Paranormal Young Adult
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?
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.
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.