Hex Hall (Hex Hall 1), by Rachel Hawkins
Release Date: March 2010
Received: Library book
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
After botching a love spell and blowing her cover as a witch, Sophie finds herself sent to a boarding school for rule breaking witches, warlocks, vampires, fairies, werewolves and shape shifters. Once there, Sophie engages in typical teenage situations, including sparring with the mean girl clique, crushing on a super-cute popular boy, and making friends. Sophie also discovers the web of secrets her family has been keeping from her as she delves deeper into understanding her powers. Complicating matters further are mysterious deadly attacks on the popular girls, and Sophie's best friend seems the most likely suspect.
While the "regular girl" aspects of the story are cute, they don't stand out as particularly fresh in any way. Sophie and all of the secondary characters, while easy to like, are interchangeable with a dozen different casts across the genre. The paranormal aspects are equally trite, with Hawkins offering nothing new or interesting to the genre. As a result, while I wasn't annoyed with the book, I was bored and unengaged for the first 100 pages.
Due to all the positive reviews, I decided to keep reading and I'm glad I did. Hawkins slowly drops clues to a greater plotline, and as the story progresses, Sophie uncovers more and more secrets and questions. The multiple mysteries kept my attention, and as I pieced together the clues and discovered questions that led to deeper mysteries, I finally found myself feeling that rush of excitement and *need* to read more. While a few of the "big reveals" were obvious well in advance, Hawkins did manage to throw me a few curve balls. Allusions to Sophie's ancestors and their involvement with secret societies set the stage for the next book and, at this point, I'm dying to know what happened in the past and how that will affect Sophie in the present.
Despite a rocky start, Hex Hall is a good addition to the paranormal YA genre. Light and sweet, this first book in the series hints at darker events in future installments, which will hopefully bring more depth and excitement to the stock cast and setting. As far as cliffhangers go, the central mystery about the attacks on the students is answered in this book, but there are a ton of questions still left unanswered that readers will have to remember for when Demonglass (book 2) comes out in March.
Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key