Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
I love Rachel Hawkins. Her other series had me laughing out loud and biting my nails in suspense. And when I first read the description of this new series, I immediately thought, “If there is a YA writer who could pull off a Buffy-type series, it would so be Rachel Hawkins.” While I read this one rather fast, it did not get close to fulfilling my Buffy expectations (though I love that there were a few Buffy references in here –can more books do this?). When the main character was searching for her Giles, I practically did a little happy dance.
I super shipped the romance (which I did in the other books by this author too). It was one of those long-building, hate turns to love kind of romances. Harper and David have been competitors and enemies in all things since kindergarten, and seeing them have to deal with each other and then learn to be friends, and then learn to possibly be more then friends was spot-on awesome. I love those kind of Elizabeth/Darcy romances. There is so much passion and tension.
I also loved the idea of paladins, oracles, and mages! I’ve never read any YA that dealt with this kind of mythology before. And I loved the idea of gender reversal. Normally it’s female oracles and male paladins, and the role reversal here definitely made for a more interesting plot. I’d much rather read about a teen Southern belle learning to kick butt, than a teen guy.
So, while this book really did seem to have a lot of things going for it, I never really felt like I was connecting with any of the characters. Even in the cheesiest moments of the cheesiest first season of Buffy, I loved all the characters.
Harper is another main character dealing with a death in her family. Her sister died in a drunk driving accident (where she was the drunk one). But besides Harper continually trying to be the best at everything to prove she’s not her drunk sister, I never really thought this was handled at all. Harper just didn’t seem affected enough for me. And I get that everyone handles death differently, but still. This felt more like an added side note that was added to the story later on, and less like an actual element to the book overall.
Harper was also not the typical main character I would flock to in any way. She was a belle, preparing for homecoming crown and cotillion. She was super popular and always surrounded by tons of people. She was also already dating someone when she started to fall for David. And I hate when girls fall in love with someone new, but keep pulling their current boyfriends along any way.  But still, all these things are things I’d be willing to look past if I ever really connected to Harper more.
I also thought the pacing was a little slow. Serious paladin fighting and magic spells didn’t really happen until the end of the book. And I kept waiting for it to happen earlier. Too much of the book (before that epic ending) was focused on school dances and friendship falling-outs. I wanted a little more action spread throughout.
I read this super fast. I loved the snarky humor. I super loved the slow building romance. I thought the idea of paladins was interesting and unique. I do wish there was more action throughout the book, instead of just at the end. I also wish I connected more to Harper, and that her sister’s death added a little more depth to the story and character development. It really had an amazing ending. That ending plus the author’s easy going writing style will probably equate to me continuing with the series. I give it a 7/10.

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