Series: Rebel Belle #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on April 8th, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.
Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.
With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.
Ever since I started reading YA actively in 2012, I’ve heard the greatest things about Rachel Hawkins as being an author of excellent entertaining and fluffy paranormal romances. As such, I’ve been meaning to try out her books for ages, but it never quite made it to the top of my priority list. What an idiot am I. Rebel Belle is an absolute delight, and I can’t wait to check out all the rest of Hawkins’s works.
Rebel Belle tells the story of Harper, an overachieving southern Belle, who out of the blue, after witnessing the death of her school janitor and being assaulted by her teacher, gets superpowers. She soon finds out she is a Paladin, graced with super strength and fighting skills, destined to serve as a protector to the only Oracle in the world, who happens to be her nemesis since Kindergarten, David. From the very first page, I was sucked into this book. The tone is so light and refreshing. Harper’s voice is vibrant and lively – I loved her southern grace and her overachieving nature. It was kind of like I formed an instant connection to her, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen.
One of the things I love about this book is that it turns so many fantasy tropes on their head. The woman, here, serves as the protector. The main character is not the chosen one – she’s in fact destined to protect him. She’s the strong one, while he has a magical fate he does not yet understand. And not only that, but once Harper realizes the powers that she has, she doesn’t just lie down and accept her destiny. She’s not immediately brave, confident, and self-sacrificing. In a more realistic move, she actually just really wants to go on with her normal high school life. She didn’t choose this fate, this power, so it takes her a really long time to accept that her life has been forever changed. I can imagine some people might get annoyed with her for running away from it all for so long, but I really respected it for how realistic it was.
But before we go any further, let me just state for the record: the ship is strong with this one. Oh how it delighted me with every shared moment and touch. Though Harper is in a long term relationship with Ryan, her newfound powers obviously put her in close contact with David… her nemesis. In fact… they quite hate each other. LO, HOW THE BIRDS ARE SINGING, MY SHIP IS SETTING SAIL. Hate-to-love romance is one of my favorite tropes of all time, obviously, and it was spectacular here. There’s so much banter, such mutual disdain, but gradually it all melts and becomes a puddle of adorable goo. David is a cutie pie, for serious, with a crazy unique fashion sense (though bonus points for the Doctor Who shirt), much geekiness, and spectacular snark. Harper is a master of holding grudges and maybe a bit too obsessed with her clean-cut southern Belle image, but the two are magic together. Many feels. Many flailing in bed feels.
Obviously, however, with Harper in a relationship already, the romance is not uncomplicated. And I guess it’s kind of a love triangle, though I didn’t mind it so much. The love triangle I feel serves more to show the struggle between Harper’s mind and her heart. Ryan is a perfect boyfriend on paper, yes, but after two years, the relationship has kind of plateaued. I could relate to that immensely as both within the context of high school relationships and personal experience. And, let’s face it, the hate-to-love ship had me blazing through the pages from one feelsy moment to the next. I am kind of worried about the love triangle drama continuing or getting more dramatic in the sequels, given the ending, but for now, I’m quite satisfied with it.
Overall, this is just an excellent light paranormal romance. There’s not too much world building – but it’s not really necessary, because the amount of magic in the world is extremely limited. It’s not very complicated or deep, but it doesn’t have to be. For most of the story, Harper and David are just coming to terms with what their powers mean and trying to stay alive, while fending off the gossip of their small town southern community. There’s an excellent friendship between Harper and Bee, some mild bitchiness with Mary Beth, and wonderful glimpses of the southern culture as the girls prepare for their Cotillion. Then there are a couple of brief fight scenes that really get the juices flowing. Basically, there’s just high entertainment value all around. I didn’t want to put the book down for a second, and when I finally finished, the first thing I did was get online to order the sequel. I. Need. More.