Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall series, #1)

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Release Date: March 2, 2010
Other Books In Series: Demonglass (coming March 2011), Hex Hall 3 (untitled)
Pages: 336
ISBN #: 978-1423121305

It was supposed to be an easy spell. Just give the crying girl in the bathroom her dream date for the prom. It ended up causing chaos at the dance, and Sophie packed off to her twentieth school.

This time around, though, young witch Sophia (Sophie) Mercer has been ordered to Hecate (aka Hex) Hall. It’s basically juvie for Prodigium, or supernatural beings (witches, faeries, shifters, vamps) that live in secret among humans. Here, she’s surrounded by other teens with histories of wreckless behavior. All brought together and sentenced to remain at the boarding school until their 18th birthday.

Sophie’s experiences before being sent to Hex Hall are both funny and sad. She’s a witch (something that came as a bit of a shock to her) being raised by her human mother, estranged from her warlock father. Her efforts to test her powers tend to come out on the wrong side of success. Something always happens, to be sure, but it usually ends in another move, another school, and more disappointment. 

As you can imagine, life at Hex Hall is NOT full of sunshine and roses. Within the first few days of attendence, Sophie learns some disturbing things about her family history, and the terrifying dangers the supernatural communites face outside the “safehaven” of the school. Unfortunately for Sophie, the safehaven doesn’t stay safe for long.

I really, really liked the way this story was presented. I have to admit, I saw “magic kid goes to magic school” and thought “here we go again”. However, Rachel uses a familiar formula to create a fun, interesting story with twists and turns along the way. The conflicts are both superficial (as superficial as you can get considering they all have a history of causing magical mayhem) and downright life-threatening. Students are under attack, being hurt and killed, and all fingers are pointed towards the resident vamps. Sophie has her hands full defending her friend, training with an unconventional and possibly dangerous tutor, and trying to keep herself from falling head over heels for the very hot, but very taken school hunk.

The balance between the typical teen drama, and the much more intense danger was just right. Both were represented, with healthy doses of snark and sarcasm to fill in the spaces. I would have liked a little more development with some of the characters, but I’m hoping that we’ll get to dive into a few more of them in the next two books. I really loved that I found myself rooting for some characters and against others, then by the end I was all upside down and wondering how I missed the clues along the way! Some things I had figured out, other things, not so much. 🙂 And the tears… at the window… nearly broke my heart! (read it, you’ll understand, I promise)

Sophie’s got a lot of information to process, and a lot of choices to make at the end of this book. I’m intrigued by some of the characters that came into the spotlight towards the end (I’m full of theories), and completely baffled by some of the events that were left to be dealt with in Demonglass (book #2, due next spring). This was a pretty quick read, and made for some fun book club discussions (our talking points are below if you want to contribute your thoughts). One thing is for sure, I can’t wait for March!

These are some of the things we touched on in our book club discussion. WARNING: A few of the questions are WAAAAYYYY SPOILERY!!! If you’ve read Hex Hall, I’d love to hear what you think. 🙂 There’ll be an astrik line after the questions if you want to skip past and just read the FANTASTIC AUTHOR INTERVIEW that Rachel was kind enough to do for us.

  • The theme of a school, or academy, for those with abilities is used often in YA paranormals. Do you think it’s OVERused, or do you think books benefit from a setting that’s familiar to the target audience?
  • Why do you think Justin, the werewolf, charged at Sophie when she arrived at the school? Is the idea of bringing kids who already display self-control issues with their supernatural ability into a school together a good, or bad idea?
  • What would be the pros and cons of Sophie joining Anna, Chaston, and Elodie’s coven? What effect do you think her demon blood would have had on the spells they tried to cast? (Remember, she felt power coming to her through the ground and her feet, rather than the sky and her hands, would this made a difference?)
  • What happened to Archer? Did he choose is apparent connection with The Eye? Was it forced on him? Was the school in any danger while he was attending?
  • What’s up with Cal? He’s obviously at the school for a reason, is it strictly Hex Hall related, or is he there for Sophie’s benefit?
  • Will Sophie go through with the removal?

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THANK YOU to Rachel for taking time away from writing Hex Hall #3 to answer our author questions. Reading through the answers was a lot of fun! Hope you all enjoy 🙂

1) When you write, do you prefer quiet, or do you listen to music? If you like music playing, what is your preferred genre? Do certain characters have their own personal “soundtrack”?

Oh, I HAVE to have music! It’s my way of “closing the door” so to speak. I listen to pretty much anything when I write- classical, pop, hard rock…And yes, certain characters definitely have their own “songs.” Sophie’s personal theme is “Celebrity Skin” by Hole. “Luv” by Travis is Sophie and Archer’s “love theme,” and I like to listen to Fiona Apple when writing Jenna. 🙂

2) Where do you write? In an office, at the dining room table, at a local coffee-shop? Do you prefer to write alone or with a group? If you write with a group, do you also read/critique each other’s work?

I write alone, and I write EVERYWHERE, haha! Some days, I stay at home and work either in my office (really a converted dining room), or my bed. Other days demand caffeine, and so I head for Starbuck’s. I also like writing at the library.

3) How do you prepare for release day? Are you calm and focused, or do you get stressed? Do you like to make promotional appearances or stay at home to watch lists and numbers? 

Well, so far, I’ve only had one release day, and I spent it stuck at the Atlanta airport (Ah, spring in the South, with it’s bizarre-o weather!) I was lucky enough to get to go on tour for HEX HALL’s release, so that was a lot of fun. It also kept me from checking my Amazon ranking like a crazy person. 😉 There was definitely some stress involved, but mostly, I tried to stay calm and keep repeating, “It’s JUST A BOOK.”  

4) What was your favorite Halloween costume (or other costume party costume)?

I was a Gypsy like 3 years in a row as a little kid. For some reason, the bangle bracelets and colorful scarves, and foil-covered gumball machine (as a crystal ball, doncha know?) really appealed to me. Oh, and I once went as a Bond Girl for Halloween in college. That was pretty sweet, too, for a whole host of reasons. 😉

5) If you could go anywhere on vacation (and not interfere with your deadlines), where would you go, and what 3 items (besides food and clothes) would you bring with you?

Ooh, so many places to pick! London is my favorite city in the world, so I’d probably go there. And I’d definitely take my iPod, a journal, and a Justice of the Peace, so that when I finally found Ben Barnes, I could wrangle him into marriage ON THE SPOT. (What’s that? I’m already married? Pshaw. Minor detail.)

6) What song best describes your life? If you can’t think of one, who would you want to write/perform a song just for you?

I have a major crush on Jason Mraz, so I’d love for him to write something beautiful just for moi!  

7) If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would be it and what would you do all day?

I’d have to go with Sophie! And I’d take her to the spa. Lord knows, girlfriend could use some relaxation.  

8) What world record would you love to set for the Guinness Book of World Records? (Remember, they take ALL KINDS of interesting talents into account. Some world records include *fasted 100m sprint, barefoot, on ice = 17.35 secs… *fastest pumpkin carving of a face = 24.03 secs… *longest distance pogo stick jumping = 23.11 miles)

Ha! Let’s see….maybe, “Most Books Bought In One Hour at Barnes and Noble.” Seriously, I could ROCK that!

9) If you could have one word removed from the English language, from all dictionaries and out of everyone’s vocabulary, what would it be, and why?

“Hisself.” I know that’s not even an actual word, but I used to teach high school English, and I saw it on So. Many. Essays. And. Tests. “Macbeth decides to kill Ducan hisself.” “Beowulf uses hisself as bait.” GAAAAAH!

10) What is one thing about you that your friends know and you would love your readers to know as well. Or… if you’re in a giving mood… what is one story that your friends LOVE to talk you into telling that you don’t generally volunteer?

One of my friends LOVES to tell the story of how I was nearly arrested on New Year’s Eve 2000 for…you know what? We’ll just leave it at “nearly arrested.” I DO write for Disney, after all! 😉

One Comment

  1. Comment by Patti Stubbs:

    I’ve just read the first three Hex Hall books and loved the but I was gutted with Cal’s outcome. So much so that I’ve found myself in such a bad mood and snapping at my lovely family. Never thought I’d get so attached to a character. Absolutely fantastic books, couldn’t put them down and just about to start the next three. Thanx Rachel

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