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Joint Review: Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

I promised you a review of Harbinger in my Pages & Pairings post featuring the book a few weeks ago and now, here it is!

I teamed up with NC from Truly Bookish to a joint review of this darkly awesome book. Be sure to check out her post today to see my answers to her questions.

My questions about Harbinger and Truly Bookish’s insightful answers are below.

Joint Review: Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne

harbinger by sara wilson etienne

1There were a ton of plot twists in Harbinger – did you see any of them coming?

NC: Some of the plot twists I saw coming but some of them took me completely by surprise. I pretty much knew the real identity of the Harbinger, I thought the cover of the book was a giveaway. The myth and the legends that the paranormal elements are based on were completely original and like nothing I have seen in YA. Honesty, I had no idea this book was dystopian until I started reading it and while this is not really a plot twist, it really surprised me.

Me: You are one smart cookie. I was oblivious to some most of the foreshadowing. And, that’s a great point – I didn’t know it was a dystopian…till you mentioned it just now. 🙂

2The content of the book is pretty dark. What did you think about Harbinger’s setting and atmosphere?

NC: The setting is very dark but it is perfect for the story. The school is the stuff of nightmares – a horrible, repressive reform school (really a prison) for teens run by sadistic, evil adults. It plays perfectly with the visions, secrets and mystery of the story. Etienne is a good writer and she does dark very well!

3Faye and Kel’s relationship took interesting turns throughout Harbinger – friends, more than friends, then…something more complicated. How do you think their relationship compares to other YA romances?

NC: Faye and Kel had an instant draw to one another that wasn’t quite insta-love but not really natural either. Insta-love is such a common theme in YA these days but the author makes this relationship a bit more intense and complicated than that. I actually thought it was well done.

Me: Great point! It was at a weird inbetween state of instalove and a normal pace.

4A theme throughout Harbinger was parents who had given up on their children. I’ve seen this topic occasionally in some YA books. How do you feel about it?

NC: I’ve noticed it in YA too and I think it fuels the angst and anger some teens feel towards their parents so it plays well in the books they read. It also seems to be an easy way for writers to force their characters to mature: the parents are either dead or abandon them so they have to no one to rely on but themselves and their friends. I guess it’s kind of a romantic notion for teens but as an adult who reads YA, I think it’s overdone.

Me: NC is clearly more insightful than I am! Plus, yes, as flip as this sounds, You can’t turn around without knocking over a book that has characters with dead or absent parents.

5What did you think about the pacing of the novel? For me, the pacing seemed balanced in the beginning – the suspense built at a great rate and then crescendoed in the last quarter of the book. But, then the end of the book sped up to the point where I wasn’t sure what was happening.

NC: I feel the same way. For most of the book, we find out clues that Faye’s visions and the truth behind the school and them the story starts running at a breakneck pace to the end. I was left feeling a bit dazed and confused as to what was really happening.

6Who was your favorite character and why?

NC: I liked Nami a lot with her blue spiked Mohawk and spunky personality, she was a great character.

Me: Agreed! On three, let’s shave our heads and dye it, ok? One, two, three…

7I loved the dynamic of Faye’s Holbrook family – misfits finding solace in each other. What member of the family are you most like? (I would probably be like the spikey-haired girl).

NC: I’m probably more like Damion: a stickler for the rules but fiercely loyal to my family and friends as well.

8Were you surprised at the ending? Is there anything you would have changed about it?

NC: The ending took me by surprise, I did not see any of that coming! I loved the unique paranormal elements that were revealed in the end but I’m still confused by a few things. I would change the books pacing and provide better explanations some of the things that happened.

9Overall, what did you think of Harbinger? Is it a book you will recommend to others?

NC: Harbinger is original and the writing is beautiful. It’s a book that will keep you reading if only to find out what the heck is going on! I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read something fresh but does not mind a story that is cryptic at times.

Me: True that, my friend, true that.

Don’t forget to check out my answers about Harbinger at Truly Bookish!

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.