Synopsis: Harper Price is perfect. Head cheerleader, leader of the Student Council, Homecoming Queen, and loved by everyone in town–especially her steady boyfriend whom she dreams of marrying. That is, until she is imbued with magical powers and tasked with protecting David Stark, of all people. Now Harper has to figure out what these mysterious powers mean, what they have to do with David, and how it all relates to Cotillion, the debutante coming out gala at the end of the year.

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The idea of Southern Belle Paladins could go one of two ways: a young woman’s serious plight to defy the patriarchy, or a young woman unknowingly defies the patriarchy with teenage wit and eye rolling. The latter has a bigger feminist agenda than the former, and I am so glad Hawkins chose that direction.

If you’re looking for something deep and meaningful, this is not the book for you. While the book is subtly subverting reader expectations (dude in distress instead of a damsel in distress), it’s not obviously so. Most female characters are some form of warrior or authority figure while most plot-relevant male characters either die early or are being protected.

Some people complain about predictable plots, but I say predictability means the narrative is doing its job. The plot hits the right beats at the right times. This does not detract from the reading experience, and in fact enhances it in some regards. There is a reason the deux ex machina plot device is frowned upon. That being said, there were some times when the plot got a little slow, but that didn’t detract from my overall impression of the book, which is that it’s an absolute delight.

The small town atmosphere of “everyone knows each other” and “this town holds no secrets” is flawlessly executed. There are even gossiping old women who smoke and eat cake and play cards all in one go. There’s the mysterious outsider who has lived in town for almost twenty years but is still “the Outsider.” And of course there are debutantes and high school social politics and suburban car chases and history teachers who wield scimitars. You read that right.

The only way this could be me more enjoyable is to listen to someone read it in a southern belle accent.

Rebel Belle is recommended for people who already enjoy Young Adult fiction or people who would like a new twist to the same-old-same-old. Other books in the series include Miss Mayhem and Lady Renegades.

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