Review: “Rebel Belle” by Rachel Hawkins

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Title: Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Pages: 345
Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal
Published: April 8, 2014

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Quick Synopsis: 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 did a mini review of Rebel Belle in my July wrap-up post, but I had so much more to say about it, so I decided a full review was definitely necessary. When this book was first released, it gained instant popularity in the YA reading community, but that cover. Oh man, did it turn me off. Not only that, but I didn’t think the premise sounded all that enticing. Even with the positive reviews churning out, I still remained skeptical. But, as has happened to me too many times to count now, I finally decided to give it a go for some unexplainable reason. And once again, I’m glad I did. I guess I’ve finally had a paranormal awakening because it seems I’ve been reading a lot of it lately when I used to only rarely.

In the beginning, I didn’t know whether I was going to like Harper, our main protagonist, very much. She is a southern belle whose biggest dilemma is that she forgot to put on lip gloss before homecoming. She has the “perfect” boyfriend, is president of basically everything at school, head cheerleader, etc. But it quickly became apparent that the setup was all just part of the humor of the novel. And, if you can take it as humorous, I’m sure you’d also love this book. Harper gets some crazy “superpowers” early on, and that’s when the story really takes off.

Rebel Belle was hilarious. I mean, laugh-out-loud-numerous-times hilarious. Part of that was from the bizarre nature of the story, part of it was from discovering how great of a character Harper actually is, but most of it was from her banter with David Stark, her enemy since birth (basically). As the synopsis suggests, Harper eventually starts falling for David, but until then, their snarky interactions killed me. David has that dry, sarcastic humor, and I loved him. He’s a total nerd who writes for the school newspaper and wears ugly, non-matching thrift store clothes (according to Harper), but there is something so totally endearing about him that I couldn’t help but like him from his very first introduction. Yes, I thought. This is it. He’s my guy. I’m here for this. I really learned to love Harper as well, though. Her “perfect” life turned out to not be so perfect after all, and her overly ambitious attitude reminded me slightly of Hermione. Together they made a fabulous pair of main characters. I also enjoyed Ryan, Harper’s boyfriend (more so toward the end of the novel), and her best friend, Bee. A+ on characterization, Rachel Hawkins.

Moving away from the characters, I also really enjoyed the magical elements dealing with Paladins, Oracles, and Mages. It was refreshingly unique and had me totally hooked for the entire read. I wanted to see how everything was connected and what Harper would be forced to deal with because of her new abilities. And even though there was a lot of magic, the plot was still routed in reality which I appreciated a lot. The characters were average high-schoolers worrying about classes and college applications and Cotillion (in the girls’ cases). One of the biggest struggles Harper had to go through was figuring out how to balance her normal life with her secret Paladin, David-protecting life. She was forced to confront her need to be in charge of everything and reconsider what was most important to her. Meanwhile, David had to come to terms with his new powers as well which were far more difficult to control and far more dangerous than Harper’s. Oh, and they had to make sure nobody found out. All of that combined contributed to the entertainment value of the book.

The writing style was first person (Harper’s POV), but it was still different because Harper had such a blunt, sarcastic voice. Admittedly, it may not be for everyone, but I thought it worked. It wasn’t amazingly poetic, but it was fun and extremely amusing. One thing I was thankful for was the lack of southern dialect. This novel screams southern, don’t get me wrong, but it does that in other ways. Hawkins put that southern vibe in by the names she used for the characters, the traditional Cotillion, the setting descriptions, the house descriptions, so many other things besides the dialect. Sure, a few “ya’ll”s were thrown in, but I could handle that. The novel felt extremely authentic without being over-the-top or annoying. That was a major plus for me.

I often find myself complaining about female-female friendships not being complex enough in YA novels, but Harper and Bee’s friendship was fantastic! Bee wasn’t there just to make Harper look smarter or more badass or any number of other adjectives that female YA best friends are there to lack. Bee was perceptive, supportive, honest, and loving. I could have cried, I was so happy for that. Ryan and Harper’s relationship was…meh? I was seriously just waiting for them to break up so Harper could be with David, but she kept denying her feelings for David and blah blah blah. Ryan’s character improved by a lot toward the end, but I’m still not his biggest fan. Still. He was better than most guys that pose as the boyfriend until the protagonist realizes he’s not for her. Ha. Harper and David on the other hand. OTP status. They’ve got to be one of my new favorite YA ships. Enemies turned lovers is one of my favorite relationship tropes, and this one was one of the best examples. The two of them are SO completely opposite, yet something about them together just worked amazingly. Plus, they’d known each other since they were infants, their distaste for each other stemming from their competitive nature and, later, their desire to both be more successful than the other. Couldn’t have asked for a better pairing.

After completing Rebel Belle, I bought the sequel, Miss Mayhem, on my Kindle right away because I couldn’t wait to continue reading about these characters’ stories. I finished Miss Mayhem in one day, and I’m now impatiently awaiting the third book (that ending of book two!!!!???). If you love action, humor, magic, quirky characters, and silly but addicting drama, this book will be for you! I recommend it times a thousand!

My Rating:

5 stars

Alrighty, ya’ll (See what I did there?), that’s all for now. Have an amazing weekend!

If you’ve read Rebel Belle, please tell me who your favorite character was in the comment section below! Also, if you’ve read Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall series, let me know if they’re good. I may pick them up if they are.

Until next time, keep reading and writing! – Veronica

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