Hex Hall is only the first of all the books on my 2010 debut author challenge list that I've read. Though I've ordered The Sky is Everywhere off the internet and Before I Fall from the library, most of the books on the list on Goodreads were first published in the Land of the Free, and here in the sceptr'd isle most of them either a) haven't been released yet or b) if they have they're in hardcover and expensive. But Hex Hall appeared at the library -someone must have ordered it in- and I grabbed it off the shelf and took it out on one of those automated-computer-system things faster than you can say "Witchcraft".
Summary (from Goodreads): 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 on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.
Review: I'm very, very glad that I came across this copy. Because it is an awesome book. But first there are two minor things I need to get out of the way before I start praising nearly everything about this book:
Though this entry's got the US cover at the top, I actually read The UK edition. The UK cover is inaccurate in many ways, the main one being;- Elodie, Anna and Chaston look slightly wrong and, I imagine, so does their uniform (which doesn't look like uniform at all).
The other thing is, it reeeeeeally bugs me when they bother to make a new cover for a book and they don't make the effort to skim through it and change all the spellings. For example, *thinks up random sentence* the phrase defence of his grey-coloured pyjamas ought to be defense of his gray-colored pajamas in the US edition, and vice versa for the UK edition. This gets on my nerves because I am completely OCD about grammar and spelling.
Now that's out of the way I can start praising.
Sophie was a brilliant protagonist. She was funny, she was smart, she had attitude. She was all-round an awesome character who said such awesome one-liners as, "So if you can heal with your touch, why are you working here as like, Hagrid, or whatever?" She is the anti-hero to end all anti-heroes; a kind of Worst Witch for teenagers (and a lot more awesome than Sabrina), but still manages to be truly kick-arse*. Also, instead of a certain feline named after a colonial town, Sophie has a vampire as a sidekick. How cool is that?! And as I guess a true side-kick ought to be, Jenna is her own character. She fights with Sophie occasionally, but ultimately they're friends. Speaking of which, I liked that in this book vampires were seen as slightly evil. Even though Jenna wasn't an evil bloodsucker, it was a change from vampires being goodies.
I guess it's kind of hard to be original in this genre, and Hex Hall is certainly a big cauldron (no pun intended) of all sorts of different books. Some of which I'm not too keen on, i.e Harry Potter, House of Night, etc. But because Hex Hall took lots of little bits from many, many different novels; a little bit of one book there, a little of another there. And as far as I can remember, Hex Hall is the only boarding-school books I've read where all the students there are there because they're bad in one way or another (the niceness and force of good in HP gets on my nerves a bit). Which was a cool change.
Conclusion: If anybody else is reading this for the 2010 debut author challenge, move this to the top of your list and read it now. If you're doing the challenge but aren't fussed on reading Hex Hall, add it to your list and read it now. If you're not doing the challenge, just get a copy and read it now. The bottom line is, guess what, READ THIS BOOK NOW. Rating: 5/5.
*I don't know why but saying that with the British/Australian spelling doesn't seem quite as cool as with the North American spelling. Maybe I just can't pull off sounding cool. I certainly can't do an American accent.