HarbingerBy Sara Wilson Etienne

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s
Publication Date: February 2, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Thriller
Source: Purchased

When sixteen-year-old Faye arrives at Holbrook Academy, she doesn’t expect to find herself exactly where she needs to be. After years of strange waking visions and nightmares, her only comfort the bones of dead animals, Faye is afraid she’s going crazy. Fast.

But her first night at Holbrook, she feels strangely connected to the school and the island it sits on, like she’s come home. She’s even made her first real friends, but odd things keep happening to them. Every morning they wake on the floors of their dorm rooms with their hands stained red.

Faye knows she’s the reason, but what does it all mean? The handsome Kel tries to help her unravel the mystery, but Faye is certain she can’t trust him; in fact, he may be trying to kill her – and the rest of the world too.

Goodreads Summary

Faye’s been dumped at the Holbrook Academy by her parents following ten years of odd behavior that’s escalated into what everyone else thinks are panic attacks and a suicide attempt. The island school specializes in “socialization” for delinquents, which of course Faye isn’t. She keeps having complete sensory hallucinations of water rushing over her and drowning and she can “see” into people, read and experience their thoughts and memories sometimes if they look her in the eye.

The dorms are on literal lockdown – bars on the windows on the first floor, windows on the second floor painted or nailed shut – and there are guards armed with pepper spray and tasers to make sure none of the “students” decide to leave campus. The kids are divided into small groups called Families and told the group will suffer as a whole for any one member’s actions now. All that’s missing is the creepy cult robes, right? How about orange jumpsuits, community underwear, four minute showers with dual purpose soap and pre-loaded disposable toothbrushes? Check, check, check, check and check.

There are some spooky goings-on among Faye’s family at night. Somehow, they’re all getting out of their locked second floor dorm rooms and doing something because they’re all waking up each morning on the floor with red-stained hands and strange designs painted around them.

I had whiplash from all of the things that I’d love so much about this then others I’d get freakishly irritated about. If you love those creepy psycho books where they lock kids up and encourage them to turn on each other, then this is totally for you (me!). Think Lord of the Flies set in boarding school. There’s hazing, tasing, guards tackling students, creepy Stepford Wives teachers with sadistic streaks and a campus surrounded by razor wire. For nine-tenths of the book, Faye was an awesome narrator. She’s savvy as hell, doesn’t give up and I loved the way she worked through the clues about who and what the Harbinger was. The way her Family stuck together was great too – I really liked all of them individually too.

Then the wall-bangers. Faye’s family included the fat dorky kid who collected comics, the skinny vegan tough girl, the defiant chick with a blue Mohawk, the brawny by-the-book military dude and the slouchy skinny tough guy in the hoodie and fingerless gloves that ended up being Kel, the sort of romantic interest. The headmistress is of course a cold blonde who scrapes her hair back and is abnormally fake-smarmy but a drunk behind closed doors. Big and violent beefy guards that…oh, I can’t. C’mon! There are some excellent points about pollution and environmental issues but they dissolved into an ending so outrageous, I’m still shaking my head two days later. Ask poor Cait, she had to read my emails trying to explain this one.

My Summary: I had issues with this book that may have dropped my grade from an A to an A- before the horrible last handful of chapters that almost seemed like they were part of a different book. The thriller and exciting paranormal mystery that gripped me turned into something sort of weird and confusing that I really wasn’t interested in. I’m really resisting dropping the grade to reflect only the ending, but I’m trying to be as fair as possible and judge the book as a whole experience. It’s still a great book mostly and maybe others won’t be as bothered by the end as I was.

My Rating: B



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