Hex Hall: Tropey but fun

Hex Hall by Rachel HawkinsHex Hall by Rachel HawkinsHex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall (2010) is Rachel Hawkins’s debut novel, a young adult paranormal boarding school story.

Sophie Mercer is half-witch and half-mortal, but lives alone with her single human mother and knows little about her magical father. After wrecking her high school prom with a disastrous spell, Sophie is sent to Hecate (nicknamed Hex) Hall, a school for delinquent magical beings.

In her human school, Sophie was outcast for her witchy powers. At Hex Hall, her magic is not at all unusual, but the social hierarchy is no less daunting. Sophie quickly runs afoul of the in-crowd: befriending her roommate, Jenna, who is ostracized for being a vampire and suspected of murder; turning down the elite girls’ offer of coven membership; and developing a crush on the queen bee’s boyfriend, Archer.

A series of near-deadly attacks begins taking out the coven members, and Sophie is unsure whom to trust. The injuries look like vampire bites, bringing Jenna under suspicion, but there is also a witch-hunter at Hex Hall who may have his own reasons to harm the girls. Meanwhile, a mysterious ghost appears frequently to Sophie and teaches her more advanced magic in secret.Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

There were some young adult paranormal trends in the early 2010s that I was worried Hex Hall would fall into. A lot of books at the time were slow and melodramatic, with obsessive “romances” that completely dominated the plots and the protagonists’ lives.

Happily, Hex Hall is not like that. There’s a romantic subplot, but it’s only part of the story and not the whole thing. The book moves quickly, and features a suspenseful mystery and a sarcastic sense of humor.

It’s kind of tropey and not really earthshaking, but it’s fun.

Hawkins has written three more HEX HALL books: two about Sophie, and a spin-off novel, School Spirits, set in the same universe.

Published in 2010. 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.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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2 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this review, Kelly!

    And now I want a T-shirt that says “Tropey but Fun.”

  2. E. J. Jones /

    I read these books as a teenager and agree: tropey but fun! I stopped reading Hawkins’s books once she abandoned these characters and started writing about a new set of characters I just didn’t like as much … but I’m getting ahead of myself, haha.

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