BWB Review: Hex Hall

Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Page Count: 323 pages
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Copy for review compliments of the public library

50 words or less: Sophie is a witch, and not very good at witchery, which lands her at Hecate, a reform school for supernatural teens who lack self control. Sophie hopes that this will be a place where she can at least fit in and not maim anyone. If only things were that simple.

Oh, Hex Hall. Reading you was fun, for the most part, and that’s always a good thing. You were sweet and at times so cute that I wanted to pinch your little cheeks. You incorporated some of my favorite elements; the boarding school, the quirky female narrator, the adventure, the PG but still adorable developing romance, the paranormal element. It was all there, and yet, for all that the ingredients were spot-on, the final product was missing…something.

The widespread influences on this story are pretty much immediately apparent. That wouldn’t have been a bad thing, except I spent most of the book being reminded of events in other books and other series, instead of being able to focus on what was going on in this story. In many ways, I feel like Hex Hall was more of a cocktail of other stories than a unique offering in its own right.

Easily my favorite part of the story was Sophie’s narrative voice. I loved the use of colloquial phrases, her unique perspective on things, and quotes like this:

There was a sensible part of me somewhere that clutched its pearls and hissed that I better not give up my V-card in a cellar, but when Archer’s hands slid under my shirt and onto the skin of my back, I started thinking that a cellar was as good a place as any.

Archer, of course, is the love interest in the book, and while all the raw materials for good romantic tension were there, I felt like that facet of the book needed a little more development. Hopefully, especially in light of the BIG PLOT DEVELOPMENT at the end of the book, that’ll be coming in the second book, because even at the end of the story, I wasn’t sure what, besides your regular old boy likes girl, girl likes boy hormonal fireworks were attracting to these two.

Which brings me to what is probably my biggest issue with the book. I felt like, in light of how little Sophie knew about the supernatural world, the extent of her power, and the dangers facing her because of her parentage, that her survival to this point was kind of a miracle. I mean, she did have mishaps with her magic, like the dance debacle in the first chapter, but for someone who’s a huge target, has unforeseen powers, and has all kinds of wacky creatures in her family tree, that stuff is pretty white bread. I also found myself feeling kind of annoyed after awhile with the fact that literally everyone else in the book knew what was going on, but Sophie didn’t. My frustration was directed towards the adult characters, for the most part, because how was Sophie supposed to find out this incredibly important stuff without a) asking impertinent questions, or b) stumbling into situations that a little information would have prevented?

There comes a point where cuteness in a book has to give way to substance, and I didn’t quite reach that point with Hex Hall. I’m hoping that more development happens in the next book, both in terms of plot and in character development.

Overall Grade: B-
Blog with Bite Rating: 2/4

Discussion Questions: (possible spoilers ahead!)

Sophie is abandoned by her father for her supposed protection. Do you believe there is anything that justifies abandoning your child? I definitely feel like there’s a lot that needs to be explained about Sophie’s dad and why he made the choices he did. I get that supernatural creatures of his ilk are incredibly powerful and that that might be dangerous, even deadly, to people around him, but if that’s the case, why did everyone tell Sophie she was a witch, instead of what she really was? What was the protection in her being uninformed? It seems like that was just begging for an incident to happen. And, considering how many times Sophie was humiliated by other people knowing stuff she didn’t about her own life, family and heritage, it seems like all that came as a result of Sophie being alienated from her family was her not fitting into the supernatural world either.

Did Hex Hall remind you of any other series? Short answer? Yes. Harry Potter, Evernight, you name it. Some of the references were well-done, some were a little overt for my liking. I felt like this book needed a little more original content and a little less deus ex machina and themes that were already done in other books.

Normally when you think of Dark Witches and White Witches, you think good and evil. This series seemed to have a different take on that all together. It almost had an apathetic take on human life with only care taken if their secret might be revealed. Do you find this disturbing or real?Philosophically, I’m a believer that power is power, and what you do with it determines whether you’re a good witch or a bad witch, so to speak. I think the doings of the dark witches at Hecate for me were more a reminder that these allegedly dangerous supernatural miscreants were still relatively unsupervised, which seemed like a pretty unwise thing to do.

Looking forward to the next book, or pass on it? Why? You know, I’ll probably pick up the next book at some point, just to see how the threads of the story are resolved (or not) but I do think I’ll be supporting my local library for that.

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