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Reviewed by Ankita Shukla for Readers' Favorite
When you are reading a book and it reminds you of your favorite movie or TV series, or if it takes you to your happy place, you know that you have selected the right one. Harmless by Katherine Dell reminded me of one of my favorite movies (Twilight) and one of my favorite TV series (Bewitched). Rachel Barnes, the leading character, is haunted by the death of her brother, Eric. He died about four years ago in a car accident and she is unable to move on with her life. To cope with the trauma, her mother relocates to a new place, Hazelton, with Rachel. She had trouble befriending people, but here she finally made four new friends (not best friends, but these are the people with whom she hangs out): Mason, Ryan, Chloe, and Julie. One day, when they were all at Rachel's house, they found a box, which her grandmother called a Spirit Box. This box contained carvings of a bear, a deer, a crow, and a wendigo. Although she warned everybody about the possible consequences of wishing over these carvings (aka spirit animals), nobody listened to her, and they all wished anyway. However, as expected, things started going south from that moment on.
Harmless by Katherine Dell is a magnificently written book. The subtle merging of several genres, while keeping the central genre as paranormal, is a tactic expertly applied by the author to hold the attention of readers. The words in which Rachel expressed her attraction towards Mason are so beautifully chosen that they reminded me of Bella Swan's fascination with Edward in Twilight. The magnetic pull that she felt towards Mason was conveyed very delicately yet powerfully. I applaud the author for using just the right amount of words to make their attraction for each other elegant and not cheesy. Other than romance, another emotion that the author incorporated into the plot is the grief of losing a sibling. I could just feel Rachel's pain due to the loss of her brother, Eric. She was grieving the loss and was unable to move on. To deal with the pain, she delayed unpacking her boxes, as if it would help her turn back the clock. Her agony was expressed with an appreciable sensitivity.
Since the central genre is paranormal, it had to be a major aspect of the plot and it really was. There are enough strange occurrences to keep readers both engaged and intrigued. I could not put down the book before knowing what turn their lives would take once the spirit animals came into action. It was interesting to wonder whether they would survive the consequences or would succumb to the tragedy that followed from the moment they decided to overlook the warning. The conversations are extremely engaging and realistic. The lives of the four friends are written as realistically as possible. They talk, behave, and act like the majority of teenagers. The author has done an incredible job in writing a fictional story based on the paranormal genre and yet it seems as life-like as non-fiction.