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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Review: School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

Series: School Spirits #1
Genre: YA Paranormal 
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Format: eARC
Pages: 304
Source: Received for review from publisher on NetGalley
Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt?

Rachel Hawkins' delightful spin-off brings the same wit and charm as the New York Times best-selling Hex Hall series. Get ready for more magic, mystery and romance! (Summary from

I'll be honest, I had no frackin' idea what to expect going into this book. I really enjoyed Hawkins's Hex Hall series. Though the Brannicks actually made an appearance in Spell Bound, they didn't make an enormous one. Still, I got good vibes from Izzy, so I was incredibly curious what it would be like to see the world from her eyes. I really loved it. School Spirits has an entirely different feel than Hawkins's other series.   It stands on its own, that's fasho! The best way I can think to describe this book is as an adventure. It was a quick read, and a lot of fun!

Like I said, I was getting good vibes off of Izzy in Spell Bound, and, about two years later (in book time--in reality...a day later), I get to delve into her head and discover that my vibes were right on! Izzy is great. She's determined, persistent, and sort of socially awkward. It was certainly entertaining to watch a girl used to battling monsters be thrown in to high school, totally clueless how to go about it. I mean, she totally breaks a guy's nose on her first day.

Despite that awkwardness, she makes friends right away. Anderson, Dex, and Romy are characters to love. They are the "outcasts" in their school. They started a ghost hunting club (named PMS), they don't dress like the others in high school, and people are rude to them. But they are so cool! They're supportive of one another, have hilarious banter, and they just don't give a crap what others think. Izzy may have befriended them for reasons that weren't entirely genuine, but she quickly cares about them and stands eagerly by their sides. The whole dynamic of their group is worthy of countless cheesy grins.

I've read in some reviews that people think it's a little unrealistic that Izzy moves to a new school and makes friends so quickly and captures the attention of one of the "popular" kids. I disagree. As a girl who has had her fair share of being the new kid, I know that it's not too hard to make friends the first day--especially if one is pretty, and especially if one immediately talks to the "outcasts."

There were a few potential romantic interests, but the romance was definitely more of a sub-plot than anything. It did not overwhelm the main story line or action. First there is Adam, who turns out to be a douchenozzle, which is okay because that makes room for Dex. Like, on the real here people, Dex is one of my fave YA boys. He's such an asthmatic goober! He's so funny. No joke, I highlighted my favorite quotes in the e-reader, and the majority were from him:
Satisfied, Dex went back to the salt. After a while, he moved to the foot of the grave, pouring it there.

"This is fun," he said. "Weird and disturbing and possibly illegal, but still fun."
“This is better than our regular PMS meetings,” Dex said once we had our food. “Those are sadly lacking in fries, I’ve found.” He reached past me for the ketchup. “And desecrating graves is a surprisingly fun bonding activity. I only defile the dead with my closest friends.” 
 “Bats live in caves,” I reminded him. “And where there are bats, there’s bat poop. Lots of it. Did you know there’s a cave in Mexico where they have a whole mountain made of guano?”

Dex leveled a fake-sultry gaze at me. “Are you coming on to me?” 
That is just the itsiest bitsiest fragment of all the quotes I loved. Another thing about Dex: he dresses like a total stud. Someone said he was kind of Magnus-y, and that is pretty spot-on. It's all peacoats and scarves for Dex!

However great Dex is, though, I still would have liked more Torin. Ya know, the man in the mirror. There's definitely something sizzlin' there, but it is not nearly as fleshed out as I would like. I actually like Torin a lot.

Okay, so no, this book does not have the most complex, unpredictable, original plot in the world. But who gives a spork? Hawkins is so good at delivering an entertaining read. Who needs something super complex when you have a severely bitchy ghost, a missing sister, and a dark warlock who lives inside a mirror, and a mom who is most definitely hiding something. The pacing is great, of course. It's so easy to just fly through this book.

But here's the thing. This is now a standalone. I think at one point it was supposed to be a series, but that is no longer the case. And it devastates me. No lie. COMPLETELY DEVASTATES. Because I loved this book soooooo much. I was looking forward to more Brannicks, more Torin, more Dex, I was looking forward to more Izzy being awesome. And now, not only do I not get that, but I also do not get to see how some major plot points get resolved. The obvious story was resolved, but what happened to Finley? Will a certain prophecy of Torin's come true? I will never know. It's not like majorly torturous, but I still hate it.

So basically...
Whereas a lot of paranormal books are exhausting nowadays, I thought this book was exciting, entertaining, and certainly a worthy read. I loved the characters and obviously the writing.There is a great big HOWEVER, though. If you think you'd be driven crazy by the loose ends, then this is a serious judgement call. But if you love the Hex Hall series and think you'd be okay with not knowing how every little thing turns out, I recommend this book. To me, it was worth it.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my blog! I love to hear from my readers, whether they agree or disagree with my opinion :) I do my best to get back to every commenter, though I am not always successful. Heh...Anyway, I look forward to hearing what you have to say! :D

~ Gabbi