by Sara Wilson Etienne
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 is a dark, creepy read with a mystery that will keep you guessing.
Faye is a sympathetic character from the start since her dad abandons her in the boarding school - actually asylum - in hopes that they can help her. How lousy is that. The poor girl already feels lost as it is, and terrified by horrific hallucinations, and she gets dumped by the people who are supposed to be protecting her. Ugh!
Although Faye has spunk and tries to get herself out of the situation, she's no match for the diabolical Dr. Mordoch, and things go from bad to worse. But Faye finds a connection with the sweet-but-has-a-darkside Kel, and the rest of the poor disenfranchised kids in their unfortunate group. They become her "family," enduring the fate of sadistic torture, pulling strength from each other and developing a tenacious bond that helps them cope.
Things are confusing for Faye which mean they are for the reader as well. Sometimes I wasn't sure if what was happening was real or imagined. But it's fun to be along for the ride as Faye peels back the seemingly endless layers of the mystery.
Honestly, I was had some questions in the end since some of the elements from the first half seem to get lost in the second. There's a shift from kids against the system, to kids fighting against the prophecies of fate to save the world.
But the mood always oozes with the strange and dark, adding lots of twists and turns that give the novel an element of unease throughout. You really don't want to keep reading but you're already sucked in - knowing there's a monster behind the door, but you open it anyway.
Harbinger has an original premise, vivid detail, an eerie setting, and interesting characters. Those who like disturbing psychological thrillers with a mythological, paranormal element, and a complex, cryptic plot edged with insanity should find Harbinger a satisfying read.