Book Review: Harbinger

Book Review: HarbingerHarbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons BYR on February 2nd 2012
Pages: 320

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.

Because despite the strangeness of Holbrook and the island on which it sits, Faye feels oddly connected to the place; she feels especially linked to the handsome Kel, who helps her unravel the mystery. There's just one problem: Faye's certain Kel's trying to kill her--and maybe the rest of the world, too.

Harbinger came onto my radar due to the boarding school theme. I don't know what it is about these types of books, but I love the boarding school setting. The summary also promises lots of mystery. Sounded like something I just had to check out.
Harbinger completely unlike anything that I have read before. A bit creepy. Plenty of mystery, suspense. And just enough misdirection to keep my attention.
The story starts with the introduction of Holbrook Academy. On the surface, it appears to be a school for kids in need of help. A beautiful setting. A place of serenity. A school that seems to genuinely want to assist their students. Well, that is if you take everything at face value. But, of course, at Holbrook Academy not everything is what it appears. What is below that shiny veneer is the stuff of nightmares. 
Faye… Kel… and all of our secondary characters make this one heck of a tale. No two characters are alike. I loved how each add their own little bit to the main story. Each have their own pasts that they are running from. And some are definitely darker than others.
The beauty of Harbinger is in the details. Sara Wilson Etienne crafts her tale so perfectly that I will now forever think of her as the Queen of Misdirection. Throughout the novel, the reader is lead down path after path. Searching for the truth of what Holbrook Academy really is about. Whenever I thought I was finally about to have that "Ah-ha!" moment, another layer, another twist was added. While, on some levels, it was beyond frustrating. It was also exactly what made me love this book so much. It was like nothing I had encountered before.
Final Verdict:
I knew going into Harbinger that it was not going to be one of those 'happy-go-lucky' type reads. I knew that it was probably going to be a bit dark, filled with plenty of mystery. But what I didn't expect was all the history, the lore regarding Holbrook Academy and our characters. It added a nice layer to the book that really surprised me.
And the cherry on the top regarding Harbinger?
It is a standalone. No frustrating cliffhangers here. If I hadn't already enjoyed Harbinger so much, that would have definitely sealed it for me.
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6 responses to “Book Review: Harbinger

  1. Harbinger sounds outstanding! I love boarding school books too 🙂 The setting, plus all of the mysterious twists in the plot, made me think immediately of Variant. Have you read that yet? I’m guessing you might really enjoy it. Thanks for the review!

  2. Joy

    I’ve got Harbinger checked out from the library right now. I’m ready to get started reading it! I’m super glad it is a stand alone book, so I don’t have to wait!

  3. Christina Kit.

    I too love the boarding school setting! Harbinger is so original, and I especially like the website Sara Wilson Etienne set up with illustrations of the campus and lots of fan art. It’s a great companion site.

    It’s great that the tale keeps twisting. Sara’s awesome!

  4. I’m actually reading this one right now, but I haven’t quite gotten into it yet. I’m hoping it picks up since from all the reviews I’ve read it really sounds like my type of read. I love a good creepy mystery.

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