Monday, June 2, 2014

"The Hex Breaker's Eyes" by S. D. Tennant

The Hex Breaker's Eyes
(Hex Breaker Book One)
by S. D. Tennant

The Hex Breaker's Eyes is the first book in the young adult Hex Breaker series by S. D. Tennant. Also available: The Hex Breaker's Heart.

Small-town fifteen-year-old Mindee Vefreet thinks she’s going crazy when she sees a girl from school glowing in the dark. But when bad things start to happen around the glowy girl, it quickly becomes clear that what Mindee’s eyes can see is very real, and very dangerous.
Mindee is a seer, able to see hexes clinging to the victims of black magic. With no knowledge of magic or the occult, and no experience in breaking spells, attempting to break the hex seems almost impossible. Soon other people are getting hexed, the magic is turning lethal, and Mindee is drawing dangerous attention.
Because, to a certain type of witch, the only thing better than a good seer is a dead seer.

I wasn’t frightened until the girl started to glow in the dark.
“You seriously can’t see that?” I ask my best friend.
“See what?”
“It’s right there, as big as a person. Bigger than a person.”
Tamara looks, but she doesn’t see it. Maybe I’m going crazy.
Across the street from us, a girl is glowing. Well, I shouldn’t say that. It’s not like she’s painted in neon green body glitter or anything. But this girl’s got a real sort of, well, glow. There’s yellow light radiating from her. She looks like a low-watt light bulb. I swear she does.
But Tamara doesn’t see it.
We’re walking home from the Milkshaker, which is a sort of retro 50’s diner on Main Street, and across the street from us there’s a girl I recognize from school walking the same direction that we are. I don’t know her name. But that’s not important. The important thing is the glowing. Because seriously, this girl is lighting up the area around her body for a good couple of feet.
I’m Mindee. My best friend is Tamara. We’ve known each other since Mrs. Ulrich used to babysit us both, back before kindergarten. We’ve been friends longer than either of us can remember, so it’s freaking me out that she can’t see the glowing aura of light coming off that girl. I mean, it’s a little hard to see the glow when the girl’s standing under a streetlight, but there are times when she’s right in between two lights, in the darkest part of the shadow where she should be barely visible, and she’s lit up like a firefly.
“She’s glowing!” I say, exasperated. I make sure to keep my voice down so the girl doesn’t hear me.
Tam raises an eyebrow to mock me. “Like what, her shoes? I’ve seen little kids with those light-up shoes.”
“Her entire body. A gigantic two-foot radius around her body. Watch when she goes between the lights.”
So we walk along, keeping pace just behind the girl across the street, and we watch her walk. She passes into the shadow, lights it up in a manner that a cartoon might use to show you someone with radiation poisoning, and then walks under the next streetlight.
“I didn’t see anything.”
I’m trying not to get upset now. I’m starting to worry that I’m seeing things, but it’s so obvious to me that what I’m seeing is a real light. It’s not like the flashy lights that float in front of my eyes after I look into the sun or something. It’s a girl who glows like a lantern.
“That girl’s entire body glows in the dark. How do you not see it?”
And then Tamara decides to talk in a gentler, slightly less condescending voice, when she asks, “Are you seeing things?” My mouth hangs open. “I mean it, Min. Are you seeing like glowy blobs in front of your eyes?”
“No,” I say, as if she should know I already ruled that out. “I see everything the same as it always is, except that girl is glowing.”
“If that’s a joke, it’s not funny.”
“Jeez, Tam, look at her.”
Tamara grabs me by the arm and pulls me to a stop. “I mean it,” she says. “If this is a joke, stop it now. You should know better.”
Her tone is serious. Having been around through my entire life, Tam knows all about me. About my family history. Of course she’d be offended if I pretended I was crazy. But I’m not pretending and I’m not crazy. The girl is glowing.
“I’m not seeing things,” I say in a voice that sounds too whiny. I try to sound more sincere when I look Tam in the eye and say, “And I’m not faking this.” For a second we’re just standing there, looking at each other. We both sigh, as if there are no words left to say. The girl is getting really far ahead of us now.
“Go to bed early and get some sleep. If this keeps up, go to a doctor,” she says. Now she’s getting me worried.
“I’m not crazy.”
“What’s more likely,” she says, “that a girl can glow in the dark and only you can see it? Or that you’re nutso-cuckoo-pants? ‘Cause I vote for nutso.”
I look at the ground, my shoulders doing that squirmy thing that I hate but can’t seem to stop myself from doing. “Cuckoo-pants,” I admit.
She nods and winks in agreement. “You could have a brain tumor,” she says, perking up. “Or, like, that crazy optic nerve cancer that gets so big it makes your eye pop out.”
“Gross!” I say, slapping her on the arm. We start walking again. “I don’t have cancer. Girl who glows in the dark, she has cancer. But not me.”
We laugh a bit. I’ve had a lot of miserable times in my life. Bad, bad times. Sometimes, telling a joke about the worst possible things makes it easier when you actually have to face something horrible. But then the laughter dies and we walk in silence, each one of us convinced the other is crazy but too polite to push it. But her position is ‘everything-is-normal’ and my position is ‘a-human-being-glows-yellow’ so her version sounds saner. Maybe I should just sleep. Maybe I do have some kind of oddly specific brain cancer that makes me see things.
Or maybe I have... Nevermind. Not going there.
We get to Queen Street, which is my street, and we break off. I go down Queen, she continues down Main until she gets to Churchill, which is still a few streets ahead. It’s a ritual we’ve gone through many times, since this is also the way we walk home together every day after school. I cut across the gas station’s lot and she sticks to the sidewalk. We don’t hug or anything. In fact, I’m halfway across the lot before either of us thinks to wave goodbye. She waves, I say “See ya,” and then I’m walking alone.
And glowy girl is ahead of me. We live in what is either a big town or a small city. About four thousand people. Enough that we have our own elementary and high schools, and other towns bus their kids here for school. Our town’s called Blue Ribbon, by the way. There’s a whole historic reason for that, but who cares, right? Blue Ribbon, Ontario, Canada, population 4,156. Home of the Wildcats.
The reason I’m telling you about the town is because you might be wondering how this girl could live my very own neighbourhood and I don’t know her name. Well, that’s easy. I don’t know anybody’s name. I could count my friends on one hand and have the middle finger left to show to the world. I’m invisible at school. And I suppose I should be, since I do nothing there. No clubs, no sports, not particularly excellent at any class, not dumb enough to be made fun of. I sit at the side of the class, stay quiet, and rarely get called upon. I suppose I do this on purpose, since a few years back when I did get attention I hated every moment of it.
Before school I hang out with Tam and her boyfriend Ryan, and sometimes her other friend Marlene, who is in my chem class and is my lab partner. But other people, other girls? I have no idea what those people even talk about.
The girl in front of me is dressed in a trendy jacket she must have gotten in Toronto, painted-on leggings and slutty shoes. She is not the sort of girl I would ever have a conversation with, even if she was in my grade, which I doubt. I doubt that I would have ever even noticed her walking in front of me along this walk home, if not for the fact that she’s a human glowstick.
But there she is, shining yellow for only my eyes to see. Hard to ignore.
I wonder if Tam was right, so I deliberately turn away from the girl, wondering if I’ll start to see other things glow. One girl glowing seems oddly specific, but if I start to see random cars or fire hydrants glow I might have a problem. But I don’t. Nothing else glows like her. I’m not just seeing things. If this is a brain tumor, that tumor likes this girl and nothing else, which is probably not how tumors work. I know of a few disorders that might cause this kind of hallucination, but once again... I’m not going there.
The glowy aura around her starts to shift and change and, I don’t know the right word, undulate? It’s flowing around her like water, with some parts of it getting really far from her body and then flowing back in. It keeps happening like that, and then one time the blob of light stretches so far away from her it reached all the way up to the streetlight just as she passes under it.
And the streetlight goes out.
The aura fades back down to her, lighting up only the area within a few feet of the girl’s body. It stays close to her for about twenty steps, and then as she gets close to the next streetlight, it stretches up above her head again as she walks under the streetlight. And that light goes out too.
I walk along behind her, watching the aura churn and shift, expand and contract, and every time she walks under a light, the light goes out. And every single time, it happens because that glow of light reaches up and slaps the streetlight. All the way down the street. We’re getting close to the intersection of Queen and Bradley when I hear my dad’s voice behind me.
“Mindee?” he shouts. I was so focused on the girl that it takes me a moment to register that he’s calling to me. He shouts again from behind me, and the girl I was watching stops and turns, looking back at him before continuing on her way. That’s when I clue in, and turn around to face my dad.
“What?” I call back.
“Where are you going?” he asks, a look of concern on his face. My dad is dressed in his sweats and a t-shirt, which is the outfit he wears around the house before he goes to bed. He’s barefoot, which is probably cold on his feet.
“I was just walking.”
He gestures behind himself. “You forget where you live?”
Wow. I had been so focused on the girl I had walked right past my own house. Dad had obviously noticed me, and now he’s smiling, almost gloating that he has some fresh material to bug me with. My father is convinced I’m a space-case. I suppose my natural resting face is a bit distracted-looking, or maybe I come across like I’m off in my own world sometimes. Every now and then the way my dad talks to me, I’m convinced that he’s convinced that I smoke pot. (I don’t, never have, BTW.) Maybe I’m just naturally a little absentminded, but at least my dad seems to enjoy mocking my little mental lapses. I blush a little, and go back toward the house. As I pass Dad, he makes a grand show of putting his arm around me.
“You just say the word and I’ll get you one of those GPS units so you can find your way around. I think they’re mostly for cars but I bet they have a walking home function.”
“I was looking at the streetlights,” I say.
Dad cranes his head to look down the street. “A lot of ‘em are out, eh? Pretty stupid to have the timers all set like that.” He shivers. “Get in the house.”
Upstairs in my room, I have a cheap cellular phone, a TV with 65 channels and dozens of books, all of which should keep a girl my age busy for years, but none of which have a chance of catching my interest tonight after what I saw on the walk home. Not only did she glow, which could be chalked up to good-old-fashioned Mindee’s-gone-crazy, but the aura was turning off the lights.
Maybe the lights were on some kind of timer like Dad said, and maybe the speed of her walking was timed just perfectly so that they always went out just as she got close. But what were the odds that that would happen on the same night that I spontaneously started seeing an imaginary aura around this same girl?
As Tamara said, ‘what’s more likely?’
I turn off my lamp and my computer, and the only thing that glows is my alarm clock. I was most definitely not seeing things.
That girl had an aura. An aura that was affecting real streetlights, not just things I dreamed up. What does that mean?
It means I’m not crazy.

Featured Review
This story is split into 3 parts which makes it easy to read one part before taking a break. The story is well-written and you can read it through without having to think too deeply about what has been said before. The pieces of the puzzle all come together in a satisfactory ending to each part so you are not left wondering what happened to who.
I would think that this book is definitely aimed at the Young Adult genre, maybe from 10 years of age upwards. Still, as a mature reader, this in no way diminished my enjoyment of this book.

About the Author
S. D. Tennant lives in Ontario, Canada (yes, that means Canadian spelling!), works at a desk most of the time and has a dog named Jake. He reads so much while at work that he's surprised he still gets paid.