Friday, March 2, 2012

Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne - Review

Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne
Published: February 2, 2012
Publisher: Putnam/Penguin

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. 

My Review:
Faye believes she is going to Holbrook Academy just to look around because she has been experiencing things which others do not see, which of course makes her family start thinking she is crazy. Faye's father really intended to blindside her and leave her there the entire time because he already secretly had her bag packed in the trunk of the car. Holbrook Academy is not what it appears to be from the brochures and the "facade" of the main building that visitors get to see. In reality, the patients at Holbrook Academy are treated very badly. They are provided a limited amount of almost inedible food, given almost no opportunity to practice good hygiene, disciplined harshly when they do not behave, and are drugged at night so they are not a problem to the guards. Despite being drugged at night, Faye and her "family" (the group that she must always eat and attend classes with) wake up every morning finding that they somehow managed to get out of their locked rooms at night and they have stained red hands. While investigating what is really going on at Holbrook Academy, Faye begins to suspect that one of the family is the Harbinger and is going to kill all of them.

I am sorry to say I still don't know how I feel about Harbinger. I was confused while reading it, and now a few weeks later, I'm still confused. Unfortunately, I had this copy as part of traveling tour in which I got to keep it for one week, so I did not have longer to spend with it. Even after thinking on it for a couple of weeks, if I had to describe this book in one word I would say weird. That may not necessarily be a bad thing. It feels disjointed, with lines of thought that are hard to follow. It seems as if you are reading this book from the mind of someone with some serious psychological problems. If that was what Sara was trying to portray, which I think it was, then two thumbs up to her for the huge accomplishment. Harbinger definitely brings something different and unique to the YA genre, and I think that many will enjoy it. In the end, it just wasn't for me.

Reviewed as part of a traveling tour.

About the author:
Sara Wilson Etienne used to dream of being a marine biologist but quickly realized that she loved fantasy more than fact.  Now she enjoys combining both to create stories that ask “What if?” She writes in sunny California alongside her artist husband and her two dogs.

Her favorite days are spent disappearing into different universes, whether it’s traveling with Dr. Who, popping into a parallel world with Diana Wynne Jones, writing her own stories, or just taking a nap.

Harbinger is her first novel.

You can find Sara Wilson Etienne on her websiteTwitter, and Facebook.


  1. Great review ;D I feel the same way about Harbinger. I even stopped reading it for a while, tried to make sense of things, but it didn't really work D:

    Beatriz @ AWWIP

  2. This totally sounds like a book I would like, even with the weird confusing thing. Maybe my slightly crazy brain could figure it out


  4. Nice review!
    I never read her books before! It sound like a good one i have to add to my tbr list ^^

  5. I've been contemplating on picking up this book for a little while. Heard some up and down reviews, but am still contemplating. Great review

  6. Hi, Karis. I had many of the same issues with the book that you did. Several elements were a complete surprise, so it wasn't the book I was led to believe it was based on the plot description. It wasn't awful, but I do agree that it's not the most compatible book for me. Great review. :-)

  7. This is quite a detailed and insightful review. The blurb for this book has never before caught my attention, but with your mention of the book reading like it's from the POV of someone with psychological issues, I would like to read it just to get a glimpse of what such a protagonist would read like. Thanks for sharing your thoughts:)

    Sarah Bibi Setar

    1. Hi Sarah,
      That was my take on the POV. I'm still wondering if it was intentional or not. lol



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