31. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Fiction, Teen Books

Harbinger by Sarah Wilson Etienne, 309 pages, read by Courtney, on 12/12/2012

After her panic attacks/hallucinations and nightmares get too bad, Faye’s parents ship her off to Holbrook Academy. It’s really more of a prison than a school and residents are locked in their rooms at night, pepper-sprayed when they talk back and drugged indiscriminately. Faye and the rest of her “Family” (a seemingly random group of 5 students) seem different from the rest of the kids though, particularly since they keep waking up with their formerly locked windows open and their hands stained red. Only one member of the Family is really set apart and Faye begins to suspect that he may know much more than he is letting on. In fact, Faye is fairly certain that he might be trying to kill everyone.
While this book is, for the most part, rather entertaining and unusual, it is also a bit of a hot mess. The setting is somewhere in the not-too-distant future. Oil has peaked out and most forests have been clear-cut. Holbrook Academy, however, appears to have avoided the worst of the clear-cutting as it is heavily wooded (evidently a rare sight in this world). The headmistress of the academy, Dr. Mordoch, is constantly spouting Buddhist phrases that somehow support the “goals” of the school. It’s honestly the first time Buddhism has ever sinister to me. Anyway, the Buddhist symbolism is more or less completely dropped by the time the second half of the book rolls around. And so does the tone. Ecological themes begin to play an increasingly important role and then an ancient culture comes into play. I get where the author was headed with some of this stuff, but it still feels muddled and far-fetched. Bonus points, however, for the author’s notes indicating that the ancient race mentioned in the book did actually exist (though very little appears to be known about them). An interesting debut novel though, flaws and all.

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