Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
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.
There are certain times when I have no idea what to read next, so I just grab something random off my shelves. I'm very happy I grabbed Hex Hall, because it had been sitting on my shelves for a few years and I honestly cannot explain why I haven't read it yet. I finally did one Saturday when I wasn't feeling well and it was such a fun and entertaining read. I have already begun reading the sequel and put the third book on hold at my library.
I have always been a fan of books about witches and I love the idea of a school for "magical people" such as Hecate Hall: the boarding school our main character is sent to after a love spell gone wrong. Sophie Mercer was a delightful protagonist, I loved how fun and realistic her narration was and she seems like a girl I would want on my side whether it was a real life issue or something paranormal! Sophie knew next to nothing about her powers before arriving at Hecate (aka Hex Hall) and I felt for her because it must be terrible to realize strangers know more about your life than you yourself do. Sophie handled things in the way any real teenager would and this made her that much more relatable.
At Hex Hall, there are witches, warlocks, shifters, weres, and faeries (all of these are known as Prodigium). While at first I was worried Hex Hall was not going to bring anything new to the table with these creatures, I found myself very interested in the world Rachel Hawkins had developed. There were a few similarities to other books I have read, but I soon found myself forgetting about that and becoming completely immersed in Sophie's story. There was a lot Sophie had to learn about being a witch and the reader was uncovering secrets and detangling mysteries right alongside her.
The plot surprised me in quite a few ways. I thought I had something figured out and then Hawkins would throw a curveball. There was rarely a dull moment and Sophie's inquisitive nature made certain we were never in the dark for long. Sophie also befriended some interesting people at Hex Hall and they only added to the mystery. For one, Jenna, Sophie's roommate, was a vampire, and was being blamed for several recent attacks. There were also three witches that wanted Sophie to join their coven. Plus a ghost, a girl that could shift into a mountain lion, a hot groundskeeper that was nothing like Hagrid, and many more unique characters. Also, this list would not be complete without mentioning Archer Cross, the attractive and snarky warlock who had caught Sophie's eye. I liked seeing how Sophie's relationship with all of the characters developed and her loyalty made her that much more likable.
I thoroughly enjoyed Hex Hall and while at times things seemed a bit predictable, I still found myself surprised at certain developments. Sophie was such a great main character and I'm eager to see what will happen in the sequel. There were a lot of loose ends left untied at the end of this book and I'm glad I already have a copy of Demonglass ready to go. This was a refreshing and light debut, with darker themes intertwined, that is definitely worth a read.
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars
March 2, 2010/Hyperion Books/336 Pages/Young Adult/Book One
Source: Publisher (Hardcover)
-- plus, a new spin-off series is coming out in May of this year. The first book is called School Spirits!