Now, this is what I'd call a delightful, funny and intriguing YA novel. I picked this up only after so many of my fellow bloggers raved about it and I must say, I read it in record time. And before I forget, if you've read Hex Hall (or are reading it now), visit the author's blog here. Rachel is such a hilarious person and I thoroughly enjoyed reading her blog as a sort of companion to the book. My favorite post? Romance Novels in LOLKat Speak. Yup, that's how cool she is.
And now with the sequel of Hex Hall approaching, it's the perfect time to read it!
The novel is a (yet another) spin on the boarding-school-magic-mystery thing. The protagonist is Sophie Mercer, a 16-year old witch who is one of the rare magical people living outside the world of magic. When she makes a spectacle of herself at her high school prom, she is forced to move into Hex Hall, a reform school populated by shifters, fairies and other witches. Sophie's roommate is Jenna, a vampire and a social outcast. The antagonist is Elodie, a beautiful witch with a beautiful boyfriend - who of course, Sophie has her eye on.
This fast-paced book would (genre-wise) be most easily qualified as a mystery - there are strange deaths of Sophie's peers happening around her and she if forced to uncover secrets about both the magical world and herself. Yet, the mystery part of the book is the weakest. I was not satisfied with the story's resolution - it wrapped up too quickly and confusingly, leaving (intentionally) a question or two unanswered. I wish the events were laid out more slowly. This would inevitably result in a longer book, but I think that it would be beneficial.
Hawkins is strongest when it comes to dialogue. Her naturally spunky personna, so evident on her blog (seriously, it's awesome!) is translated to the book and Sophie is one hell of a character. Bright and funny, she holds this book together. Archer, the love interest is brilliantly written, with mystery to him as well. I am very, very interested to read more about the mysterious grounds keeper. The other characters may seem a bit bland. I found Elodie particularly problematic. Essentially a stock character, she is given some dimension (the usual no-one-is-that-bad-when-you-get-to-know-them kind of thing), but in this case I found it distracting. Another thing I really enjoyed about the book is that Hawkins does not insist we grasp her entire mythology right away. Rather, we find out about it more as we go - kind of like Charlaine Harris, rather than J. K. Rowling.
Overall, I recommend Hex Hall as light reading and a great YA debut novel. I am looking forward to reading Demonglass as soon as it comes out and am hoping that the next two books will bring more dimension and perspective to Hawkins' world (and, more particularly, Archer. I'm a fanboy, deal with it).
Oh, and by the way, there is a gay character. It's the magical realism of the book - a gay character no one has a problem with. Rachel, I love your vision of the world.