By Rachel Hawkins
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2010, Disney-Hyperion Books
Hardback, 323 pages
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.The first thing that I found curious was that the author does not begin with when Sophie first discovers who she is, but instead begins with what incident propels her to switch to the paranormal-reject-filled boarding school, Hecate Hall - also affectionately known as "Hex Hall." The incident shows the softer side of Sophie, so it is easy to predict the choices she makes throughout the rest of the book.
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.
Hecate Hall is similar to any other high school, just with a paranormal twist. The werewolves can still talk and walk upright, so they are not considered true shapeshifters. The fairies don't have to hide their wings, can turn into balls of light for travel, communicate through mirrors, as well as many other traditions of legend - but all seem to be pretentious snobs. The witches are divided into dark and light, and Sophie is unknowingly cast as a dark witch, though she can't guess how, which puts her in the line of fire from the other three dark witches on campus, who swing from classic "mean girls" to her best friends unpredictably. Plus, what school would be complete without the resident "hottie", whom Sophie can't help but fall for, especially since fate keeps putting the two of them together. And finally, two vampires also reside at school - though they are not considered equals - Sophie's roommate, Jenna, as well as a teacher condemned into hiding, none other than Lord Byron, the poet. While Lord Byron's role turned out to be a major disappointment, Jenna seemed to be the one with all of the secrets, even as she is repeatedly blamed for the new deaths cropping up.
Sophie is easy to like, with a fantastic sense of humor and strong moral sense. The flip-flopping emotions of the cast of characters matched the average teenager well, and made for many entertaining situations. The many surprises that saturated the plot made the book engaging, and I look forward to reading about what Sophie does with her new-found information about herself in the next book, Demonglass.
The Cover: The cover is one of the major reasons I wanted to read this. The duality it suggests is intriguing, though I must say the cat does NOT belong, as is made clear early in the plot.
First Line: "Felicia Miller was crying in the bathroom. Again."
While a depressing way to begin a book, I am curious as to who she is and why she is crying, plus my maternal instincts flare up and all I want to do is give her a hug.
Favorite Quote: “Let's just say you may regret that second piece of cake.' Oh my God. Regret cake? Whatever was about to happen must be truly evil.”
Read For: Young Adult Challenge, What's in a Name Challenge