Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
I never knew that Harry Potter screwed me over for life. I mean, as if dressing up as Ginny for midnight releases [both book and movie releases], reading the entire series all the way through five summers in a row, and posting status updates from Harry Potter Pickup Lines wasn't enough. No, now every book I will forever read that takes place in a school for magical beings will have a "been there, read that" flair to it. But who am I to banish Hex Hall to hiatus Hawaii simply for being a school for magical weirdos that I secretly wish I could attend? Jealousy don't stop me now!
First off, I want to say right away that I did not dislike Hex Hall. It isn't sea salt caramel dark chocolate good, but it's got a sweetness to it that made it a very easy read, and actually made me laugh out loud [for realsies yo!] a couple of times.
The right of it:
Sophie, the main character, spoke the way an ACTUAL TEENAGER WOULD SPEAK. Ms. Hawkins got that spot on, in my opinion.
Lord Byron is a professor? *swoon* nuff said, except that he's described as this hottie, and I definitely learned in all my Brit Lit/Romantic courses that he had a clubbed foot and wasn't all that hot. Still, I got English-major-excited over this.
The lesbian sidekick. Again, MAJOR props to Ms. Hawkins on this one. And not because she made a character a lesbian--no, the wonderful thing is that there is no focus whatsoever on her sexuality being different. No gay jokes, no mean girls sneering at her, and no comments about sharing a room with another girl. I mean, she's a vampire, but I have to say the humanness of Jenna was the best part. Gay characters deserve the same amount of consideration as straight characters, and shouldn't be isolated from other characters simply because they are into someone of the same sex [cough cough that gay guy from House of Night, who I can't even remember the name of because he was so overblown and stereotypically flamboyant].
There's not a lot of romance. Normally, this wouldn't be a good thing, but having an unrealistic setting doesn't mean having an unrealistic relationship. I've read too many books lately about the girl falling for a guy out of her league and the guy just POOF loving her back. Also, Sophie realizes right away she's crushing on Archer, and doesn't go around for chapter after chapter questioning her hormones. That's exactly how I remember it from high school.
A few other things I could list, but everything can be summed up in one word: accurateness. Ms. Hawkins kept her characters grounded and believable, but I could believe in their actions because I identified with them more than any other YA character I've read about in the past few months.
The wrong of it: Twilt be a short list, because I don't need to go into too much description.
Elodie=Aphrodite. If you've read House of Night, you know what I'm talking about. Too many similarities.
Crappy antagonist. No fighting, no nothing really. Super anticlimactic ending. It literally goes from All Good to All Bad within a page, and then on the next page [I'm not exaggerating] Sophie is back in her room chatting to Jenna like NBD.
The school itself. Oh yes, I'm going here. Because Hex Hall comes off as the magic school that got rejected from the Triwizard Tournament for being too lame. I like the idea of sending the kids who screw up with their magic somewhere, but Ms. Hawkins could have done SO MUCH MORE. There are only three supernatural categories, not including vampires, and I would have loved loved loved to read more. And even then, there was hardly any focus on the magic itself. Spells seemed ridiculously easy, and what were the shapeshifters and fairies doing throughout the entire book? Sleeping?
I've come to the conclusion that yes, Hex Hall has to be compared to Hogwarts, but not because it's a school for magic. No, it's because Hex Hall doesn't seem like a place I wish I'd magically be transported to. That's what makes Hogwarts so great, the fact that you'd give up your childhood and your first love to get that letter in the mail admitting you. And if your characters aren't developed enough, then you shouldn't place them in an underdeveloped magic school. One of these elements must be expanded, or you're left with a lot of fluff and a could-have-been-better story.
All of the good in this book made me bump up my initial three star rating to four. Hex Hall has a lot of potential to be more than just an easy read, and for the sheer reason that it made me laugh. Not many authors can do that. Accurateness and believable situations/characters outweighs so much underdevelopment, so all in all, a good time can be read by all!