School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—In a bleak future time when the Earth's resources are depleted, six-year-old Faye has a mysterious incident on a beach resulting in strange behavior, hallucinations, nightmares, and ostracism. Ten years later, 16-year-old Faye is taken to Holbrook Academy, a boarding school for teens "struggling to cope with reality" on a coastal Maine island. After taking the required sleeping pills her first night, she escapes her room and cannot shake the fuzzy memory of music, drums, and chanting; nor can she shake the feelings she develops for Kel, with whom she bonds in a neighboring solitary confinement cell the next day. Faye's "family" unit includes her roommate, Maya; Kel; and three others, all plagued each morning with red-stained hands, while Faye and Maya also awake with red symbols painted on their floor. As Faye searches for the meaning of the symbols, she discovers that she has a purpose of apocalyptic importance. Etienne manages to pack a lot of popular YA story elements into this debut novel, such as dystopian societies, romance, teen misfits, and a boarding school, and she mixes many genres including mystery, thriller, paranormal, and fantasy. While the plot moves quickly, the story line is disjointed and the flow of the narrative is choppy. The accompanying Holbrook Academy map and tarot cards are a welcome addition to the book, and the cover is visually appealing.—Adrienne L. Strock, Maricopa County Library District, AZ
Set in a near-future United States where the oil crisis has resulted in food rationing and energy restrictions, Etienne's debut is a dark, dramatic, but uneven call for ecological balance. Sixteen-year-old Faye Robson suffers from hallucinations, nightmares, and insomnia, and she can see secrets in people's minds by touching them. Her parents send her to Holbrook Academy on a Maine island, a school promoted as a caring place for troubled youth, which is actually a harsh and violent prison where the teens are mentally and physically tormented for the slightest transgression. When Faye and her assigned "Family" wake up every morning on the floor with their hands stained red and no memory of what's happened, she begins to connect current events to recovered memories of her childhood. Clues lead her to a century-old prophecy written in blood that predicts the coming of the Harbinger, a force that will wash the world clean, prompting Faye's resolve to stop the destruction of humanity. Tense and well-paced, Etienne's novel effectively draws in readers, but melodrama and mysticism lead to an overwrought and puzzling climax. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
"Heart-wrenching, terrifying, hot, and un-put-down-able!"
"Intricate, suspenseful, completely absorbing. Harbinger is masterfully done: complex and layered with extraordinary clues that will keep you awash in fear, suspicion, and questions until the rich and satisfying end."
From the Publisher
"Heart-wrenching, terrifying, hot, and un-put-down-able!" — Tamora Pierce
"Intricate, suspenseful, completely absorbing. Harbinger is masterfully done: complex and layered with extraordinary clues that will keep you awash in fear, suspicion, and questions until the rich and satisfying end." — Lisa McMann, author of the NYT bestselling Wake Trilogy
"Powerful stuff." — BCCB Reviews
The plot twists and pace should keep the pages turning." — Booklist
VOYA - Rebecca O'Neil
Faye, sixteen, feels betrayed when her father enrolls her in Holbrook Academy, a prisonlike boarding school for delinquent teens on the coast of Maine, located in one of the few forests remaining after oil wars have left few resources. Though she has never been "normal" (she has visions, hallucinations, and can read others' thoughts from their eyes), she is not prepared for the brutality of Holbrook, where students are drugged, berated, and tased into conformity. Her assigned small group, or Family, begins to wake up on the floor of their locked rooms with their hands stained blood-red, and Faye, along with the attractive Kel, suspects that her abilities may connect with these and other strange happenings at Holbrook. Etienne's debut novel quickly sets up several compelling elements: a postpeak oil setting; Faye's inability to separate reality and imagination; the harsh, secretive headmistress, Dr. Mordoch; the handsome crush, Kel, first introduced through the wall of a solitary confinement cell; and a series of clues, including a diary and tarot cards, connecting Faye and her Family to Holbrook long before they were born. Suspenseful chapter endings, vivid imagery, and romantic tension propel the story forward, but it falters during a long and confusing climax. Invested readers may enjoy backtracking to seek clarification, but others may feel lost when the story jumps to epic proportions. Still, school and public librarians will want to take note of this genre-blending title with broad appeal to fans of boarding school, mystery, romance, dystopia, and the supernatural alike. Reviewer: Rebecca O'Neil
Children's Literature - Leah Hanson
Faye thinks she is keeping her end of the bargain when she visits Holbrook Academy with her father. But when he drives away leaving her there, she fears the worstshe really is going crazy and now her parents have given up on her. Plagued by waking nightmares and unexplained visions, Faye has grown accustomed to the fact that no one will ever look her in the eyes. But being sent to Holbrook Academya "refuge" for "troubled teenagers" as Dr. Mordoch claims, seems all wrong. Students are locked in their rooms at night, discipline borders on abuse, and there are too many unanswered questions. Locked in solitary confinement, Faye meets Kel, a fellow student locked up on the other side of the wall and finds one person she feels she can trust. In the daylight, she is even more drawn to him. But when her designated "family" of fellow students all wake up in the morning with blood-stained hands and no memory of the night before, Faye is certain that something is deadly wrong, and that Kel has something to do with it. Convinced she must stop a cataclysmic event, Faye struggles to understand her own mysterious past, while hoping against hope that Kel can be her future. This engrossing fantasy draws on the ancient culture of the Red Paint Peoplea mysterious part of Maine's pre-history and weaves together what little historical facts are known about this culture with the supernatural. Readers acutely feel Faye's confusion as she seeks to understand if she is the savior or the ruin of all that she loves, as the story runs to its terrifying conclusion. Reviewer: Leah Hanson
Debut author Etienne's novel tells the story of Faye Robson, a 16-year-old girl plagued by mysterious "episodes" and shipped off to Holbrook Academy by her parents, ostensibly for her own good. Thus betrayed by her family, Faye quickly connects with a small group of fellow students, bound together by mysterious happenings at the school. Desperate to uncover the secrets of her past, the source of her visions and the truth behind the frightening goings-on at Holbrook, Faye and her new "family" risk serious and painful consequences in their quest for answers. The novel has its share of plusses. Faye is an artist at heart, and the first-person narration, even when relaying the darkest and most gruesome aspects of the story, reflects Faye's vivid and sensuous view of the world. It also lends itself to an interesting perspective on Faye's internal struggles, particularly with regard to her love/hate relationship with her terrifying visions. Unfortunately, the resolution feels forced, the author having spent too much time reveling in dark, gory details to the detriment of the story. It's unfortunate that the more positive aspects of the novel are diluted by a confusing plot that takes too long to work itself out and has the potential to leave readers scratching their heads at the end. (Fantasy. 14 & up)