Monday, May 7, 2012

Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

Sara Wilson Etienne
February 2nd ,2012
320 pages (hardcover)
Putnam Juvenile
Source - Publisher (unsolicited)
Plagued by waking visions and nightmares, inexplicably drawn to the bones of dead animals, Faye thinks she's going crazy. Fast. Her parents beleive Holbrook Academy might just be the solution. Dr. Mordoch tells her it's the only answer. But Faye knows that something's not quite right about Dr. Mordoch and her creepy, prisonlike school for disturbed teenagers. 

What's wrong with Holbrook goes beyond the Takers, sadistic guards who threaten the student body with Tasers and pepper spray; or Nurse, who doles out pills at bedtime and doses of solitary confinement when kids step out of line; or Rita, the strange girl who delivers ominous messages to Faye that never seem to make any sense. What's wrong with Holbrook begins and ends with Faye's red hands; she and her newfound friends--her Holbrook "family"--wake up every morning with their hands stained the terrible brown of dried blood. Faye has no idea what it means but fears she may be the cause....
At Holbrook Academy, students learn to become better. That might sound nice to some people, but Faye isn't interested, even if she does have constant and unusual hallucinations. And so, Harbinger begins with a little intrigue and plenty of excitement. The strict confines and rules of Holbrook succeed in creating an immediate bond between the reader and Faye (along with her Family, other Holbrook residents that she is grouped with). Nothing is what it seems at Holbrook. The deeper Faye delves into its secrets and walks on the edge of her sanity, the more shocking revelations she finds. 

Sara Wilson Etienne's debut exudes an eerie feel and a pull that keeps its readers flipping the pages and eager for so much more. In Harbinger, just when you figure something out, another surprise surfaces to take hold of you. However, the tone of the story changes in the second half, and it becomes somewhat tedious to continue as everything is revealed in ways you may (or may not) expect. In the end, the truth will likely either fully satisfy or slightly disappoint readers1

Highlights: The eerie feel kept me glued to the pages. You never quite know what character to trust, or even what's going on. Faye is instantly easy to side with, as well as the members of her Holbrook Family, yet even they make you wonder if you can believe them. Faye's visions were detailed and fascinating. All in all, Harbinger is a great mystery. 

Lowlights: It seemed like answers came too fast - I kept backtracking because I felt like I missed something. The last hundred or so pages just weren't up to par with the rest of the book. I didn't enjoy the twist, and I didn't believe in Kel as a love interest. 


1 I wasn't particularly fond of the ending and twist, but the story was undeniably intriguing. 


Cover + Summary from Goodreads


  1. Such an interesting concept! I'll keep an eye out for this one. I haven't read any paranormal books in a while. Thanks for the review, Lea!

  2. I don't like the sound of this book that much because I'm not a fan of mystery books so I think I'll pass .. But Im glad to know that you found this book intriguing Lea :) !!

  3. I like the sound of this book, but I'm not sure if I will love it. I need a good love interest. ;)

  4. I had a similar reaction to this one Lea! I really enjoyed the first half, but I didn't feel like the two halves of the story fit together. I didn't understand why the adults at Holbrook were so cruel to the kids, and that was never really explained after the whole harbinger issue was revealed. I just wanted a little more:)

  5. I tend to like books that keep me guessing, so this one might be one I'll have to try. I have to admit that I was interested in Harbinger when I first heard of it, but then I read a lot of not-so-great reviews about it...and my interest kind of tapered off. You've made me curious again though...

  6. Sounds like it might be a library pick for me. I like that the story is strong enough that, even with the lackluster love interest and quick ending, it still shines.

  7. Destined to become a classic, this tale is one anybody would be thrilled to read. I've recommended it to everyone I know, so I thought I'd recommend it to some I don't know!
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