The first sign that Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins would be a good book was when I stayed up too late reading. And then repeated the process three nights in a row, until I was finished.
The book’s strongest selling point is narrator Sophie, whose sarcastic sense of humor is the driving force behind the narrative and helps liven up what could have been an otherwise humdrum novel. Instead, what Hawkins presents to us is a fresh, funny and charming story about a reform school for the magically-inclined. It’s a little bit Gossip Girl, a little bit Hogwarts and a whole lot of original.
Mixed in with all the drama of being the new girl in a reform school full of witches, shape-shifters and faeries is the added mystery of having a potential murderer on the loose. Plus, you’ve got Sophie’s not-so-easy friendship with the school’s only vampire and her crush on Archer Cross, who may or may not turn out to be the ultimate bad boy. (Either way, he’s got just the perfect balance of charm and danger about him to keep you engaged. And crushing on him a bit yourself, too.)
I’m a sucker for a good YA fantasy/supernatural thriller — and Hex Hall has that in aces and spades. But what really charmed me was the sense of humor woven throughout the entire book. Even amidst some of the most tense scenes, Hawkins deftly adds a turn of phrase or a quick one-liner that lets you laugh, before the tension sets in again.
And while there are so many books in this genre available right now, Hawkins still manages to keep it fresh and unpredictable. I am certainly looking forward to further adventures at Hex Hall. (UPDATE: Just heard from Hawkins that Hex Hall #2 will be out March 1, 2011.)
Here is the official synopsis:
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.
As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.