Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons BYR
Pages: 309 pages
Genre: Dystopia, Paranormal
Goodreads Summary: Girl, Interrupted meets Beautiful Creatures in this fast-paced thriller
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.
Q1. Is Harbinger what you expected? What surprised you the most about the book (without giving away too many spoilers)?
Lisa: Yes and no. I only read one review of Harbinger, but I think I was pretty well prepared for how dark it was. On the other hand, it did have a ton of twists that took me completely off-guard. The ending is what surprised me the most. I thought the author was taking it one way, but she took it a whole different way I couldn't have guessed in a million years.
Me: I had no idea this book was dystopian before I started reading it. The summary does not even hint at anything like that so it was easily my biggest surprise.
Q2. What did you think of the book’s dark setting (the school, surrounding areas and the world itself)?
Lisa: Although I'm a serious wimp when it comes to super dark/scary books, I actually thought the dark setting was appropriate and interesting. It gave the story an aura of mystery and suspense. Holbrook was creepy and awful, and I admired how consistently horrible Etienne made it.
Me: I agree! This school was a prison masquerading as a reform school and it was awful! She did a fantastic job writing the setting.
Q3. Faye is an interesting main character? What did you like and not like about her?
Lisa: I liked that Faye was an outcast and that she fashioned a misfit family out of her fellow students at Holbrook. She's rebellious and curious, and I thought she was a well-rounded character.
The only thing I didn't really like about Faye was that at the end of the book, she seemed to change too rapidly. Although it fit with the plot, Faye was acting completely differently than she had the entire book. It just didn't make sense to me.
Me: I have to agree with you on this as well.
Q4. What did you think of the relationship between Faye and Kel?
Lisa: Following the rest of my responses, I really loved Faye and Kel 80 percent of the book. Their relationship was fraught with delicious tension and attraction. Then at the end...it just got weird.
Me: LOL! I thought there was a lot of weirdness about their relationship throughout the book. It was this sort of insta-attraction/weird connection that they shared that was, well, different. Not bad, but different.
Q5. What did you think of the secondary characters, especially the family?
Lisa: I seriously loved them!! They're all so quirky and funny. I loved their back stories and how they formed a real bond over their shared misery. (Bummer).
Q6. Harbinger has an environmental theme running through it that I find unique in paranormal YA books but more common in dystopia. What did you think of this theme? Would you like to see more or less of it in YA?
Lisa: In general, I think the theme of environmentalism can seem a bit forced and a little political. But, in Harbinger, it fit in with the overall ideas presented in the book: the world ran out of resources and struggled to keep going. It only makes sense that there were activists who wanted to cut down on wasteful consumption.
I think this theme also feels less pushy in paranormal and dystopian books because it's set in a fictional world and doesn't seem to read like a commentary on the current state of affairs in our country.
Q7. What were you overall thoughts on the book? Who would you recommend it to?
Lisa: This book was unputdownable for me. I read it in 2 days, which is pretty fast for this 9-to-5er. I was riveted the entire time!! The combination of intense mystery and action with a side of romance made this a well-balanced book.
However, the end of the book felt rushed and incomplete. In the last fourth of the book, the reader is hit with a tidal wave of new information. It's so much to process that I found myself drowning in the details. The final twist at the end just left me confused and a little let down. It wasn't the shocking reveal I was hoping for.
Harbinger passed the class but failed the final. The whole build-up of the story was enough to carry me through the patchy ending.
I would recommend this to fans of dark fantasy, paranormal YA and people who just love a good mystery (and staying up late nights).
Me: I read this very much wanting to find out what was behind the mysteries and Faye’s visions but the rushed ending left me confused and I still have questions that went unanswered. If you like dark and original YA books, I think this may be one for you, but it can be confusing. Harbinger does appear to be a standalone book which is a good thing for those tired of waiting a whole year to find out how the story ends.
Thank you for doing another joint review with me, Lisa! Don't forget to stop by Read. Breathe. Relax. to see Lisa's questions for me on Harbinger.