Title: Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle #1)
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publication Info: Published April 8, 2014 by Putnam Juvenile
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
The Flavor: The Flash meets polite southern society
The Short Version: You remember that perfect girl you knew in high school? Well, she's back in the form of seventeen-year-old Harper, and this time she's roundhouse-kicking her way into your heart.
**beware: some spoilers from the book follow**
Rachel: As a semi-southerner (Texan), I loved this book. Everything from the sweet tea to the cotillion to the pearls just made me so happy when I read it. Do you think non-southerners would get the same enjoyment from these little nods?
Diana: I wanted to talk to you about this! This book is filled with everything Southern, and I have just one question for you: these southern stereotypes. Real? Not real?
Rachel: Well, I've always maintained that Texas isn't really The South - more The South-West. I'd actually lump it in with NM and AZ before I put it with AL and GA. That being said, yes, most of the portrayals in the book were accurate in my experience. In fact, I'm pretty sure I knew Harper in high school, and while I didn't like her then, I loved her in this book.
Diana: What about the hummingbird cake? What even is hummingbird cake? Is it actually effective as an instrument of conflict resolution?
Diana: I'm trying to think of a food item that we northerners could use in a similar fashion, and I'm coming up blank
Rachel: Salmon? I don't know. I lived there for 4 years, and I never saw food used as effectively as it is here in the south. Let’s just say this, the book is accurate in that food is important and problems are often solved over it.
Diana: I'm sorry I was a bitch, here's some fish?
Okay, I'm prepared to move on from the food question. One thing that caught me immediately--from the first page--was how hilarious Harper's voice was. In fact, I thought it was so funny that I kept reading sentences aloud to Tim.
Yeah, I know it’s vain. But being pretty is currency, not just at the Grove, but in life.
Diana: And I thought that the author did some pretty sophisticated work with her as well--like, her voice is totally hilarious but you also get this pretty layered sense of her emotional problems, even though she herself has no idea. Like, she's telling the audience what her problems are without even realizing what she's doing.
Honestly, what is wrong with this country when striving for excellence means you need antidepressants?
Diana: Well, I have a longstanding distrust of "popular dudes" stretching back to high school, so I never felt very attached to the supposedly "perfect" boyfriend she starts the book with.
Rachel: See, as you know, I had a real crisis while reading this book. Because Ryan, the perfect boyfriend, really does seem to be perfect. He's constantly there for her and her family. He treats her well. He supports her various projects and doesn't mind that she often puts him last. Like, I'm not sure that he ever did anything less than great the entire book.
I picked up the nearest weapon I could lay my hands on: a stapler.
Diana: See, I disagree that Ryan was that nice. All he wanted to do was have the sexy times with her.
That said, David really was a dick. Although I liked that we found his heart of gold sooner rather than later, with the concern he shows her in the first or second chapter, when she's vomiting and he holds her hair back. Plus give me a smart alt-boy over one of those beautiful jocks any day man. Although we need to have a serious conversation about David's wardrobe. Because dude dressed like a douche. Tight pants. Cardigans. Black-rimmed glasses.
Since when did David Stark have biceps? How did you get any muscle tone when all you did was type and be annoying?
Diana: Unfortunately I agree with you. TIGHT JEANS. IN COLORS. I think there might have been CORDUROY. I had to rewrite it in my head.
Rachel: David sounds exactly like the type of guy I would have been attracted to in my high school days.
Diana: Pink hair is just soooo much better than what was going on with him. They're not equivalent. TIGHT JEANS. IN COLORS. I think there might have been CORDUROY.
Rachel: How do you think the paranormal elements in this book rank among other paranormal YA?
Diana: This hits on another thing that I really loved: this is a superhero story, and a pretty straightforward one. It reminds me a lot more of Arrow or The Flash than it does Twilight or even the Vampire Academy (which I love love love. But it's just different.)
Rachel: Yes. Superheroes are very hot right now. But the interesting thing to me really was that it felt more like realistic fiction that just so happened to have some supernatural elements. Like, if someone told me they hated paranormal YA, I'd still suggest this as a book they should read. Also, paladins and mages aren't things I've seen before, so I really liked the twist on the genre.
Diana: I agree with you--the characters were realistic and awesome. Case in point when Saylor tells Harper that she's going to have to be willing to lay down her life to protect David--to actually die for him--and her initial reaction was a very reasonable "thanks but no thanks.” I loved that there was no unbelievable heroism.
Rachel: A great point. And so you know, this author has another series called Hex Hall, that sounds like it will be equally fantastic. So I'm going to suggest it as the next Common Novel read. Until then, everyone, go read this book! I'd give it a strong recommend to anyone who likes superheroes, the south, and female protagonists (I'm not sure how well this book would play with the average male reader).
Diana: I'm on board for Hex Hall! And yes! Anybody who loves YA should go read this book. Until next time!