Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review: Dark Companion

Dark Companion
Published By: Tor Teen
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Page Count: 368
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Paranormal

This book was not at all what I expected, but that isn't a bad thing. It was bizarre in ways that made this novel really stand out. I also found it to be thought provoking. Another Lark, Michele B., was reading this one at the same time and we would exchange lengthy emails about our thoughts and questions. It took me a little time to settle into this one and decide if I liked it or not. In the end, I decided that any book that I couldn't put down and one that generated so many questions and conversations, is certainly one that I needed to give a higher rating. Be prepared to put in some work for this one, but its well worth your time if you are willing to put forth the effort.

One of my favorite things about this book was Marta Acosta's writing style. She has some great dialog, interesting characters, and her writing flows well. This is one of those novels where all of the characters are memorable. I found myself getting angry with Jane, giggling at Mary Violet, rolling my eyes at Lucky, and peering around each page in search of Jack. All of the characters - even the flawed ones and villain types - are worth getting to know. I also really liked that Jane was different than most YA heroines. She's tough, smart, and grew up in the foster care system. It was refreshing to see a character that didn't have a great family, but still managed to overcome her obstacles. Jane's desire to be a part of a family and have unconditional love will lead to some pretty intense moments in the plot. The evolution of Jane as a character in this one is also the mark of a talented writer.

In addition to the characters, I also really enjoyed the setting of this one. There is just something about stories that take place in exclusive schools that draws me in. Birch Grove Academy is an all girls school located in a gorgeous town. Only the best of the best are given admission. Jane knows that she might have trouble fitting in since she "comes from the wrong side of the tracks". The school and its grounds lends a lot of mystery and spookiness to the plot. I truly enjoyed all the tree imagery and symbolism that runs throughout this one.

Furthermore, this is not just a paranormal good time. Serious issues such as gender inequality and socioeconomic status are discussed at length. I really liked the author's treatment of these issues. Her take on them was thought provoking. Acosta also forces the reader to consider what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone who was neglectful and often hurtful. Those elements made me cringe, but I think they provide valuable lessons.

I don't really want to go into the paranormal aspects of this one because part of the fun for me was piecing things together as I read. I do not want to rob our readers of that pleasure. I will say that I found the elements intriguing, but was slightly frustrated that there was never a "big reveal". The nature of the paranormal beings in this one is alluded to, but nobody ever comes right out and admits what they truly are - rather they choose to blame a genetic abnormality for the condition. 

My biggest complaint overall is the ending. Things do get resolved, but some of these resolutions seemed force or thrown together at the last minute. It felt very rushed and didn't flow as smoothly as other sections of the novel.

Overall, I really enjoyed the time I spent in Acosta's creation. If you're looking for a paranormal with some interesting twists - this is the book for you. It's bizarre enough to help you get over that supernatural slump and hold your interest. Acosta does a beautiful job of channeling gothic novels of old and bringing that feeling into the modern era. Dark Companion is the perfect read for those stormy, summer nights.


One Last Gripe: I hated how Jane always allowed Lucky to have his way. Somebody needed to punch that boy in the face.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: I enjoyed the quotations from famous novels before each chapter. They helped set the mood for what was to come.

First Sentence: On the night that I die, a storm rages, and the thin glass of the cheap windows shudder as if beaten by fists, and the wind howls like someone calling come away, come away.

Favorite Character: Mary Violet - she cracks me up

Least Favorite Character: Lucky



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?


3 comments:

  1. Great review Andrea! I enjoyed chatting as we were reading it together... especially because we felt the same way for the most part! We'll have to do that again! ;)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Michele! I had a hard time putting my thoughts into words for this one. There was just so much I wanted to say, but I didn't want to spoil the book for anyone. I really liked being able to talk to someone who was reading it at the same time. It was a lot of fun and made the book even better for me. We will have to do it again for sure. :)

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