Monday, July 6, 2015

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Goodreads Description: Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

My Review: I was expecting nothing. I always keep my expectations low when I read light-hearted chick-lit so that A) I'm not wildly disappointed when it's not amazing, and B) I can enjoy the book for what it is: some fluffy, fun entertainment. However, to my surprise, Rebel Belle ended up being slightly better than just fluffy fun! 

I have a weakness for stories set in the South about debutantes, Cotillions, all that good old fashioned charming Southern stuff. However, I'm rarely rewarded with the kind of book about the South that I enjoy reading. Rebel Belle didn't disappoint me. The descriptions of Southern life were subtle but charming enough to be enjoyable and add a bit of flavor to what would have still be an otherwise-good book. The setting really added that tiny bit of flavor. Picturing all this mayhem going down on shady, magnolia tree-lined streets made it all the more fun. 

I liked the main character. I knew I would from the moment I met her. I like female characters who are confident, bold, who like themselves. Bonus points if she knows she's pretty (because I can't STAND that silly cliche when the heroine is all "I'm so ugly, I'm so plain!" when it's clear she's not. It's just eye-roll inducing) and likes fashion and girly things—and Harper did! (Sorry, but girls liking girly things is looked down upon far too often, so when a cool, confident girl character comes along who unabashedly enjoys being feminine...I'm probably guaranteed to lose my heart to her.) She was a great mix of sass, heart, trauma, and snark. She felt like a real person, which is the best thing you can say for a character! 

I also liked how the side characters were more fleshed out than normal (in YA books anyway) and defied several stereotypes. Her boyfriend wasn't a brainless, mean jock. Her best friend wasn't an out-of-control, obnoxious Manic Pixie Dream Best Friend who overshadowed the main character in ridiculous ways. I actually liked the best friend and boyfriend, which is astonishing. 

There was no indulging in creepy Edward Cullen-ish behavior on David's part. No stalking, no creepy aggressiveness, which was refreshing, to say the least. Hurrah for respectful male characters being normalized in fiction, right? 

But most important, the MAGIC. I was pleasantly surprised! I'd expected half-baked magic with no thought put into it but that's not what I got. Rachel Hawkins actually wove a pretty detailed mythology, one that pulled me in and made me interested in learning more about it, one that seemed somewhat based on real history (though I'd have to do research to see if she made it all up or if it actually IS based on real history). Either way, the magic element was tied in very well and the progression from the characters being clueless to accepting what was happening to them felt very natural as well. 

I'm actually pretty excited to get my hands on the sequel, Miss Mayhem! 

Cover: Love it! It's adorable. The shades of pink, the pearls, the dagger... All of it fits the tone of the book very well (picture Blair Waldorf turned into a ninja) and looks really pretty. 

Overall Grade: A-

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