Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

Rebel Belle

rebelbelleyaOVERALL: 4.5 

Concept:4.5 Stars
Characters:4.5 Stars
Plot:4.5 Stars
Writing:5 Stars


Rachel Hawkins
G.P. Putnam Sons


Description: Harper Price has it all figured out. She has the perfect boyfriend, gets perfect marks at school and has bought the perfect dress for cotillion (which is the same as a debutante ball). The only snag is equally smart but completely annoying school reporter David Stark – but she’s been putting up with him since kindergarten, so it’s nothing she can’t handle. Then after an eventful trip to the bathroom during a school dance Harper becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with the superpowers of agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts. If that wasn’t complicated enough, over time she realises that David’s own fate is now very much intwined with hers – forever.

A fast paced novel for Young adults that has a touch of fantasy and a big dose of fun, romance and southern charm.

Concept: This book delves into ancient mythology and lore in a modern age with a strong female role model, which if you know me, I’m a total sucker for. Rachel Hawkins does a great job of painting a picture of a high achieving southern belle who is just trying to deal with the situations thrust upon her. And the magical element adds some fun.

Characters: The protagonist, 17 year old Harper shows a lot of depth and feeling. At times I was left wondering if she was a little ‘too good’ to be true, but then when I think about the majority of teens I know and have met, I don’t think so. Most are just trying to do the right thing. Her boyfriend Ryan was probably the weakest character but all in all, from her friend Bee to her nemesis David Stark the characters were well drawn, interesting and believable.

Plot: This was also a strength. Hawkins manages to move the action along at a fast pace but still maintain some depth and breadth to the story. I did identify a couple of weak bits though, firstly towards the end, at the Cotillion dance, regarding Ryan and also around David’s aunt, but nothing fatal. (Don’t want to give away the story twists so can’t really elaborate, but hopefully you’ll see what I mean!)

Writing: Rachel Hawkins writes really well. It’s hard to write for this age group without sometimes sounding ‘oh my god, like wow’ twee or too cool for school. She does a brilliant job and I really enjoyed the pace and banter of her dialogue.

This book is a great coming of age book for girls that includes romance and relationships without thrusting them in your face and making us (parents) blush! It is well written and I like that the protagonist is a young woman who is trying to do all the right things to get the future she wants and finding it hard, what with fitting in a list of activities as long as her cotillion dress and trying to juggle all her relationships – parents, friends and boyfriend!

Things to ask and discuss:

1) In the novel you find out that Harper’s sister died in a car accident because she drove home drunk after homecoming. This can give you an opportunity to broach the subject of drink driving and how it only takes one mistake to change your life and those around you.

2) Another aspect of the point above is whether or not Harper is trying to be so ‘good’ to compensate for her sister’s loss and the effect that has had on her parents. You could talk about the pressure of that on her and about loss.

3) I think that the way Harper conducts herself and her relationships is very mature. She breaks up with her boyfriend and tries to remain friends and she treats everyone with respect. This is something that is worth discussing. How realistic is her behaviour?

4) Another aspect of this book is being connected with someone forever, which as a teen is a LONG time. Again this give you the opportunity to talk about the future and what they expect it to hold.

5) The relationship between David and Harper completely changes during the course of the book. This can give you and opportunity to talk about how people change especially during their teenage years and that people are multi faceted.


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Book Reviews and Writer