It’s been a sparse summer for posting, but a decent one for reading! So here’s a shot at a new series of posts on books I’ve recently read and my thoughts on them. I’ll try to stay away from spoilers, but it’s possible a few small ones may slip in, so be forewarned! Doing these is somewhat inspired by a blog I recently found called Young Adult Fiction and Whiskey Sours. Being a fan of both of those things, it was no surprise that I found the blog enjoyable, too! Check it out if you’re also a fan.
Summer of 2012 has been a YA fantasy-heavy summer for me. I blew threw the three novels in the Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins. The first book, of the same title, starts us of meeting Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch being shipped off to boarding school for supernaturals (or Prodigium, as they call it) who have trouble staying under the radar. On an island off the coast of Georgia, snarky Sophie’s journey starts off feeling very been there, done that. Young magically-inclined kid goes off to magic school and hijinx ensue, hmm, I’ve heard this one before… but, thankfully, it gets better.
Sophie’s snark goes a long way to endearing her to me, personally, as does her rejection of the Plastics and her befriending of her roommate Jenna, the only vampire ever at Hex Hall (and probably the only vampire ever to love hot pink so damn much!). Me, I love a good underdog, damn-the-man story, so I could get into this. The characters are fun and all of them are unique, albeit they also fall readily into archetypal roles. In this book, they don’t do much to crawl out of those roles either, with the exception of the leader of the Plastics, Elodie, and the Bad Boy Love Interest, Archer. Archer only really does so in his last scene in this particular book, so his break-out from the mold is more due to plot than anything else. Elodie, however, comes around to being not quite as much of a bitch without losing her essential bitchiness. And finally, the finale of the book does take some unexpected turns that had more teeth to them than I would’ve expected from the way the book started out.
As the series continues, the defined roles becomes less of an issue, but there are still some formulaic aspects I didn’t love, though they never prevented me from enjoying the books. Mostly the love triangle.
Sigh. The love triangle. The seemingly necessary hammer of the YA toolkit that pushes and shoves its way into everything. I’ve ranted about Love Trianglespreviously, but this one doesn’t really fall into the mire of taking up too much space in the book that I addressed in that post. The triangle in the first Hex Hall book fit in very well, and while parts of it were cliche, it made sense and took up as much room as it should have. In the second book, Demonglass, the triangle had shifted and it was here it felt unnecessary. By that time, it was very clear who the end-game couple was and how they felt about each other. That relationship had enough complexity and complication in it on its own at that point, and the occasional line or scene about how the second suitor was very handsome and really nice was just not needed. It never felt like the other couple would truly not work out somehow in the end. But, Suitor #2 did at least have other reasons for being in that story, at least, and in the overarching plot. So I appreciate that he wasn’t there purely as a romantic foil and nothing else.
My only other dissatisfaction is that the very end of the books has some unrealistic elements — yes, even given the sort of fantasy we’re talking about here — but it wasn’t anything that left a bad taste in my mouth. It just left me raising an eyebrow and saying, “Really? Well, alright then…”
Despite these few things, I really did enjoy the Hex Hall books. They’re great summer reads–fun, fast reads, with good twists and enjoyable characters who never act out of character for the sake of the plot — they make their decisions for good reasons and stick to them, and I love that about them. They aren’t always good decisions (even better!), but they make sense and they keep the drama going. Sophie is fun, Archer is intriguing, Jenna’s a blast, Elodie is a bitch, and I love them all for it!Hawkins also left a few hints to other plots that she could easily return to in future books, unconnected to what happened in this trilogy, and if she does I’ll be happy to pick those books up, too. The books had witches, werewolves, fairies, demons, vampires, and hints of much more, only a slice of which I got to learn a lot about in these books, so there is much to be explored yet and I hope Hawkins decides to do so at some point — I’d happily read those, too.