Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: School Spirits

SCHOOL SPIRITS
Rachel Hawkins
Paranormal Young Adult
304 pages
Disney-Hyperion
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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? 


MY THOUGHTS
School Spirits is everything we expect from Rachel Hawkins; a hugely entertaining story teeming with characters who have an abundance of charm and wit and who keep us smiling the whole way through. Though there are dark moments in this first installment of the Hex Hall spinoff—stemming mostly from the palpable tension between Izzy and her mother over Izzy's missing older sister—Ms. Hawkins shows us yet again how successfully she's able to create a balanced story, giving us just enough drama to create a couple sharp edges before ensuring a few pages later several unladylike snorts escape our lips thanks to a hilarious cast of secondary characters.

Izzy is everything we might hope for in a young adult heroine; strong in body, mind and personality but with a few noticeable soft spots to prevent her from being overly distant or cold. She's struggling with the rapid deterioration of her family, first with the loss of her sister some months prior and the then with resulting stress her absence has put on her relationship with her mother. Still, she approaches her new assignment at the local high school with an open mind and heart, violating all the Brannick family rules that insist bonds, friendships or romances with regular people unaware of the supernatural world around them are to be avoided at all costs. Though she repeats her mother's teachings about going it alone in her head, she refuses to submit to them completely, allowing Romy and Dex to show her what she's been missing with her emotional isolation, and becoming a stronger young woman for acknowledging the desire to ask for help.

The romance with quirky lover-of-all-things-purple Dex is as adorable as we hoped it would be before we even cracked the spine, the witty banter we so loved between Sophie and Archer carrying over to Izzy and Dex. Though the banter is familiar, Izzy and Dex are not simply clones of Sophie and Archer, instead they are unique and enjoyable on a myriad of levels in their own right, and they truly bring the story to life with their infectious laughter and warmth. By the end, the dynamic between the two of them undergoes a significant shift, leaving us fairly thrumming with anticipation to see how things will develop now that everything is different.

A review for School Spirits would not be complete without a gushing sentence or two about Torin, the four hundred year-old warlock (though he looks eighteen) trapped in a mirror that's been in the Brannick family for centuries. He's enigmatic and perhaps the most complex of all the characters in this story, his motives for helping and comforting Izzy somehow clear and opaque at the same time. Hints of romance, mystery, friendship and danger are all there at any given moment with him, guaranteeing he's someone we will continue to have our eye on as the series progresses. While not a story that will create any sort of shock and awe with its plotline as it's largely free of twists and turns, School Spirits is the embodiment of fun, never taking itself too seriously even as ghosts wreak havoc and a family begins to buckle under the pressure of the unknown.

Rating: 4/5


Find Rachel


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

*UPDATE - Shortly after writing this review I learned that Ms. Hawkins is no longer planning to continue with this series (see below Twitter snippet). While I still thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of Rachel's Hex Hall series, this news does alter my opinion of this book ever-so slightly simply due to the unanswered questions we're left with now that a sequel is not in the works. It should be known though that the story itself is a complete one, the main mystery wrapped up at the end, it's just the thread with her missing sister and a few smaller things with Dex and Torin that are left up in the air.



44 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh! I hadn't heard that. That's awful. I really liked School Spirits. I wonder if early sales weren't good enough to bring about another book or if she is having writer's block. I hope she gives us little snippets of what would have happened to them.

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    1. I'd heard rumors shortly after finishing the book, but Goodreads and the publicity sheet that came with the book still said it was the start of a series so I hoped for the best. Then I saw her tweet:(

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  2. Oh that is so sad! and I feel so sad for the author too, I guess she intended this to be a new series and now has to stop writing, of course some questions are left unanswered...

    Which in turn makes me less inclined to read the book now.

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    1. Yeah, I was bummed. But we are getting that new series next year! I'm looking forward to that:) The main mystery in this one is resolved, so it's not as though the plot itself is unfinished, there are just some questions left about her sister and Torin. Big questions about her sister.

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  3. I've seent hat quite a few readers were disappointed that Hawkins wouldn't be returning to this series. That really is a shame, as it sounded like this book had so much more to offer in a follow up. I'm glad that you really enjoyed School Spirits Jenny, it sounds like a fun read full with entertaining characters! Wonderful review! :)

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    1. It was a really fun book Jasprit! I of course wish there was more, greedy reader that I am, but I'm happy with the events of the book as they stand.

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  4. Sometimes things on the sides of your blog distract me more, today it's the book you are reading. That review I want soon :)

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    1. Haha I'm not sure if that's good or bad! Hopefully good, and I'll have that review up on Thursday:)

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  5. I still haven't read the Hex Hall even though I've heard some great things about it. I was really looking forward to reading this one as everyone say it's great but I don't like that it's not completed. It sounds like a great frustration when you don't know some things. Great review Jenny :)

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    1. It's just a really fun series Tanja, Rachel has a great sense of humor! They're great escape reads, books you just pick up to have a good time reading:) I should probably add to the above update - the story in this one is complete, just the other plot threads, mainly the one with her sister, are left hanging. I imagine they would have been addressed in later books, but now that won't happen. Not a HUGE detraction from the book as a whole though:)

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  6. oh that sad news. This one looks good but I'm not into reading unfinished stories :( sad to say but will have to skip this one. Thanks for the heads up Jenny.

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    1. I promise it's not unfinished, I revised my update above. The main mystery is wrapped up in this book, it's just the questions about her missing sister and a few small things with Dex and Torin that go unanswered.

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  7. I wasn't a fan of the Hex Hall Series in the least, but this seems quite good and I'm thrilled so many readers are loving it. I might just give it a try. Great review, Jenny!

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    1. Hmmmm. I imagine if Hex Hall wasn't really your thing, this book might not be either. Granted, Izzy is a different character so she may work better for you, but the feel of the book is the same as the other series.

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  8. This was on my maybe list for series to try but I think I am going to pass. It would annoy me to have open ended questions---could you imagine the email that you would get after that LOL

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    1. I just really wanted to know what happened to her sister:) Maybe she'll toss out an epilogue or short novella at some point down the road to let us know how that all turned out.

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  9. I didn't really like Hex Hall, so I didn't make it past book one, but I'm glad to see that other trusted reviewers (ie...YOU) have done so! Plus, it sounds like the storyline still works so well for you, and that's such a plus! I'm not sure i'd be able to deal with moving forward with the series now though, simply knowing it will end abruptly, you know? Regardless, great review, Jenny! :)

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    1. It doesn't end abruptly really. The main mystery is solved in it's entirety, it's the things with Izzy's family that are left unresolved. So, if you pick this up, you will get a whole story, there's just definitely room for more when you reach the end. She doesn't leave you hanging though, that would just be mean:)

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  10. This is one of those books that's been on my list of books everyone seems to love for like the longest time! I have no idea why I haven't picked it up yet... oh wait, it might have something to do with those pesky little buggers called exams. :P shoot! But yay so glad you liked this, Jenny! It sucks that the author isn't continuing the series though, I bet a lot of her fans are disappointed. Izzy seems like such a great character! And it's quite rare to find an MC who is as young as 15, so that should be interesting to read about. Great review, Jenny! <3 Professional and eloquent as per usual. ;)

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    1. BOO ON EXAMS! Hope they're going well for you though, and that you're almost done:)

      I did still enjoy this story despite learning there wouldn't be more. It was just a really fun read:)

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  11. Huh. Wonder why she's stopping the series? Maybe her publisher isn't picking up the next book... And, sad to say, this changes my plan to read this book anytime soon. I don't mind waiting a year for a new one but to never have the possibility of answers...I"m not so keen on that.

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    1. I have no idea! I got a publicity flyer with my review copy that made it sound like they were moving forward with the series, so I don't *think* it's that Disney didn't pick it up, but I obviously don't know that for sure.

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  12. So happy to see that you liked this one so much! I was a big fan of the Hex Hall series and was really sad that in the last one we didn't get enough of the Brannicks for me to feel satisfied so I'm happy that we are getting much more of them in these new books. Great review, Jenny!

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    1. Yay! I still have to read the final book in the Hex Hall series (I fail), but I had so much fun with Izzy and company in this book:)

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  13. That sucks it won't be a series. I was a fan of the Hex Hall series and was curious about this one. Glad to hear it's a solid read. Maybe she'll be able to revisit it one day. :)

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    1. That's what I'm hoping. She didn't leave us with a cliffhanger or anything, so I'm content to wait and see if it will ever be something she focuses on again. I'm excited for the new unrelated series she mentioned though!

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  14. Bummer to hear about the discontinuation (indefinite postponement?) of this series. That takes all the fun out of it, doesn't it? I'll definitely get to the Hex Hall series, but this one may have to wait.

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  15. I was really excited for this book because I adore Rachel Hawkins witty writing, but I was pretty upset when I heard that there would be no sequel. Because of that I don't think I would want to read this book. But you make it sound so good, especially when you described the characters! I'm very much conflicted whether I want to read it or not now!
    Lovely review, Jenny!

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  16. I have not read this author, and was excited to try this new series, but I am not sure this is the book to start with. I am glad you have us the update.

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  17. I wasn't planning on reading this one since I wasn't a fan of Hex Hall. It was a DNF for me which is rare, but I just couldn't get into it at all. I plan on giving it another go someday though. I'm glad you loved this one so much. The characters seem great and I think I'd like them more than the first MCs. I'm sorry your questions will more likely be unanswered though:(

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  18. Hex Hall was such a cute series, that I'd love to go back into that world with new characters. I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much, but I'm really sad that it's not going to be a series :(. Maybe that will change? Do you think this works ok as a standalone, or did it feel unfinished at the end?

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  19. Yay! So glad you enjoyed this one too! I loved the banter between Izzy and Dex and even though I miss Sophie and Archer, I really loved them and was SO excited at the prospect of more of their story, assuming there was a sequel on the way. I found out there wasn't on Rachel's tumblr and my heart just sank! I dont' think it makes me love the book any less, but it makes me super sad. :-(

    Lovely review Jenny!

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  20. I have one of the books in the first series and have been waiting on getting the other 2 before I start it. Oh and this looks like an interesting book to add to it. Glad it is complete especially when we aren't guaranteed to have more. Hopefully she will do what other authors have and go for indie! :) I usually hope for that.

    Btw, I'm so curious about Torrin!

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  21. I was very eager to read this series as I fell behind on the Hex Hall series, but I found out right after this released there wouldn't be a second book and that totally quenched my desire to read it. That is so sad. It sounds like such a fun and delightful book. I don't get it.

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  22. Is it weird that Torin sounds a bit like Magnus Bane? Old and mysterious and with unclear motives? I really think that's great. And Izzy sounds like a fabulous heroine too, but I'm not eager to read this, now that I know it won't be continuing. Somehow I doubt it was Hawkins' choice. I'm more inclined to think it was the publisher's decision, but who knows why these things happen? Anyway, since it wasn't written as a standalone, but will probably remain one, I'l just skip it for now.
    Great review, Jenny!

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  23. I love how funny Hawkins's writing can be - I remember laughing so much while reading HEX HALL! Love the sound of the characters, especially Torin...What a shame that there will not be a sequel, though.

    Fantastic review, Jenny! :)

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  24. I have seen reviews say that she's saying there's no more (at least for now) and that there's lots of unanswered questions. I do really want to read this (after finishing the Hex Hall series since I've only read the first) but I think I would be a bit angry about the open threads. I'm glad it was a good read, but still, so disappointing that it's not going to be finished!

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  25. I haven't read the Hex Hall series, but have heard good things about it. I had that the author isn't continuing this, kind of makes me not want to start it. You review is wonderful and so informative.

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  26. Jenny, so glad you enjoyed the book! I so need to finish the first series and read this one. Loved your review :)

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  27. I'm always a fan of spinoff series, especially if I loved the original series. Hex Hall was an enjoyable read. But I'm glad I've waited to read School Spirits.I've decided to pass up on it since there isn't going to be a sequel. Thanks for your review and the updated info!

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  28. yay i'm excited for this one! I just recently read Hex Hall and loved it to bits! Fantastic review!
    - Farah @ MajiBookshelf

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  29. I loved the Hex Hall series so I was looking forward to this, but I'm not going to rush out and read it especially in light of the news about the sequel. It does look like she may come back to writing one eventually, but by then people probably will have lost interest. Wonderful review, Jenny. :)

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  30. It's been so long since I read the first Hex Hall book and I remember really loving the whole witch vibe in it. I really need to finish that series. It's a little sad that there won't be a sequel, but atleast it's a great standalone. Lovely review, Jenny!

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