Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Just straight up, this book was really fun. I enjoyed it immensely but when I think about it really critically I have a more complicated reaction to it. On the one hand, it made my feminism feel a little prickled but on the other hand, it was really cool in its pretty direct opposition of the genre that Harry Potter spawned. Like, I could have a T-chart about it. Actually, I will probably do that. On the other side of the description obviously.
Sophie Mercer is a witch, she’s known that since she was twelve years old and her powers manifested. What she didn’t realize was that if she used them in front of mortals and therefore threatened the safety of all Prodigium, that is shifters, witches or fairies, she would get sent to Hex Hall. A school for kids like her.
So there are lots of obvious similarities with Harry Potter. Two kids who aren’t in touch with their magical parents, raised unaware of their own standing in the magical community and sent to a school where they would learn how to control their powers.
But what I thought was neat was the complete oppositeness about it. There isn’t a Dumbledore character in this – the Head Mistress is a kindly, but aloof woman who seems found enough of the main character, but doesn’t have a particularly close relationship with any of the kids. Instead of have the grumpy Snape teacher you have an aggressive woman who teaches self defense. Instead of Sophie being the ultimate force of good she might well be the ultimate force of evil. Her parents aren’t dead. Hogwarts is beautiful, Hex Hall is old and crumbling. Hagrid is a half giant, Cal is a sexy lumberjack like gamekeeper who is also a super human healer. Sophie doesn’t make a crew of friends but she does develop a core of mortal enemies. It’s immediately clear that romance and crushes are going to drive the story. The kids don’t fight each other over issues like prejudice or bullying so much as dresses and boys.
And that’s where my feminism gets rubbed the wrong way. On the one hand Sophie and her best friend Jenna (who is gay and it’s so beautifully handled I could cry) are both pretty kick ass ladies in their own way, powerful and feminine and motivated and driven. On the other hand, the apparent evil characters are three…. for lack of a better word, bitches. And they literally get into a near fatal battle over a dress. Which is just, I mean while I firmly support anyone who loves clothes, I’m partial to them myself, but honestly…. murder over an outfit? Is that really what we like our teen girls to read? That’s a thing?
But it was also a good story with delightful turns, great supporting casts, lovely descriptions of outfits and a powerful heroine who’s pretty easy to love.
Last movie I watched:
Ummmm probably still Fingersmith
Last TV episode I watched:
The same Charmed. Unless you count part of a Daily Show. In which case that.