Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Dark Companion
Marta Acosta
Release date: July 3rd, 2012
by Tor Teen

When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove.

Something's not quite right about the school -- or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother.

The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member.

Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school...and be bound to Birch Grove forever?
*A copy was provided by Marta Acosta for review purposes*

Note: After a comment on Goodreads, I want to note that nothing in this review is a spoiler. Everything mentioned in the 1st paragraph could easily all be on the blurb as these are facts that we learn from the start.

After being brought back to life from an accident that killed her, Jane is left with no memory of her childhood, and no parents. A foster child in a run-down town of Helmsdale, Jane can't refuse when a scholarship to an elite all-girl school is offered. She gets living expenses and her own place to live. It all seems so unreal, and it definitely feels… bizarre.

Dark Companion is different from anything I've ever read. It's a Gothic novel with a dark vibe, sweet romance, and original plot twists. When I met Jane, the protagonist, I found her a bit awkward and strange. She was raised in foster homes in a decrepit town and has only recently learned to speak proper English. I was a bit apprehensive about what kind of character she would be and how it would affect the story. But once she gets to Birch Grove Academy, Jane makes a few friends, starts getting out of her shell, and becomes a very enjoyable, sophisticated character. She is not afraid to speak her mind; she makes her intentions and feelings clear and I admired that about her. Her friend Mary Violet is easily the funnest character in the novel. She is absolutely hilarious with her quirky poetry and sarcastic sense of humor. Lucky and his brother, Jack, are the only guys on campus - the headmistress's sons. I was never sure which one Jane was romantically fond of, but I was glad that I was rooting for the right one. I liked them both. Jack is more arrogant, yet charming, while Lucky is the outgoing, if a bit strange, one.

The blurb of Dark Companion gives out an eerie feeling but without a lot of actual plot details. Although perfect to avoid spoilers and set the right mood, it left me unsure of what to expect. Once inside its pages, I was completely thrown off my game - not in a bad way, it was just so different and unique. Above all else, I was surprised by the dark Gothic mood of the story, which was great because I'm a big fan and loved nearly every Gothic mystery I've had a chance to read. The "Birch Grove secret" is a lot different from what I envisioned. It is undeniably strange, but also very interesting with a touch of realism to it - as in: in our world. (I even Googled!). However, I did find that once the secret is revealed, the story takes a more haphazard course. A lot of plot twists and turns are exposed in a manner than left me a bit overwhelmed. The ending did redeem it a little: It ends sweetly with a resolved feel and a good outlook to the future.

Dark Companion is a book that I don't think will be for everyone; it calls for a certain audience. Be prepared for Gothic-type mysteries, unusual plot elements and an old-world feel. Fortunately, I found myself enthralled by it's eccentricity and fully enjoyed it.

4 Hot Espressos