Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: DARK COMPANION by Marta Acosta


Dark Companion
by Marta Acosta

Published July 3rd, 2012 by Tor/Macmillan
Find it at Barnes & NobleKobo • many other stores

GENRE: Urban Fantasy • Paranormal • Psychological Thriller • Romance 
Physical Abuse • Life Issues • Mystery • Gothic
(technically 3.4, rounded to 3)




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. They are.

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...
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DARK COMPANION is like a dark chocolate I ate once. It had a smooth texture but a complex taste: a touch of sweetness with a smoky and somewhat bitter aftertaste. It was definitely different and that is what you get here. Don't get me wrong, I liked the book. However there were some elements that were confusing and errors that left a tart, strange aftertaste. 

It's dark. Some would say Gothic. Just think about Jane Eyre and you've got the overall concept. If you are skittish about physical or drug abuse, then you might want to skip this one. It takes a hard, harsh look at the underbelly of foster care in run down neighborhoods. Acosta shows us the merciless realities of kids trying to hang on to hope when everything and everyone around them says their situation is irremediable. 

The writing starts off smooth, even and delicate, but then breaks apart and gets sort of chalky towards the end. All the characters are deliberate and well thought through. 

Except Jane. 

I found her to be ever increasingly puzzling... and just plain disturbing until the very end. But I get ahead of myself. Let's start back to when she arrives at school. In the first chapter she describes herself as a ball of rage. It's her against the world. Rage against the machine. Then comes first period and suddenly she's hopping into BMWs, eating with the crowd, laughing, going out to events. Uh... yeah. Where is the rage? But what really REALLY eats my gut is what happens when she gets into a TERRIBLY DISTURBING relationship. She goes from smart, rational, somewhat butt-kicking archetype to
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desperate, dependent, hypocritical, debilitated and needy girl of the farthest degree. I know people can have issues but this was just plain bizarre. Her inability to recognize that she was criticizing her best friend for doing some horrible deeds but doing almost the same deed herself was annoying. To the degree I think I got a rash with hives at some point. 

I must say there is some brilliant wit injected into the dialogue. Some authors can't make good small talk but Acosta excelled. The witty banter between Jane and Jack was outstanding. Jack was one of my favorites and I found him increasingly fascinating as the book unfolded. Lucky kept me guessing, then gasping, then reaching for my pepper spray... but I can't say anymore on that subject so you don't get any spoilers. I must say MV was my absolutely favorite character. I busted out laughing every time a word left her mouth. If she was real I would scour the earth to find and befriend her. Everyone needs a person like that in their life.

There are a great unfolding mysteries that takes their good, sweet time to divulge themselves. I found that the anticipation was killing me. The mood through the book is spooky, dark, vague with spots of bright humor thrown in. I felt somewhat overwhelmed with the last few chapters and felt they needed more time to be handled properly. It was rushed and somewhat choppy. There is one mystery that is left wide open and with no sequel planned, we have no explanations. Aaargh.

It is definitely not a book for everyone, but if you love a good physiological thriller and dark mysteries, this is one book you will want to get your hands on!

Note: Drug abuse, sexual content (petting, sex discussions), and some physical abuse. Not for teens under 16.