Dark Companion by Marta Acosta
publisher: Tor Teen
release date: July 3rd, 2012
hardcover, 368 pages
intended audience: Young adult (I recommend 16+)
source: from publisher for honest review
description: 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….
Review: Dark Companion is such a unique, dark, & mesmerizing story with lots of twists and plot surprises, some really hilarious quick-witted dialogue and fantastic characters, but also some really frustrating moments where I absolutely loathed what was happening. I think my opinion of this book changed a million times while reading, but looking back on the story as a whole after I'd turned the last page---all I could think was... 'Wow'. There were time I couldn't stand to watch the choices the main character was making and times that I wanted to cheer for her out loud. But, in hindsight, that's what made the story so great for me----it brought out so many strong emotions! Dark Companion is intense and dark and quite spooky---not really paranormal (even the "vampire" aspect is not presented as something paranormal, but more of a medical anomaly), but with a tiny hint of magic. More than that, it's about Jane. She's goes through quite an emotional journey, and I was glad to have come along for the ride.
Jane grew up being thrown from foster home to foster home, her mother brutally murdered when she was just a child and the trauma erased her memory of anything before that. She's pretty emotionally damaged, but she grew up with a foster brother, Hosea, who encouraged her to be the best and smartest person she could be---and when he dies suddenly, she decides to do just that. Her efforts pay off when she's invited to Birch Grove Academy on a scholarship, and that's where the real story begins. She is taken in by the headmistress and her family and meets new friends and starts to really thrive.
I loved Jane's strong determination to succeed,...that is, until things start to happen with Lucky Radcliffe. He is handsome, but spoiled and self-centered and can be cruel. Because of her past, Jane craves love and family, so when Lucky shows an interest, it leads to her to becoming self-deluded and almost obsessive. Even when she is shocked by the truth about what is really going on, her desperation to be needed causes her to make some awful choices. But, like I said before, this was one girl's journey, and there was no lack of character growth by the time the story ends.
I do have to mention my two favorite characters: Lucky's brother, Jack, and the hilarious Mary Violet. Both of these character stole the show for me. Jack is so great at bringing out the fiery side of Jane's character. Funny, snarky, and constantly teasing Jane---he was just fun to read. Mary Violet is a new friend to Jane, but she steals every single scene she is in. Her personality is just bursting at the seams and I laughed out loud at every single one of her quirky poems and "french translations".
There are a few places where it showed that the author is used to writing for adults. This is her first foray into YA fiction, and while it was an amazing, compelling story, there were a few parts that I thought were written a bit too erotically for a YA audience. There are also a lot of heavy adult concepts here: drugs and prostitution, domestic violence, and a situation that skirts on sexual fetishes. While it's fine for me, I don't think I would feel comfortable recommending this to anyone under 16.
Dark Companion was a dark, lush gothic story that grasped my attention with a death-grip the entire time. I definitely recommend it for older YA readers!
Visit Marta Acosta at her site: www.MartaAcosta.com
Purchase Dark Companion at: Amazon • BN.com • BookDepository • Indiebound