Tuesday, May 28, 2013

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins
Release Date:
May 14, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Publisher


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? (courtesy of Goodreads.)


As a huge fan of Rachel Hawkins's Hex Hall series, I leapt at the chance to read School Spirits, the spin-off of her first series. It's another win for Rachel. Reminding me somewhat in both style and plot of Paranormalcy by Kiersten White, School Spirits is the tale of a teenage hunter and destroyer of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and all things paranormal.

First off, can you read this if you haven't read the Hex Hall series yet? Yes. It is a standalone series. That said, it would make more sense if you've read Hex Hall first. Sophie is mentioned numerous times in passing. She's never important for the plot, but it's assumed that the reader knows who she is - kind of like an Easter egg. Similarly, the relevant parts of the paranormal world are fully explained in School Spirits, but it's easier to digest them if you're familiar with the Hex Hall world. All in all, I wouldn't avoid School Spirits if you don't have time to read Hex Hall, but if you can get it it first, that would probably make the book more fun.

Izzy is a different character than Sophie. Izzy has been isolated from the normal world, leaving in the middle of nowhere with her mom and sister and leaving only to hunt paranormal creatures. So she enters the high school realm tentatively, knowing that she's in over her head. Add to that the fact that Izzy believes she's a poor hunter - the thing she's been trained to do her entire life - and contributed to her beloved sister's disappearance and you have a girl with a low self-confidence.

School Spirits has a cutesy sense of humor, much like Paranormalcy. And surprisingly, not that much like Hex Hall. Sophie was always armed with a sarcastic one-liner, even if she was being threatened with impending death. Izzy has a sardonic take on life, but it's more cute and innocent than Sophie. While I miss the laughs from Hex Hall, this is funny in its own way. Rachel Hawkins is one of the few authors who can write a strong paranormal series with a lot of humor.

There are two boys at the heart of School Spirits, Dex and Torin. Dex is definitely a romantic interest. He's an odd character who dresses and speaks like he's been transported from a Victorian novel. He's sweet, funny, not edgy, and comfortable in his own skin. His background also is one of the great mysteries of the book and it unfolded in a way I didn't expect.

Torin is the other "boy" of the book. The book did not turn into a love triangle. Maybe it will as the series goes on; I'm not sure. Torin is a 400 year old dark warlock who is trapped in a mirror in Izzy's house. He and Izzy have formed an odd relationship, one that is part friendship, part mentorship, part contention, part family. I loved Torin - he has that snarky, biting wit that I love. But I also don't know whether I trust him. I am really curious to see what happens to him in future books.

The ghost hunting plot of School Spirits was interesting in its own way but felt secondary. This first book was really about introducing us to Izzy, Dex, Torin, and the other main characters. And as a lover of character driven stories, I'm fine with that. The plot served to move the book along and it certainly did so. I sped through this book in a single day. It had a comfortable familiar feeling that I didn't want to let go of.

School Spirits is a great introduction to a new series. It stands together and apart with its sister series Hex Hall. The worst part is that I'm going to have to wait a whole year for the next book. Definitely pick this one up!

Rating: 4 / 5

Here's How to Buy the Book! 


  1. I think I'd want a bit more ghost hunting but the characters sound like they do fine on their own. Can't wait to meet Izzy!

  2. Beautiful cover! Thanks for the review.
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  3. I like the sound of the cutesy sense of humor, but would prob miss the snark from Sophie

  4. Oh, I'm glad to see you enjoyed this one, Alison! I read Hex Hall so long ago, I don't think I even remember if I enjoyed it or not. I'll definitely need to try it again and read this one, too! Lovely thoughts :)

  5. I quite enjoyed this book (mostly because of Izzy being the opposite to Sophie's character and because of Dex too who was so super cute and sweet) but it definitely had a different feel compared to the Hex Hall series, which is fine because it's supposed to be different but I kind of wanted MORE to happen in the actual book. Still, I can't wait to read the sequel to this spin-off series. It definitely has potential I found. Anyway, lovely review as always!

  6. I haven't even gotten around to reading Hex Hall yet, even though I've owned a copy for years. :( Since I'm one of those people who *needs* to read books in the order of publication, it looks like it may be a while before I get around to this, if I get there at all. Although the sound of a 400-year-old warlock is mighty appealing. Even if he's not (yet) a love interest in the story, I could see myself developing a crush on such a character. :)

  7. I need to finish the Hex Hall series and then get to this one. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  8. I only read the first Hex Hall book, AGES ago but I've been wanting to finish them. And this new one sounds really good. The lighter tone with the fun moments sounds like my kind of thing!

  9. I've had this one on my Kobo for FOREVER, I have no idea why I haven't got to it yet. Glad to hear you enjoyed it! Hex Hall was a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to checking this one out sometime soon-ish.

  10. I haven't read the Hex Hall series so I wasn't sure whether I had to read that before this or not. Now that I know I don't, I'm sure I'll read this one sooner. Great review :)

  11. I actually requested this one right away on Netgalley before cluing in that it was a Hex Hall spin-off. I haven't read the Hex Hall books yet but they've been on my wishlist for some time. I wish I'd gotten into the original series first but I loved this one too! If anything, it made me want to read Hex Hall sooner :) Like you, I enjoy character driven stories so the fact that the ending was a bit anti-climactic didn't bother me at all. I had too much fun with Izzy, Dex, Thorin and the rest of the gang! Great review, you've added to my Hex Hall urgency even more LOL


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