Flexing your Hex
In the YA section of our library, shelves are dominated by supernatural stories, but mostly I’ve sought out ‘realistic’ fiction for my present study. With spring in full swing, however, and dark reading hours at a premium, I finally succombed to Rachel Hawkins’ second book in her Hex Hall series. The same phenomenon happened last year about this time–when book one wound up in my hands. The cover art bears some credit for both the first and second rounds. Tanya Ross-Hughes has pulled together a winning look; the black cat, as purely archetypical allure, is a good trick too.
Sophie’s voice sparks with authenticity, earnestly self-deprecating but unafraid to call out the crap around her either. She definitely carries readers into her dilemmas, with enough attitude to make up for her determinedly straight-laced character. Demonglass was nominated for a YALSA Teens’ Top Ten in 2011, so the lack of actual swearing, drinking or sex hasn’t hurt it any. The use of a voice that is ‘au courant’ might tug today’s reader right into the maelstrom, but will it wear well? The same question follows with descriptions of clothing–elucidating character today, but clouding it tomorrow?
Despite being a ‘light read’, Hawkins slips in some of the human questions we should all wrestle with as we make decisions or choose by proxy in the voting box. Hex Hall shone a spectral light on the spectacle of prejudice. Demonglass also calls into question the creation of ‘ultimate weapons’ as a deterrent for one’s enemies. Hawkins, a former teacher, refrains from any hints of lecturing, and lets the plot speak for the reality she sees.
Besides Sophie’s voice, the plot holds enough mystery to keep pages turning. Clues are dropped ever-so-gently, but they give an aware reader the chance to guess the truth of things just a half-step ahead of the protagonist. In YA, this might be considered reader training–it offers the reward of feeling just a little bit smarter than the smart chick. I wonder if the third book will go beyond the training level and hold its secrets all the way to a ‘surprising but inevitable’ conclusion.