by Rachel Hawkins
Original Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Obtained Via: Borrowed from library
1st in series
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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.
Rebel Belle opens on the night of Harper’s Homecoming dance, and all she’s expecting is to be crowned Homecoming Queen, have some fun, and celebrate. She doesn’t expect that a make-up emergency will lead to her becoming a Paladin, a guardian figure with special fighting skills and ability tasks to protect a certain person, but that’s what happens. And from there, Rebel Belle takes the reader on a bit of a wild, but charming, southern ride.
Harper is a fun character, but she isn’t shallow. What starts off as seeming like surface interests–makeup, perfect clothes, etc–really shows how wound-up Harper is. Harper is a character who has plotted out her whole life with precision. She stays up until 3 in the morning making dance decorations, she’s a member of every committee her private school has to offer, and she’s in the running for Valedictorian. She’s a perfectionist, but she’s savvy too–she’s not ready to say she’ll lay down her life to protect someone just because she ended up with magical powers. She has her own goals and ambitions, and she’s torn between what she’s suddenly become(a process she had no choice in), and the things she’s always wanted.
Harper’s charge, David, is also a great character. He’s smart and quick-witted, always a plus. Their energy played off of each other well, especially when Harper realized that David was the person she was suppose to protect. I was glad the reasoning given for this made sense, and wasn’t just purely made to complicate the plot(complications happened, of course, but it came around rather organically). It was great to see Harper and David come to grudging respect each other to becoming friends.
All that being said, Rebel Belle did seem to read exceedingly young, which shocked me. The plot was really standard–not a whole lot of twist, until the end–but I felt it could have easily played out with younger characters than Harper and David, except for the logistical aspects(driving cars, etc.) Harper’s voice in particular feels much younger–and not just because there’s a lack of “dark” issues in this book, which is fine–it’s more of her word choice and the way she approaches things. It threw me off the entire book.
The language censoring was weird, as well. Harper has a tendency to substitute “eff” into the story in place of real curse words. I’m not always a fan of books full of cursing if it feels forced, but this one just made no sense and kept pulling me from the story. I would understand it if it was just Harper’s inner narration, but there are times when other characters say it, and one time when she says she “says the real version”, but it still written in her watered-down substitute. It was jarring every time I came across it.
I expected this one to be fun and a little on the lighter side, but I was still shocked at how young it read. Considering the themes of protecting and potential sacrifice, I did expect a little bit of danger mixed in with my snarky dialogue. There was a little of that, but I never was really able to take it seriously. That being said, I did love the idea of this book! I mean, Paladins? Mixing southern culture(hello, cotillions, pearl strings, and hummingbird cake) with an adventure story? That premise and basic plot was the best part of the book, even when it took the predictable route.
Rebel Belle was fun, but not super memorable. I kept getting jolted out of the story due to some of the word choice and I did think it read really young for this type of story, but I was engaged the entire time. The premise was so original and fresh and it partnered really well with such a high-strung main character such as Harper. I’ll probably read the next book. 3/5 cupcakes.