Release Date: May 14, 2013
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
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