School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins
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?
Rachel Hawkins’ delightful spin-off brings the same wit and charm as the New York Times best-selling Hex Hall series. Get ready for more magic, mystery and romance!
Review: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
I thoroughly enjoyed this new installment in the Hex Hall universe from Rachel Hawkins. This spin-off focuses on Izzy, who was a side character in the third Hex Hall novel. It follows Izzy and her mother as they settle in a small town in order to investigate a crime seemingly committed by a ghost who is haunting the local high school. As part of the investigation, Izzy – for the first time – enrolls at a public school and has the opportunity to make some friends and see what non-Brannick life is about.
Because our main character is not herself strongly supernatural, we didn’t have as many paranormal doings in this novel. In fact, while there was a ghost (and Torin, the ever-present warlock in the mirror), the real heart and soul of this novel was about Izzy figuring out what it means to be a teenager. My absolute favorite parts of the novel were not supernatural at all, but were Izzy figuring out what it means to be a “normal” teenager. I loved her mental checklists of things she had to watch or read in order to learn about teen life (note: teen mags and rom-coms are not the way, Izzy!). She stumbles upon a really excellent friend group, and I loved all of those characters, particularly Dex. But I also really loved the female friendship shown in this novel. I’ve said here before that it saddens me to see so many YA novels overlook the power of a great female friend, and I was glad to see a true friendship in this one.
The love story was great, of course – this is Hawkins, after all. It was as much of a slow-burn romance as you can get in a 250-page novel and when the kissing kicked in, it was totally worth the wait. Dex was a fun character, and it was awesome to see a not-so-stereotypical love interest for Izzy.
My main complaint about the book is that it really wrapped up super neat and tidy in the last 30 pages without much warning. Perhaps Hawkins is concerned that the next installment won’t be picked up by Disney Hyperion? I think she wrote it so that it would stand alone without too much issue, but there are plenty of unanswered questions. I demand another Brannick book! Hope someone out there is listening!
If you loved the Hex Hall books, you should definitely go ahead and read this one. It’s a strong 3.5-4 star quick read with fun characters, focusing on friendship and finding out who you want to be in life. If you haven’t read Hex Hall, I wouldn’t start here because there are some spoilers for the rest of the series.