Author: Marta Acosta
Genre: YA Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Release Date: July 3rd
See it at Goodreads
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?
Dark Companion is a story of a girl. But it’s not your average girl story. This has mystery and intrigue, and a setting that sweeps you away in the same fashion that the birch grove trees in the legends will. There are flaws, and I didn’t like every character, but did I let this deter me from enjoying this fascinating piece of fiction? No. I was engrossed in its pages and odd backdrop that I couldn’t put it away.
When you first open up, you’ll meet Jane, who is an orphan. Cliché in my opinion. I’ve never been too fond of younger characters without strong parental relationships, or even the inkling of some type of a parent--even if it’s not a good one (those can eventually develop and grow throughout a story still, so I’m more likely to read those). Here’s where I faltered a bit in the beginning. But Ms. Acosta does a great job at building her characterization that I soon find myself not worrying about this detail and waiting to see where things progress on the situation. The opening paragraphs immediately build the tension, curiosity, and magic.
Mary Violet! Oh, Mary Violet! One day, I will write you a poem. This was my favorite character above all next to Jack. She has spunk, sass and she actually had me laughing out loud on several occasions. I adored her personality. And she’s a Shakespeare geek and poet? This was definitely a character I could relate to. This was a character that could be me or be my best friend for life. Jack: well, he was beautiful and funny and intelligent… What else can I say? Have I ever mentioned that it seems I love a lot of “Jack” characters. This name must be good mojo. Captain Jack Sparrow. Jack from The Blue Bloods Series (Melissa de la Cruz). Jack from Titanic. Jack from Blood Red Road (Moira Young). You get the point.
I hated Lucky. I hated him with a deep and loathing passion. Perhaps this was the author’s intent. Perhaps not. Either way, I just didn’t like him. He was charming in the beginning, but oh there’s definitely something sneaky there and you’ll realize it before long. I didn’t see the need for the potential love triangle in this story at all because there just wasn’t any contest. Jane didn’t really know Lucky all too well besides that he was gorgeous, and I have pet peeves with situations like that. And my absolute distaste went to Jane for allowing Lucky to emotionally and physically abuse her. For a girl who’d been orphaned and then claimed to know the “streets”, she didn’t seem too smart sometimes when it came to letting Lucky just walk all over her. Other than this nitpick, I liked her as a character. The background she comes from is tough and she rises up from it to prove herself capable of surviving on her own. Instead of giving in, she perseveres, working as hard as she can to get the best education, and makes some great friends along the way. You’re probably wondering why I’m commenting so much on characterization? Because Ms. Acosta delivers well with a character-driven book, and each character had something different and unique. Likes and dislikes. I really enjoy reading books that are character-driven like this.
It probably sounds like I hated the book, and that’s not my intention in the slightest bit. I didn’t! Dark Companion was an enjoyable and fantastic read that had me turning the pages with smiles and frowns and “WTF” moments. I love books that still remain on in my mind after I finish (in a good way) and this certainly did.
The descriptions were often magical and well done. The dialogue was intelligent and witty. Smooth and easy. There are underlying secrets, mystery, and romance. I also really loved how the author had quotes at the start of each chapter, most of which were from some of my very favorite classics. I liked the subtleness and eerie feel to the story throughout as it progressed, slowly building until the action. There’s a surprise twist that really did take me by surprise, and everything ended up neat and resolved by the ending.
Great read! Recommended to all my readers out there who love some curious magical mystery and strangeness in their reading piles. ;) I look forward to reading more of this author's work in the future.