My loving wonderful boyfriend got me Rebel Belle because “it’s basically Buffy, just in the South”. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Kate, you hate Twilight and True Blood and anything else vampirey because it’s not Buffy, so you couldn’t possibly like this one, right?” Wrong. I loved it. Why? Because there are NO vampires in Rebel Belle. Just magic and a kick-ass teenage heroine, AND appropriate references to Buffy (let’s give credit where credit is due, right!?).
Set in Alabama, what I consider to be “the Deep South”, Rebel Belle tells the story of 16-year-old Harper Price. As SGA president, cheerleading captain, straight-A student and awesome boyfriend haver, Harper is on top of her teeny tiny world. At the homecoming dance, where she is expecting the crown, Harper sees one of her teachers murder the school janitor with a scimitar, and just before said janitor dies he passes his superhuman strength to Harper. Clues from that awful evening, as well as some strange happenings around school the following week, lead Harper to conclude that she is now something called a Paladin, whose sole purpose is to protect her longtime nemesis David Stark because he is an Oracle (if you don’t know what that is, I don’t think I want you reading this blog).
While Harper and David are trying to figure this mess out, Harper’s friends and awesome boyfriend become mighty suspicious of her peculiar behavior, causing some serious problems in her life. The other piece of the puzzle is Saylor Stark (a female Giles), who has been masquerading as David’s aunt and the town’s social planner. Harper, David and Saylor must work together to keep David safe from those who want him, and Harper, dead, or want to turn him into a super-Oracle who could possibly turn really, really evil.
What works well in this novel is the juxtaposition of Harper as the Buffy-esque protagonist and a good ol’ Southern Belle, who has to fit in Cotillion practice between training sessions and learning how to protect an Oracle. One thing that doesn’t quite work is the side plot about Harper’s sister, who apparently died in a drunk driving accident a few years prior, thus earning herself a bad reputation around town and creating a private hell for their parents. I don’t think Hawkins explored that enough, or made it seem relevant to the rest of the story, but perhaps that will be explored in future installments (based on the way the book ended, I HAVE to assume this will be at least a 3-book series).
So if you still browse the Young Adult section of the book store, I highly recommend this one. And kudos to Rachel Hawkins, whom I can sense is a kindred Buffy spirit, for creating a seriously likable main female character. Next up: The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle.