Love Delivers Near Spiritual Experience
The first surprising thing about Lali A. Love’s “The De-Coding of Jo: Hall of Ignorance,” the first book in her Ascending Angels Academy, was the peppering of Tupac Shakur quotes throughout. The opening quote was surprising enough, but each chapter opening with one showed the pure love the author – and main character Jo – has for the artist.
Love’s main character is sixteen-year-old Jo, who attends Forest Hill Academy, a preppy co-ed private school. The story follows her and her best friends Nisha, Daphne, Reyes, Zaxden, and Flynn. Nightmares have plagued Jo since a homicidal maniac took her mother hostage a few months ago. Jo and her friends find solace in each other, as well as the casual use of illegal substances – the second surprising thing in this book, though not uncommon in teen novels. As the story unfolds, the friends find a doorway in the school’s basement leading to a Black Hole, accidentally releasing a long imprisoned darkness. This also triggers a transition in our main character, activating her Light powers. She finds a mysterious, antiquated Galactic Compass, uncovering various Galactic abilities to help her in her mission to defeat the darkness before it is too late.
Love beautifully weaves her characters into fully developed humans with flaws and characteristics, making them feel real and whole. This raises the stakes, making each loss to the evil parasites that much worse. Each twist of the knife all the deeper because of the intimate insight Love has given us into each of the cast of the significant characters in the story. Jo loves her friends deeply, it seems more than her own family, another way in which Love has captured the intensity and reality of being a teenager. The intimate beauty of the friendships between this group is a testament to the strength of Love’s abilities as a writer.
Sometimes, you’d thing that Love was, in fact, still a teen herself dealing with all of the issues she brings us through in this story. And issues, she faces. With everything from exploring sexuality to friendship betrayal to STDs and sexual assault, Love explores the gamut of the hardships of being a modern teen, including the inability to get away from the bullies because of constant contact through social media and cell phones. Because of how well Love wrote the characters and the interactions, I had to take breaks because of the intensity of the situations. Another feather in Love’s cap as a wonderful writer.
The strength of the characters are matched by the world which they inhabit. On the surface, their world is just like ours. But there is a seething underbelly of darkness waiting to devour them all. She pairs this with gorgeous descriptions of the Galactic Council and Ascending Angel Academy, from which Jo learns how to fight this darkness to save her world. The blending of images of demons, angels, light, darkness, and a matrix could be hard to follow. But it remained beautiful and intricate, and weaved images that worked to build a complex world needing so much more exploration.
Using music within Jo’s world is incredibly interesting. Certain frequencies cause good or bad effects on the psyche. I’m not sure if this is something that’s true, but I know some music makes me feel weird, so the exploration of this was interesting to follow. It becomes a huge part of the plot – so I don’t want to spoil it – but if you’re a music lover this will be very delightful for you.
This book merged ideas that sounded so much like religion, fantasy, and new-aged thinking making it a wild and intriguing ride. But the descriptions were enchanting and surreal. Love’s idea is so well fleshed out, it requires the full trilogy, and I can’t wait to see where this goes next. Jo is just beginning to explore her powers, and several huge twists in the book leave you wanting to explore more. The beautiful, peaceful way Jo renounces negative energy and so many horrible experiences have the potential to be so healing and transformative if you can open your mind and heart and listen. The book, in fact, felt like a soulful, almost spiritual experience, especially listening to it in the audiobook.
As for the audiobook format, the narrator took me a few minutes to get used to, which sometimes happens, but as soon as I did, it was a lovely experience. However, if you often listen to books with children in the car, this is not one that’s appropriate for that. There is casual drug use, some cursing, instances of sexual talk, violence, and other topics inappropriate for children or sensitive topics. The author has recommended the book for ages fifteen and up.
If you’re looking for an action-packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat with just enough drama, romance, and mystery to keep you going, this is the story for you.
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