Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Published: July 3rd, 2012
Publisher: Tom Doherty
Pages: 368
Copy: Courtesy of publisher and Netgalley
Summary: 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?

I have been following Ms Acosta's blog for quite some time and I was delighted when she started talking about writing a YA book. Having read some of her adult fiction, Dark Companion was a wonderful surprise for me.  She maintains her trademark humour, but the story was just a bit different.

The story evolves slowly, but maintains a high level of interest, partly because of the stellar character development.  Jane is a prickly orphan who is trying to find her feet amongst a group of strangers.  She is both strong and vulnerable and although she has street smarts, there is a niaivity to her that is remarkably compelling.  One of my favourite characters is Mary Violet, or MV, who has a severe case of verbal diahhrea and had me in hoots.  I just loved her. We have two seriously hunky guys in the mix, brothers by family if not by birth, and totally different.  Lucky is spoilt and self-centred and a little mysterious.  Jack is flippant and funny but with depth, and he has become my new favourite book boyfriend. I would like to meet him very much!

I loved the way that the tension slowly builds in Dark Companion.  Nothing truly overt, but the menace simmers below the surface.  I was taken completely by surprise by the 'bad guy' - did not see it coming at all.  Well done Ms Acosta, it's not often that happens.  Ms Acosta handles an overworked genre with a new take and it was very well done.  One of the things is felt at the beginning was a little bit of a comparison to Jane Eyre, and I have since read on Ms Acosta's Goodreads blogpage, that I wasn't far off. A dark gothic feel overall adds to the little bit of mystery and with the addition of a little bit of magic we have a lot of reading fun.  I loved every minute of it. Highly recommended.

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