, your skirt covers your knees.
Also, there aren’t any LGBT people at all in this novel. Like, there are angels and not one student who prefers to same gender.
On a similar note, this might be one of the most judgmental fictional novels I have ever read. It’s blatantly belief pushing. There have been works which include the angel/demon mythology and do it well, Halo is not an example of that. Just because the book doesn’t explicitly state other religions are wrong that does not mean that this book does not present the Christian truth as the only truth.
And it reads like the author is simply talking about what she learnt in Sunday school and put in her novel because half the time its brought up out of nowhere. Part of their duties is to bring spiritually to the town they’re send, which includes brining the town’s people into church. As a reader who holds no belief it kind of makes me feel a touch uncomfortable and excluded because you can’t go a chapter without Bethany going “btw the Christian belief is real and there is a heaven and hell and you’re going to one of them.” And it’s the inclusive of Judeo-Christian mythology which makes me uncomfortable either, it’s the handling of it and the handling is terrible.
The non-religious judgement is awful too. Every single character is a near caricature, the school is seemingly populated with no-one but bland, 1980s teen film stereotypes while Bethany will list out which cliques they belong to and judge them all for it. Apparently literature students are know-it-alls, the goths are wannabe Satanists and Too Edgy 4 U who they call weirdos (how enlightened) which turn out to be a plot-point, the artists were berets, the nerds are obsessed with being neat and scuttle about to avoid the wrath of the thuggish jocks. Bethany and her siblings will constantly lecture the audience on everything that comes to mind, that most people see religion has a fashion statement, that TV and social media are evil, true love is forever, don’t be sexually promiscuous, don’t drink alcohol, don’t have tattoos, conform to your properly assigned gender roles circa 1950.
At school Bethany becomes friends with the interchangeable popular girls and I’m fairly sure she’s only friends with them so she looks better in comparison. Apparently there aren’t any conservative, pious, religious girls (because boys and girls can’t be friends because of gender norms) for Bethany to hang out with. At a Christian school in Georgia.
Basically, there are two main plotlines; Bethany adapting to life on Earth and finding herself too drawn into human life and falling in love with a human boy which is forbidden, and the dark forces trying to take over Venus Cove.
Bethany eventually begins to date the love interest, Xavier Woods after several pointless plot points happen and I think the author, really, really wanted to push the “forbidden love” angle on their relationship and failed. There is some melodrama with Bethany dramatically tearing up Xavier’s phone number, Gabriel forbidding the relationship, Bethany worrying about keeping her secret away from Xavier, and how an angel and a human cannot fall in love but it all gets completely resolved by the mid-point of the novel. Bethany reveals herself to be an angel to him, apparently this is a serious no-no so instead of fighting demons and general evil a high council of angels decide that a mere angel revealing herself herself to a lone schoolboy is of the upmost importance. And then He Works in Mysterious Ways happen and Bethany is allowed to stay.
And then she gets to date Mr Perfect, probably one of the most boring love interests ever written. He’s perfect, he’s handsome, he’s the school Captain, he’s the best at sports, he’s aims to go to medical school, his family life is perfect. Oh yeah his old girlfriend died in a house fire two years ago and one of his friends was the guy who fell of the roof and died, it’s brought up as supposedly emotional baggage but as zero impact on the plot. Though Bethany will spend time waffling about how he’s suffered through so much at such a young age, and how it’s a miracle that he’s still able to smile through it and not be bitter in a tone which suggests that he deserves a medal for it and not that children much younger suffer much more.
Then, once Bethany and Xavier have their perfect relationship the main antagonist arrivals nearly two thirds of the way through the novel and he might as well be called Demon McEvilton, but instead he went for the slightly less evil name of Jake Thorn. He might as well introduce himself by saying “I’m the bad guy”, in case you missed his leather jacket, tattoos (of a snake), piercings, rebellious attitude, dogs snarling at him, oily tone of voice, fedora, motorbike and British accent. But you know, he writes poetry, Bethany’s stupid and the author’s a Twilight fan so you might as well throw in an awkward love triangle because why not?
And despite Bethany, an angel, acknowledging that he makes her uneasy, he’s untrustworthy, he’s not what he seems – she decides to ignore all of that and befriend him.
Then Jake does something really evil, using his demon powers to cause Xavier to fracture his ankle playing rugby and is left with a concussion, Bethany notices a mysterious stranger on the pitch and then just forgets she saw it. Then it turns out that because of that Xavier can’t go to the prom, which apparently is a once in a lifetime event second only to your wedding day, with Bethany so instead of just going stag, or going with some friends, or not going at all, she decides to go with Jake instead. He arrives at her house and the Seraph and archangel can’t figure out he’s a demon too.
During prom Jake sexually assaults Bethany, forcing her to kiss him, a photo of this emerges on social media and Xavier immediately blames Bethany for it and refuses to even let her explain what happened and makes it all about his manpain not that his girlfriend was assaulted. Yet somehow they are an amazing couple and it’s true love.
This drama lasts for a few pages until they make up and it’s like it never happened.
Then it turns out that Jake is actually a demon. What a shocking twist. He makes one of Bethany’s interchangeable friends commit suicide and starts to gather a high school cult. And it turns out that Jake isn’t just killing people, he’s making them turn into goths. A fate worse then death.
Then there’s an extremely stupid and badly written climax, turns out Jake is luring his goth cult, which are written to be as offensive as possible to goths everywhere, to a graveyard because apparently the heart of goth culture is death?
Bethany’s an idiot and gets herself spirted off with Jake, who tells her that unless she decides to be his he’ll kill her like he killed Xavier’s girlfriend and make it look like an accident by tying her up to her bed while he set fire to her house. And no-one spotted that? I get that he’s a demon but it sounded like Jake physically tied her up and even the most intense fires usually live behind some forensic evidence.
Gabriel tries to kill him, and Ivy, a creature second only to God, really does nothing until Bethany defeats him with the power of love the end and everything is back to being perfect with a large footnote for the sequels.
All of it makes Bethany look like a complete idiot. She rejects God and heaven to be in puppy love with a boy who she’s only known for a few weeks at the most. She doesn’t know anything about alcohol and when at a party she begins to fell drunk because she doesn’t know anything about it she decides to drink more. She can’t even say the word ‘sex’, she doesn’t recognise that Jake is a demon despite the author not being able to make it any more obvious unless she gave him horns and a tail.
Overall I can see why this book would be fun to read, but it’s shallow and utterly stupid.