Tuesday, July 10, 2012

[review] Rachel Hawkins - Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)

Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: Hex Hall, #1
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: Local library
Format read: Hardcover
Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookdepository 
Summary (via Goodreads):
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 student 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.
Random paragraph: "Elodie just snorted out loud at that. 'Please, Anna. Big boobs are not enough to compensate for being short and plain. And that hair!' Even though I couldn't see her, I imagined Elodie gave a shudder at that. I, meanwhile, was starting to feel vaguely nauseated. I knew I should walk away, but I couldn't stop listening. I wonder why it is that we always want to hear people talk about us, even if it's horrible stuff. And, you know, it's not like Elodie was saying anything I didn't know. I was short and plain and I did have crazy hair. I'd said these things about myself lots of times. So why were hot tears stinging my eyes?" (p. 207, hardcover edition)

The following review can be summed up in one sentence: "That awkward moment when everybody loves a book but you."

This was highly recommended by friends and acquaintances. However, it didn't work for me at all.

Let me get this out of the way: The book is a very easy, quick read. The prologue sucked me in. It's absolutely hilarious. At prom, Sophie takes pity on a fellow classmate, Felicia, and casts a love spell so she can get her dream date. It, of course, backfires immensely:
I looked over and saw several of the teachers running for the doors.
Which weren't there anymore.

That was because a silver Land Rover had crashed through them.

Kevin Bridges staggered out of the driver's seat. He'd cut both his forehead and his hand, and was bleeding on the shiny hardwood as he bellowed, "Felicia! FELICIA!"
As punishment for putting humans in danger, Sophie is sentenced to spend the rest of her teenage years in Hecate Hall, a place for wayward supernatural juveniles. There, she mingles with shifters, weres, other witches, and vampires. However, after she arrives and is courted by a coven of dark witches, she finds out that a dark witch, Holly, was killed months before -- drained of blood, with two holes in her neck. And the prime suspect is Jenna, her vampire roommate.


I like fluff. I have nothing against fluff. But I had to suspend my disbelief more often than not in this book, and it got really, really tiring.

One thing that really annoyed me was how two-dimensional the characters were. There were several times while reading that I was strongly reminded of House of Night by P.C. and Kristin Cast. That's not a complimentary comparison. There's the typical "mean girl" group; there's the hot stud who everyone wants. And while I was reading this, it made me wonder how much of an exception my high school experience was, because there was none of that going on.

Sophie is kind of... dumb. Sometimes I can be too trustworthy of people, but some of her decisions made me seriously question her judgment. For example, when Sophie's offered "advice" on how to deal with a teacher (pg. 112):
"She'll definitely pick on you because you're new," Chaston said.

"But," Elodie cut in, "she's super vain. So if you get in trouble, compliment her on her tattoos."

"Tattoos?" I asked. ...

"She has these really pretty purple tattoos all over her arms. They're magical symbols of some kind, like runes or something," Elodie continued. "She's really proud of them. Say you like them, and you're in for life with the Vandy."
I would think that most people would go, "Wow, this is a bad idea." But... Sophie goes through with it, and the results are, of course, terrible. (Bonus: This was just after a scene in which the new students saw a movie-like vision of villagers carving "symbols" on a warlock's body, to "ward off" evil magic. We then find out that Vandy's tattoos are a symbol of the "Removal", which takes away her magical powers. So... yeah. Sophie. Not too bright.)

There were several things going on that just made no sense. For example: when Sophie gets to the school, she is immediately pounced on by a werewolf and is magically saved by Archer, bad boy-stud-love interest. Archer is chastised for using magic to protect her, but there's... no repercussions for the werewolf? Another example: when more murders begin occurring, the administration and teachers seem to entertain no possibilities other than it being Jenna, even though it clearly wasn't. "Demons? Evil organizations? Don't be silly, run along now." For a school dedicated to nurturing supernatural teenagers, they are horrible at taking care of their own. Like, wow.

There's also a point at which Sophie's sentenced to cellar duty -- she talks about having never been in a cellar before. Except that she's supposedly lived in nineteen states. Which just made me think: "You've lived in nineteen-plus different living spaces, and you've never had one with a basement before?" Is it even possible to live in nineteen states without living in one prone to tornadoes? (Actually, she mentions having lived in Indiana before, which just adds to how nonsensical this is.) 

I'm actually going to come back to the concept: humanity's frightened of witches, supernatural beings, etc, so they're sent to a school to protect them from evil organizations. Okay, cool. At one point, I thought, "Would people be so frightened of that, though? I mean, if somebody witnessed somebody performing real magic, in a world where Harry Potter is a pop culture phenomenon, wouldn't people instead go 'WOW, AWESOME'... ?" I wondered that while reading... and then came across a Harry Potter reference. WITHIN THE NOVEL.


Even the plot "twists" at the end were kind of... meh? I guessed what had happened to Holly as soon as her death was talked about, and I was pretty darned accurate when the "revelation" popped up. I kind of liked what happened with Archer, and Sophie's decision at the end, but not enough to pick up the next one and put myself through more torment. 

Overall: I know that this is kind of big right now, but it wasn't for me at all.

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