Hex Hall (2010) is Rachel Hawkins’s debut novel, a young adult paranormal boarding school story.
Sophie Mercer is half-witch and half-mortal, but lives alone with her single human mother and knows little about her magical father. After wrecking her high school prom with a disastrous spell, Sophie is sent to Hecate (nicknamed Hex) Hall, a school for delinquent magical beings.
In her human school, Sophie was outcast for her witchy powers. At Hex Hall, her magic is not at all unusual, but the social hierarchy is no less daunting. Sophie quickly runs afoul of the in-crowd: befriending her roommate, Jenna, who is ostracized for being a vampire and suspected of murder; turning down the elite girls’ offer of coven membership; and developing a crush on the queen bee’s boyfriend, Archer.
A series of near-deadly attacks begins taking out the coven members, and Sophie is unsure whom to trust. The injuries look like vampire bites, bringing Jenna under suspicion, but there is also a witch-hunter at Hex Hall who may have his own reasons to harm the girls. Meanwhile, a mysterious ghost appears frequently to Sophie and teaches her more advanced magic in secret.
There were some young adult paranormal trends in the early 2010s that I was worried Hex Hall would fall into. A lot of books at the time were slow and melodramatic, with obsessive “romances” that completely dominated the plots and the protagonists’ lives.
Happily, Hex Hall is not like that. There’s a romantic subplot, but it’s only part of the story and not the whole thing. The book moves quickly, and features a suspenseful mystery and a sarcastic sense of humor.
It’s kind of tropey and not really earthshaking, but it’s fun.
Hawkins has written three more HEX HALL books: two about Sophie, and a spin-off novel, School Spirits, set in the same universe.