Title: Dark Companion
Author: Marta Acosta
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Genre: Um…horror? Magical realism? Help?
Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true.
The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?
As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove—and what she would risk to stay there…
I didn’t click with this book right away. The first twenty pages or so were a bit rough for me, and I wasn’t sure if I was really in the mood for it or not, but I stuck with it anyway, and I’m definitely glad I did. Dark Companion is dark, romantic, and super quirky and original. I’m honestly surprised that I didn’t hear more about it when it first came out, because it’s really, really good. Anyway.
I totally dug this book. It had a bunch of things that I really liked: guys with dark secrets, a boarding school (well, sort of), a creepy vibe, and more. As mentioned earlier, the book and I got off on a slightly rough start, but as the book progressed, the writing quickly got better and more compelling as well. Marta Acosta does an excellent job at characterization, and I wanted to be friends with Jane and all of her Birch Grove pals, too. Mary Violet is now my favorite minor character in a book, due to her sass and spunk. I felt like Acosta really gave all the girls very different personalities and expressed them well throughout the story. I also thought she did a good job characterizing Jack and Lucky, the headmistress’s sons. I think Jack was definitely stronger in terms of characterization, but she did a pretty good job with Lucky as well, although I would have liked to see him with people a bit more often.
The one thing I wasn’t sure about in terms of Jane’s character and background was the whole issue of Hosea. I understood that she was important to him, but in general, he didn’t seem that important to the story. Maybe Acosta was trying to put a bit of hope into Jane’s life from before Birch Grove by adding Hosea, but I found I didn’t really care about him all that much. He seemed a bit cliche and I didn’t really relate to him in any particular way, and I think the book could have done just fine without him.
Other than Hosea’s story, I thought Acosta weaved together an interesting plotline, and I very much liked the gradual speed at which it unraveled. The book kept me hooked without plowing through the action, although there were a couple of things that got kind of lost to me. I know at some point Jane was supposed to start questioning the death of Mr. Mason’s wife and Bebe’s disappearance, but I didn’t feel a sense of urgency when she starts investigating. I think that piece of the story could have been paced a little better, but overall the plot unravels nicely and really contributes to the mystery of the story.
In Dark Companion, Marta Acosta has definitely created an original plot. There were lots of twists and turns I hadn’t expected. Around the middle of the book, I started suspecting that one thing was going to happen/be revealed (trying really hard not to reveal spoilers here), but then it turned out to be even creepier than what I’d originally thought, which was great. I love it when an author can out-creep my predictions, and Marta Acosta certainly did that, making her book a surprising experience for me.
Dark Companion is really different and probably not for everyone, but I really liked it and would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes dark books on the more quirky side of things. I only wish there was a sequel!