by Marta Acosta
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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?
Dark Companion by Marta Acosta caught my attention on Tor’s website and I knew I had to review it. I am pleased to tell you that this creepy, dark and unique novel delivered. It has mystery, romance, interesting characters and a plot filled with twists.
It begins when we meet Jane Williams an emancipated minor who is leaving her foster home to attend an all girl’s school known as Birchwood Grove Academy for Girls. In an attempt to change her life, Jane has studied diligently and has received a full scholarship from this elite academy. She says goodbye to her old life, and friends, in run-down Hellsdale. School is set to begin in a few days, and she quickly settles in at the cottage that will be her home. The tale that unfolds is fun, suspenseful and eerily creepy as Jane learns things aren’t quite normal at Birchwood. She meets two brothers. One wants to protect her and the other desperately needs something from her. I quickly became immersed in this world and consumed this novel in the course of two evenings.
The protagonist Jane has had a tough life. She was involved in a horrific event when she was a child and has no memories of it. Growing up in foster care was difficult but another child influenced her and pushed her to reach for her dreams. She is driven, kind and unique. She is grounded in her belief that she is ordinary. She believes that with hard work anyone can overcome. She is flawed and that becomes apparent in her relationships with both Lucky and Jack. I adored Jack and was unsure of Lucky. They are the only boys living on campus as they are the headmistresses sons. Jane tutors Lucky. He is impossibly good looking, popular and extremely quirky. Jane’s relationship with Lucky was really creepy and at times made me feel downright uncomfortable. Jack has already graduated, plays in a band and teases Jane unmercifully. While he doesn’t have Lucky’s god-like looks, he is charming and lovable. I questioned Jane’s actions and at one point wanted to slap her and yell are you crazy! I love when a book gets me this involves. My favorite character was Mary Violet and she made me laugh with her poems and comments. This child is original and I loved that about her. Other characters rounded out the cast and added to the mystery of Birchwood.
The tale Acosta has spun is unique and at times very dark. The whole tale is shrouded in mystery and we learn things as Jane does. This added to the whole creepy factor and I loved every minute of it! The pacing is well done and the author’s writing style brought the tale to life. With a secret society, rituals, and lore, this book is sure to keep you spellbound. She even manages to deal with prejudice and social differences. I love that despite the mystery the main characters were well fleshed out. Acosta kept me guessing as to who everyone was and what their intent was. I loved this aspect of it. While the reveal of the secrets at Birchwood was very, very strange it was unique and felt surreal. As I stated in the previous paragraph parts were creepy and kind of made me feel off balance as I read them, but it all came together nicely.
I recommend Dark Companion to fans of dark paranormal mysteries with a splash of romance. I think you will enjoy discovering the secrets within the halls of Birchwood Academy. I am adding Marta Acosta to my author’s to watch list.