Review: Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

Title: Harbinger

Author: Sara Wilson Etienne

Release Date: February 2nd, 2012

Read: March 11th, 2012

Pages: 309

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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.

A rich and tautly told psychological thriller, Harbinger heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in young adult fiction.

What I thought:

I had read some mixed reviews about this book, but no matter what I still wanted to read it.

Faye sees things that no one else does, they used to just appear at night, nightmares that made her scream, but now they happen during the day. Everyone thinks there is something wrong with her, that she has anxiety attacks, and no one can seem to look her straight in the eyes. As soon as Faye gets left at Holbrook, she keeps trying to find ways to escape, even if she gets caught. Anything but obedience is met with either being tazed, pepper sprayed, or locked in the “Meditation Centre” for hours.

After getting punished herself, she gets to meet her Family, as Dr. Murdoch calls it. A bunch of other students with problems, who are part of a group of six. They have to learn to work together, and if one member gets punished, they all do.

One morning, Faye and her roommate wake up, their hands stained, with what looks like it may be blood, a strange drawing on the ground, and no memory of that night. Faye knows something is up, when their nailed window was wide open, the nails bend and rusty, and she recognized the drawing as her own style. As the Family gets closer, things start getting worse, and something isn’t quite right at this school, with it’s hidden messages everywhere. Faye starts to fall for the mysterious Kel, but wonders if he might know something about what is happening to them. Afraid of being left alone, she tries to keep all these secrets to herself.

I loved reading this book, I had trouble putting it down until I found out what exactly was going on. The world outside the school is a bit Dystopian, with everything being shorted, rationed, and kids being told to be normal and conform, or they get sent to schools like Holbrook. There is a mystery, of what is happening every night to these kids, what or who the Harbinger is, and what they intend to do.

I definitely recommend this book for those looking for a bit of everything, a fantasy, and a mystery feel. I loved that this was also a stand-alone book and that I wouldn’t have to wait to find anything out.