Title: Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Genre: Young adult – Urban Paranormal/Supernatural
Published by: Putnam Juvenile in 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
“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 favourite 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.”
This book was just awesome. Strong-female, arse-kicking, whole loada awesome. More than anything, it was a fun, light-hearted read and read a bit like a cutesy contemporary novel. But with killer teachers, supernatural powers and a lot of badassery.
First of all, the plot was very nicely paced. Not too fast as to be jumpy, but definitely a quick-paced read. The story was woven together quite cohesively and everything made sense and felt very realistic.
But the main attraction of this novel, and the one thing that absolutely stood out for me, had to be our leading lady, Harper. I completely adored her. She completely defies all stereotypes/clichés of the popular, girly-girl that is more often than not villainised in YA fiction – “I may like clothes and makeup and shoes, but I am not a bimbo” – and it most certainly does not mean in any way that you are a ‘bitch’ or a ‘slut’ (or whatever the latest phrase is) either. Some authors need to quit with their backwards opinions on women and girls and I applaud Hawkins for not putting Harper in a box and therefore making her one-dimensional, not to mention completely unrealistic. In fact, our protagonist was very well-fleshed out. She was smart, had her priorities in order, refused to let her emotions get in the way and was generally always very level-headed throughout. Harper was also flawed – she was a tad uptight and a little obsessive with her organisation – but this just added more depth to her character, making her seem more human.
Within just a few chapters, Harper had completely won me over. Especially with the following exchange:
“Tell me, Harper, are you going to use your new superpowers to strong-arm some boy into taking you to prom? Or maybe become head cheerleader?”
To which Harper replies, “I already am head cheerleader.” And then proceeds to kick him in the jaw. Total badass.
Also, she always makes rational, logical decisions and refuses to sit still and wallow in self-pity – “The only alternative is to sit here and whine about it and I don’t think that’s going to accomplish much.”
And she has her head screwed on completely straight when she stands up for herself with complete calmness – “This was done to me. I didn’t choose this. And so now, I’m choosing not to do it,” and “not at the expense of my life.” She won’t let a thing like fate or destiny control her life or the decisions that she makes. She puts herself first and no, that is not selfish in the slightest. Young people should be making choices that benefit only themselves. They have their whole lives ahead of them and they shouldn’t be making choices that involve revolving their entire lives around another person. Harper gets this. Harper’s great. She only agrees to it when there’s a good chance that someone else will try to kill her.
Plus, her narration is just hilarious. Particularly her commentary on superhero origins where she thinks she got totally screwed over for her origin story compared to Spiderman or Batman. The way Harper pokes fun at the superhero genre/tropes is a high point in general. You can’t help but love her. She’s terribly endearing.
The dynamic between her and David is so much fun and so interesting to read about. I found their back and forth to be very amusing. David was quite an unusual love interest to read about in the sense that, in YA fiction, we generally only see the Ryan archetype. Not that there’s anything wrong with that necessarily (I really appreciated Ryan as a character and the respect he had for Harper), it’s just quite nice and refreshing to see a different kind of love interest. Their friendship/relationship was just lovely and left me feeling a wee bit gooey inside. And it wasn’t instalove! Hallelujah! It was nice and slow and always felt very genuine and realistic. It was, in a word, charming. Just like everything else in this book.
All in all, I think she’s a great heroine. She shows us that you can do or be x and it not mean only y – it can mean a, b, c, d, etc. By allowing Harper to defy the mould, what we get is a very strong, original character that will not allow others to define her or judge her. Easily one of my new all-time-favourite heroines. I will definitely be carrying on with this series and I can’t wait to pick up the next instalment. Highly recommended to anyone who is tired of the ‘strong female character = physical strength’ archetype and is looking for something refreshing and a little bit different.