Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins. Penguin, 2014. Currently Available.
Age Level & Genre: YA Paranormal Fiction
Face Value: The cover is what attracted me to this book. The contrasting images of a super-feminine pink pearl necklace and a shiny dagger told me that there might be some interesting gender role gender role depictions in this book. And there was. Hurrah for a cover that lives up to its promises!
Does it break the slate? Harper Price is a butt-kicking, overachieving slatebreaker. She may try too hard to be perfect, but let’s not hold that against her. Harper wants to be an excellent student. She wants to fulfill her duties as a paladin (more on that later), but worries that she can’t do it to the level of perfection she normally expects of herself. Many of the people in Harper’s life give her grief for being a perfectionist. I say: You rock, Harper!
Who would we give it to? Overachievers, obviously. I don’t know much about Southern American culture, but I think girls deeply embedded in the womanhood of the South would also appreciate Harper’s story. Review: Harper Price strives to be the perfect Southern girl. Through a series of extremely odd paranormal encounters, Harper finds herself endowed with the powers of an ancient knight. She is tasked with protecting the person she despises most: her archenemy, David Stark. And there’s a bit of a romantic triangle thrown in, too. I thought this book was going to be so weird, but it turned out to be an interesting examination of male/female and protected/protector relationships.
Hawkins’ choice of a small Southern town as a setting for this supernatural tale was initially jarring to me. (I admit that may have been because I was listening to this as an audiobook, and the actor performing Harper had a thick Southern accent.) But I soon realized that this Southern setting made for a more interesting story. Southern women have much more rigid expectations of manner and femininity than what I grew up with in the Midwest. So for Harper to be given the strength and duties of a paladin (a role usually filled by a male), things become even more interesting. She has to get comfortable with her new fighting abilities while still maintaining her debutante status. Harper is bound to protect David, a boy from her school who really grinds her gears and happens to also be an oracle. David is also in a unique position because oracles are usually female. David’s powers are clouded because he is male, and he has to undergo a potentially dangerous transformation in order to see the future clearly.
Harper juggles her everyday life while getting acquainted with her paladin role. Because Harper never wants to disappoint anyone, she tries to still be an excellent friend, daughter, student, and girlfriend. She is able to keep up some of her appearances, but other things slip through the cracks. Her relationship with her boyfriend deteriorates and they have to split up. It’s not devastating, though. Hawkins wrote this breakup in a way that highlights Harper’s desire to explore her other interests. Harper knows that she just doesn’t feel passionate about her boyfriend anymore, so they end it. It was an admirable way to explore how an adolescent relationship can end on a friendly note.
Hawkins throws a wrench into Harper’s journey when she adds a romantic pull between Harper and the oracle she must protect. This complicates things. Harper should be doing her job with no other goal other than to protect the oracle. However, once she and David get romantically involved, there are elements that make it more difficult. She can’t be objective while performing in her paladin role. This will certainly make things more interesting as this series goes on. However, I would have been really interested to see what the dynamic between Harper and David looked like without the romance. That would have allowed an opportunity for Harper to fulfill a protector role without being a mother or a lover, which is what readers are used to. I am a tiny bit disappointed that we won’t have the opportunity to see that dynamic explored.
This book ends with a cliffhanger. I HATE when books have cliffhanger endings. It feels like such a gimmick to get me to buy the next book. But I guess it does work…I definitely plan to continue reading the installments in the Rebel Belle series.
Reviewed from a library copy.
Sounds interesting. I hope that expectations for the femininity of southern girls is changing for the better.