Author: Heather Burch
Title: Halflings
Publisher: Zondervan

In Halflings, a new YA romance from Heather Burch, an innocent, alluring teen girl must choose between the affections of two hunky, mysterious half-human beings while a ferocious battle between good and evil rages around her.

Sound familiar? True, paranormal romance has been the rage in YA fiction ever since Bella Swan first made her fateful choice between Team Edward and Team Jacob. Burch’s Halflings, the first entry in a new series, is full of the kind of swelling adolescent emotions/hormones that dominated Twilight and its three sequels. In that regard, it’s certainly timely, but while it’s chock-full of pulse-pounding teen passion, the book manages to come off surprisingly tepid.

Seventeen-year old Nikki Youngblood fends off a pack of hellhounds in the novel’s opening, aided unknowingly by a trio of quasi-angelic guardians. While she nurses her injuries and attempts to return to her normal school life, she begins to uncover the truth about these beings, who seem to pop up whenever she’s in trouble. As she learns about their role as her protectors, Youngblood also discovers her role in a larger plot involving the shifty Omega Corporation and their genetic experimentation.

This plot takes a backseat to Youngblood’s budding attraction to two members of this group, who call themselves the Lost Boys. They’re beings who inhabit the middle plain, between heaven and earth, older and physically superior to humans, but not the angelic beings in heaven. The descendants of angels and human women, these misfits are still called upon by God to perform security missions guarding chosen humans. They’re tall and muscular, with flowing hair and a wardrobe straight out Rolling Stone. So, obviously, Nikki’s totally into them. One, Mace, is the kinder, gentler type, interested in Nikki’s feelings. His compadre Raven is the bad boy who gets Nikki’s pulse pounding with his adrenaline-cranking hijinks and desire to get close on any occasion.

Burch is most successful when she dives inside Nikki’s head to swim in the swirling emotions involved in her attraction to both her new admirers. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of narrative momentum involved in this plot. It’s mostly a back-and-forth between scenes involving Nikki and Mace, and those involving Nikki and Raven. But not much happens, except for the typical, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” dilemma. Nikki’s emotions are authentically rendered, but it doesn’t seem like much is at stake. She’s kind of in a win-win situation here, as both of her interests are every teen girl’s dream, except for not being allowed into heaven, which makes them fit into the tortured soul group. This is also a point of attraction. A secondary plot, which will presumably carry over into subsequent books, involves Nikki’s growing understanding of where she fits into a larger good-vs.-evil battle. Little is revealed in this book in that regard, which again doesn’t give the plot much drive.

Something about Halflings feels a bit late to the party, capitalizing on a hot trend, but not offering much that’s new. And there’s a surprising lack of material of any spiritual import here. Aside from the main conflict involving angels, there’s little which relates in any way to spiritual themes. Other than thumbing through a gifted Bible, Holly spends much less time considering spiritual matters as she does physical ones. It’s a shame that’s the case, because there’s a real opportunity here to inject some spiritual meat into a typically superficial genre. Unfortunately, so far in this series, it seems like an opportunity wasted. If the market hasn’t moved on to new ground already, Halflings should find its mark. It’s nothing original, but with its timeless themes of passion and forbidden love, it might not need to be.