Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review: Dark Companion

Author: Marta Acosta
Publisher: Tor/Macmillan
Release Date: June 2012
Pages: 368
Read it in: 2 weeks (it takes me forever to read PDFs!)
Source: EGalley from the author

Summary: 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?

LC's Take:

Jane Williams has just been given a full scholarship to attend Birch Grove Academy, an elite girl's school where she will have a second chance at life, away from the violent city slums of Helmsdale where she's lived her entire life. Once Jane arrives at the school, she starts making friends and falling for a couple of the boys who live near the school-- both who happen to be the sons of the school's headmistress. However, Jane starts realizing that there is something strange about Birch Grove, and that her reason for being there might not be as simple as she thought it was.

This book was just "OK" for me... I did like reading it, but there were some things about the characters and the plot that I wasn't really a fan of. I'm not even sure I can put my finger on exactly what it was that I disliked, but there were definitely parts about this book that rubbed me the wrong way.

I did like the main character, Jane Whitfield, who was sort of like a modern-day Eliza Dolittle, who rises up from her slum-life background in order to become an educated and well-spoken student with a chance to succeed in life. I loved how she came from such a dismal background but worked hard to overcome her disadvantages. There were also many similarities between her and Jane Eyre, which were echoed throughout the book.

I also liked the secondary characters in this book, especially Mary Violet and Jack-- they were quirky, strange, and kind of unbelievable, but still managed to give the story somewhat of a dream-like quality, because they were slightly "off." It's sort of hard to explain I guess, but basically I liked them because they were different! The ways they talked and behaved were a bit funny, but still very memorable.

One character I could not stand was Lucian "Lucky" Radcliffe, the headmistress's son. Lucky was your typical, unattainable golden boy, who was also extremely selfish and walked all over everybody to get what he wanted. At the start of the story, Jane has thoughts of "How could someone as awesome as him like someone as average as me?" Not that that's bad necessarily, but she did get a little too fan-girl for my taste at times, and I wish she didn't feel like she had to try so hard. Lucky, on the other hand, was controlling and possessive, and even made Jane promise to keep their abusive relationship a secret, and I really wish she would've taken that as a major warning sign to stay the heck away from him a lot sooner than she did.

The story unfolded a bit slowly, but it was still able to build up the right amount of mystery and suspense-- for the first hundred pages or so, you know that something isn't quite right, but you can't really put your finger on it. I was really impressed by this subtle eeriness that only "hints" at something being off, because it made me really curious to figure out what was going on!

I did like the element of mystery in this plot, trying to figure out what Birch Grove Academy's secret was, and how the scholarship girl that Jane replaced disappeared. However, I did think that the story began to drag  a bit, about halfway through the book, and the ending was somewhat anticlimactic, even though there were a few unexpected twists and everything ended up being neatly resolved with all the strings tied up.

Altogether, I think that there will be people who really like this one, and others who may not be huge fans. The dark, Gothic nature of the story and the mysterious mood that surrounded the plot were done really well. However, I wasn't able to connect with the characters quite as much as I would have liked, and I had some trouble keeping my attention going towards the last half of the book. I personally didn't mind reading it, but it was by no means a favorite unfortunately!

**NOTE: I wanted to mention that I did read this book as a PDF file, which might have influenced my overall impression of the book a little bit... I am really not a fan of reading e-copies of books and I think I can be a bit more impatient at times when I do read e-Galleys. I just wanted to be fair and bring this up as a factor that may have affected my overall experience a little!

~Cover Talk~ 

I really love the eeriness of this cover, and the monotone color scheme with the blues and greens is really beautiful! I like how it shows the girl-- presumably Jane-- walking away with her back to us, through the creepy woods. Altogether, it is very beautiful and definitely sets the mood for the story. The only thing that I think feels out of place is the font of the title-- it is too "cheerful" and whimsical for the book. Something more Gothic-inspired would have been a better choice. I've heard that the font may be changed in the final editing of the book though!

LC's Rating:
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A Gothic story set with a dark and eerie mood, Dark Companion is a paranormal romance with lots of mystery and suspense. The story did take some time to build, and the ending was a little less exciting than i would have hoped.

Check It Out!



10 comments:

  1. Great review! Too bad you didn't enjoy this one more though. I'm really excited for it!

    Angie @ Pinkindle Reads & Reviews

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  2. I know I'm definitely excited to read this one!!! I've been looking at it for awhile now, but I'm sorry you didn't LOVE it, at least you enjoyed it :) Great review!!

    Anna @ Literary Exploration

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  3. It really bothers me when a girl for someone and is, as you put it, fangirly, and even more if the relationship is too intense and borderline abusive. It's also too bad that it could drag at times. However, I am intrigued by the Gothic and the school elements.

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  4. Great review!! I have this one waiting on my kindle and I can't wait to read it :)

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  5. From your review, this doesn't really sound like my type of book. While I do love a nice touch of Gothic nature in books, I don't like when characters are supposed to "do no wrong" when they're actually jerks. Unless, of course, it's supposed to be that way. Great review, Lea. :D

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  6. I am the same with e-books. I think I would enjoy this one though, so I might check it out. Thanks for the honest review :)

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  7. The cover is stunning. I love it!

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  8. Great review Lea! I'm a little disappointed you didn't like it so much because I had really high hopes for this one. I don't think I'll like it as much as I thought I would based off your review, but I might still give it a try. I do love dark, gothic, mystery stories.
    And I totally know what you mean about being impatient with e-copies.
    Thanks for the honest review :)

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  9. Nice review! I have been debating on whether or not to read it. Still undecided lol

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  10. Great review. =) I've seen this around and have really been wondering about it. It sounds really good. I'm sorry there were parts you disliked. I can understand the loathing of e-copies. I used to be the same way, but ever since I got my Kindle Fire I've started liking them a bit more. Though I do prefer physical copies over e-copies.

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Your comments make me happy :)

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