Review: School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Published: May 14, 2013

Despite the slight character and plot clichés, the Hex Hall trilogy has always been a firm favourite of mine. Rachel Hawkins’ witty style is irresistibly good – so much so that turning a blind eye on some of the weaker aspects of her books in the past hasn’t been too difficult. This is where the reading experience with School Spirits differs slightly. While the writing doesn’t lack that distinct sharp and humorous quality that Hawkins is known for, there is a disappointingly diluted feel to the storyline here. Nevertheless, for a swift and entertaining read on a rainy weekend (which, let’s face it, is most weekends where I am), the first instalment of this Hex Hall spin-off series is just about good enough. I certainly had a lot of fun with it…

Although, for me, main-character Izzy is no Sophie Mercer, her light and effervescent personality is instantly infectious. She is a Brannick – stronger than most people and built for hunting and capturing out-of-hand Prodigium. This includes the usual; vampires, fae, witches, werewolves… and the odd wayward ghost. When a haunting at a local high school draws Izzy and her mother to a new town, Izzy finds herself on a solo mission, one that involves acting like a ‘real’ teenage girl. This, of course, is easier said than done (no matter how many episodes of ‘Ivy Springs’ Izzy manages to get through with mirror-bound Torin). Cue the grins from this point forward! Izzy finds herself in all manner of unfamiliar social and high school situations, each and every one of which prove to be highly amusing from the reader’s perspective. It’s only when she joins the school’s 3-member paranormal society that things really pick up, though.

Romy, Dex and Anderson adopt Izzy into their small group pretty quickly. While the three of them are not (knowingly) investigating the haunting for the same reasons as Izzy, the friendship between them feels genuine from the get-go. Witty dialogue is the weapon of all weapons here, and Rachel Hawkins is the skilful administrator. While the plot is lacking in some sophistication (it’s nothing particularly exciting when you think about it), the light banter and playful group dynamics just about make up for it. The highlight here is Dex. As someone who has been known to ‘rock the occasional manbracelet’ (his words, not mine!) and has an impressive collection of purple clothing, he is a refreshingly original love interest, and also incredibly delightful. Admittedly, it probably won’t take a great number of weeks before I struggle to recall his name (or any of the characters’, for that matter), but he is likeable enough, for what it’s worth.

The ending is very weak. The hurried pace gives it an almost nonsensical and juvenile feel. Coupled with the indication that there may not be a sequel for a while, this is the most disappointing part of the whole book. Still, despite the less-than-satisfying final chapters, Hawkins leaves enough of an impression with her new book to stir up some interest for more. If nothing else, I definitely want to revisit Dex’s character one day. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

44 comments:

  1. Ah, that's a bummer when there's no firm release date for a sequel in the works. Hang in there, Sam. Hopefully they'll be an announcement soon.

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  2. I think Hex Hall is such a fun series. I loathe spin offs on principal but I was curious about this because I liked Hex Hall so much. Hooray for friendships!! What you said about the ending makes wary though but I'm glad you liked it overall.

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  3. Her easy, quick writing-style and humor was one of the things I loved about the Hex Hall series. I'm happy that she managed to capture that feeling again and I love the sound from Dex! It's a shame that the ending was weak, especially after that announcement. Great review Sam :)

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  4. There's not sequel? Hmm.. I loved Hex Hall series (still have to read the last one). I love how easy and addicting the story is, definitely looking forward to School Spirits. Though I don't like that the ending is weak. Thanks for the review :)

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  5. Guilty me, haven't tried the Hex Hall series yet but everything you describe about the author's style and wit that shines through makes me want to! Overall this spin-off sounds disappointing compared to how great the series itself is but it won't discourage me from reading it :) Thanks for a helpful review, Sam!

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  6. I'm not surprised by the juvenile feel to it, that's the impression I got from the synopsis as well. Sounds like its more suited to the younger YA reader. Good to hear, the banter is enjoyable at least. I'll keep it in reserve for a rainy afternoon so, no shortage of the here either!

    BookishTrish @ Between the Lines

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  7. I think I will pass on this, not that it is bad or anything, I am sure I would have fun, but I think my feelings would fall in line with yours, Sam. I am tired of mediocre reads and I want something thrilling and memorable.

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  8. I don't think this is for me, but I have had the Hex series on my wishlist forever. It sounds like a great rainy day read as you stated but my tbr pile and wish list as so large I crave epic or one of my go to feel good authors on a rainy day!

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  9. I loved the Hex Hall series, and totally agree with you that the weaker parts are easy to ignore because the books are just so much fun. I started this over the weekend and really love Izzy's voice so far (though you're right, she is definitely no Sophie). Hoping to get back into it tonight! It's a shame the ending is so weak and that we might not get another book for a long time :-( But I'm too far in to spare myself from the pain, I really want to finish it. Glad you were able to have fun with it regardless of the weaknesses. Wonderful review Sam! :-)

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  10. Lovely, well-balanced review. It's a a shame about the weak ending. It's good it's managed a 3.5 but it sounds like it could have been better with some tweaking. I've still got to read the final Hex Hall and then I'll give this new series a try.

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  11. Oh no! I had no idea a sequel wasn't planned or if there will be one not for quite awhile. For some reason I thought this was going to be a complete spin off not something that was going to be put in hold for a new series. The weak ending doesn't bode well for me. I think I will hold off on reading this one now, at least until I know for sure if she will be writing another.

    Very thoughtful review!

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  12. Completely agree, Dex was delightful and the friendship between them all was very refreshing and the core of my enjoyment for this novel!

    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

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  13. Ah, why does the Sequel have to be nowhere in sight?

    I also dislike the abrupt endings. Glad you enjoyed the book for the most party, and the book is still as fun and amusing as Hex hall!

    Wonderful review Sam!

    Dex sounds wonderful!!!!! Love the "manbracelet" joke he says that you included.

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  14. I have been meaning to read Hex Hall for two years now! I have no idea why I haven't jumped in. Sorry you found this one lacking.
    Great review, Sam!

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  15. I've never been a fan of Hawkins, so I can't say I'm too surprised by the evident flaws in this one. I'm glad you enjoyed it, though. Ever since her debut, I've sworn off of her writing and characters, so I don't regret my decision too much. Great review, Sam! :)

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  16. I remember liking Hex Hall as well as the writing style like you mentioned, but I always felt like her books were set for maybe a little younger YA crowd. Which is okay, and sometimes great when I'm in need for a lighter read. The plot really does seem fun and I'm glad you liked Izzy! Dex sounds really quirky and adorable. Yikes, that ending though! Hopefully the second book will be redeemable. I'll be checking this one out (maybe on a rainy day? ;) Thanks for the brilliant review, Sam!

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  17. Hmmm... Dex definitely sounds like a character I'd love to meet but I'm not sure about the weak ending. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Sam! It's great to see that you had lots of fun reading it on a rainy weekend.

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  18. Rachel Hawkins does have a way with writing witty and humorous dialogue. Something I really enjoyed with her Hex Hall series. It's unfortunate that the sequel is supposed to be so far into the future and that this was not really a "wow" book. Dex does sound like someone I'd like to meet. It takes a special guy to rock the manbraclet! Lol! Wonderful review, Sam. :)

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  19. Dex was definitely a shining point in School Spirits, the MC was my main disappointment as well as the ending like you said. Great minds think alike! *nudge*

    That really sucks that there's no sequel, with such a bad ending, I hoped the sequel would redeem itself. Looks like that isn't happening any time soon :(

    Brilliant review, Sam! <33

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  20. I enjoyed this one, but not as much as Hex Hall. I didn't feel the pull to the characters as I did in that series.

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  21. I really enjoyed the Hex Hall series (except for the last one which ruined the whole series for me) because the author is really good with humor, but I will admit that this is not a book that appealed to me. Possibly because the MC is young. From your review, it seems like I did not make a bad decision in staying away from the book. It's really too bad that the plot is not strong. Plus, I hate rushed endings, so I doubt this book is for me.
    Still, fabulous review, Sam!

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  22. It's too bad that something was missing from this one for you. I was a big fan of the Hex Hall series too and am anxiously awaiting this one. I'll be sure to go into it with a bit of trepidation now, but at least you enjoyed it overall! That's great!

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  23. She doesn't seem to be happy about not continuing the series. It probably wasn't her decision at all and it sucks. But to be honest, that's reason for me not to read this. I never finished the first trilogy (I have book three yet to read) and I'm not too enthusiastic about this, despite a few things that sound very cute.
    The pacing and the ending are also a huge issue for me.
    Ah, well. Maybe after the last HH book. We'll see.
    Thanks for the lovely review, Sam!

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  24. Glad this worked out for you overall, Sam! To be honest, the Hex Hall series never really caught my attention, but after all the hype surrounding School Spirits, it's hard not to get caught up in it. ;) Actually, your review kind of reminds me of The Collector. Strong characters, but plot and ending? Not so much. I'm still curious to check it out though, especially with that awesome cover. Fab review as always, hon!

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  25. Aw, sorry to hear about the weak ending. I need to catch up though because I really enjoyed the first when I read it, I liked her witty style too.

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  26. I've actually never read the Hex Hall series and I hadn't heard about it until a few months ago to be honest. That's too bad that the Spin-Off didn't live up to the Original Series. There are only a handful of authors who can actually deliver when it comes to a spin-off sometimes. I'm sorry that you didn't enjoy this one as much as you would have wanted to Sam! The cover is really awesome for this one I have to admit :). Great review!

    Cheers,
    Savindi

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  27. I'm not sure how to feel about this one Sam! I really, really enjoyed it, but then I found out she's not continuing the series (at least for now), and that definitely changed how I felt about the ending. I agree it was weak, even more so if there's no book two. I do love Rachel Hawkins writing though, and I adored all the characters. I'm really hoping we get more Dex at some point too!

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  28. Great review Sam, and I'm glad to hear that Rachel has let the humour we enjoyed in the Hex Hall series flow over into this one. But with the news about book 2, I'm not sure I'll read this one now.

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  29. I'm not even sure if I am going to read this because for one spin-off series haven't worked out well for me in general and well would I sound shallow because if I said I didn't want to read this book of Torin wasn't a love interest? (yup that definitely sounds shallow... forget I said that)
    Great Review :)

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  30. I've never read the Hex Hall series or anything from this author but I've heard so much about it. Great review!

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  31. I completely agree about Hex Hall, Sam--the stories are pretty slight, but darn it all if they aren't popcorn fun despite that. I liked this book too, but I know what you mean about saying it's not the same as HH; I think it's got a humorous tone, but maybe lacks those zingy one-liners, you know?

    But man, I am so sad to hear that there isn't a sequel in the near future! It's totally written like a series (and I know she used to refer to it as one), so something must have happened. (Even if it was just pushing out priorities for books.) That's news to me, so thanks for the heads up.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  32. I loved the Hex Hall series but was in no hurry to pick up this one because I'm not a huge fan of spinoff series. I'm sure it's going to be a fun read for when I'm bored so I'll probably give it a try then. I'm liking the sound of Dex ...

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  33. Well, it sounds like this one has a mish-mash of good and bad things about it, though I think I would still read it if given a chance. Of course, I haven't even read Hex Hall yet. You would have thought I would have been all over that magic + boarding school story. Just haven't had the chance, I guess. Even though this one wasn't quite as good as the original series, it is pretty encouraging that it still has its trademark witty dialogue. Looking forward to giving this a try! Thanks for this review, Sam - very helpful.

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  34. I've never read a book by Rachel Hawkins before, but after reading yours and Juhina's review School Spirits does sound like something that I would enjoy. I'm always in the moody for something light hearted and fun and Dex sounds like an awesome character. I hope Hawkins does decide to revisit this story, as I hate it when things are left unanswered. Lovely review Sam! :)

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  35. I usually read books that I have some problems with writing but the story is so good that I can turn a blind-eye on that. Still when you say that someone's writing is so good I must check it out. I'm sorry that this book left you well hanging. I hope you'll get to read the next one soon. Great review Sam as always :)

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  36. This sounds like a very interesting book to check out! Thanks for this review.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  37. I haven't read the Hex Hall trilogy but I have heard so many things about the books. A lot people mention the clichés but enjoy the books all the same. I feel like I'm one of few people who haven't read them yet! :P I'm glad this one turned out okay for you even though you found a few problems. Fantastic review, Sam! :)

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  38. I liked the Hex Hall trilogy, but it wasn't a favourite or exceptional read to me. Really liked the boarding school character, but the series a whole was a bit to juvenile, and that's the reason why I'm currently not planning to read School Spirits (+ there won't be a sequel, I saw Rachel's tweets). But Hawkins and Hex Hall fans, will definitely enjoy this:)

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  39. This sounds like a fun series; and, despite the few disappointments and weak moments you mention, you shared just the right amount of positive points to intrigue me! I think my kiddo would love this, and it might be a great mother/daughter read-a-thon for us! Brilliant and insightful review, Sam - thank you for sharing your thoughts! (also, rainy weekends are the BEST) <3

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  40. Seems like I've had the 1st book in the Hex Hall trilogy for forever, but haven't read it. Maybe by the time I get through those she'll have the sequel for this ready.:)

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  41. Great review sweetie :D Thank you for being honest about it all. <3 The ending doesn't sound good :\ I'm glad you mostly enjoyed it, still :) But yeah. It doesn't sound like it's a book worth remembering. Not sure if I will read it; we'll see after I have read the Hex Hall series :) Loved your review, though. <3

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  42. Ok I agree ending is a bit weak - but I still loved it. I know there are some cliches but it was just the right read for the mood I was in. I think there could have definitely been more like monsters and bogies and what nots yes...

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  43. I haven't read this trilogy, but it sounds really good! Except for the ending. I hate weak endings, so thanks for the warning. Love the review!

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  44. I haven't read any books from Rachel yet. I've been thinking of buying this one because of the gorgeous cover plus the plot sounds thrilling. Thanks for the review, Sam.

    I hate weak endings. Though, I think I will give this book a chance

    -Dannielle

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