Harbinger is probably one of the better written YA novels I’ve read in a while. Now don’t point any fingers at me or anything, I’ve stepped away from the YA shelf at bookstores because I was finding the same cookie cutter plot and, honestly, it’s incredibly boring. If you’re into that, I have nothing against you.
With that said, this book seems to have a slow start. You have Faye who is brought to Holbrook which serves as one of those schools for “troubled” teens. Yeah, you know the ones. If anything, Etienne does a very good job at making you uncomfortable about being in Holbrook. I almost put the book down for a while for that reason. Holbrook is toxic, uncomfortable, and an overall terrible place to be (it’s even got the signature solitary confinement these places have dubbed the “Meditation Center”).
A few gripes I had with this novel was the extreme subtlety of the Peak Wars, the instant love interest, and kind of how confusing the writing was.
Now for a bit of context, the Peak Wars broke out because of the rising prices of foreign oil in relation to the diminishing supply of oil. This isn’t a completely improbable situation, but what’s interesting is that it’s so important to the plot, however it’s mentioned maybe three or four times within the entire 300+ pages. At times I almost forgot that it wasn’t just Maine in 2014. I completely forgot that the Peak Wars were happening at all. The natural rivers and creeks are heavily polluted, the land is barren because people have taken the trees for firewood, and in the summer (when the book takes place) there’s a massive heat wave in California that wipes out twelve Cooperatives, places that can be related to maybe gated and guarded neighborhoods. Why do I have a problem with this? Well, near the end of the novel, it’s very connected to the earth and to nature so seeing that the Peak Wars are kind of the catalyst for the end of this novel, it’s disappointing that the Peak Wars are mentioned so little.
The instant love interest. Ah, yes. I said in the beginning that I stepped away from the YA shelves at bookstores and I have to say that this is the main reason. However, that’s for another day. Honestly, I didn’t mind the romance too much other than that it was pretty much the “instant they interact it’s canon” way of going about things. There was the bit that played in the novel that I won’t talk about for spoiler reasons, but other than that. It wasn’t too bad. I’ve read worse. I’m just tired of seeing a love interest as the expected in most YA novels.
Now, the writing was hard to keep up with. Not because it was incredibly long or because the vocabulary was hard to keep up with, it just seemed to be all over the place at times. The story is kind of hard to keep up with because things happen almost too quickly. I know, sounds weird since it’s in writing right? But it just didn’t seem as fleshed out as it could have been so you have these gaps in the story that you’re kind of left to fill in yourself.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s not the best book, but it’s a fun time and it takes kind of a really dark turn near the end of it that was kind of out of left field, but I enjoyed it all the more. The ending had a pretty cinematic feel to it and reading the author’s note after the book helped with the understanding of the last act of the novel.
Main thoughts: An entertaining read, but nothing to rave about.
Author: Sara Wilson Etienne