Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Review of DARK COMPANION by Marta Acosta

Author: Marta Acosta
Source: eARC provided by Tor/Macmillan via Net Galley
Release Date: July 3rd 2012

I hereby award this book 5 wings!

When I first saw the cover for this book, I was instantly hooked. It has a sort of ethereal feel to it. I love the soft lines and colours. It was the sort of book that if books didn't have synopses, only covers, I would definitely line up to buy it. As it is, it does have a synopsis and it was this that had me reeled in. 
For those of you that may not have heard of DARK COMPANION - I am assuming that's only a small minority of you - here is the blurb from 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?"

Sounds intriguing, right?! I certainly thought so. I was overjoyed when I was approved via Net Galley for an eARC. 
Unfortunately, I have had a chest infection for over two months - thus making me unable to get through as many books as usual. So I was a little late getting to read this book, however, once I got to it I was absolutely caught up in the story and could not put it down!

Now I often ask myself what it is that I can bring to a review. I have only been able to come up with one answer - my voice, my opinion. So it is with that in mind that I sit here at my computer about to pour out how I felt about this wholly- engrossing book! I just ask you to bear with me as, with my opinion comes a (hopefully brief) plot summary from my point of view. I'm not a typical reviewer I guess, I can't just sum up how I felt in a few paragraphs, well structured and thought out sentences. I envy those that can. I seem to talk a bit too much.. Uh-oh, seems I'm doing that right now. Okay, I'll get on with it....

Jane Williams is an orphan. She comes from Helmsdale, or as the residents call it Hellsdale. Her mother died when she was young, but Jane's got what's known as 'retro-grade amnesia' and that means she's lost access to events that have occurred. She can't remember her mother, her father, her life before a certain point (I won't tell you what causes her RA - that's not for me to tell you - so it may at this point, seem a little confusing)
Jane has been in care and her foster mother has treated her pretty badly. So it's just about time for Jane to leave and it's perfect timing that she should be offered a scholarship to an elite school Birch Grove Academy For Girls. 
She may have lived in the godforsaken town of Hellsdale, but she didn't let that get in the way of getting an education, as far as one can in a town where the school is not exactly up to standard.  But she worked hard. She had to. If not for herself, then in memory of her friend Hosea. 
Hosea was Jane's best friend, but he contracted meningitis and sadly passed away. So it was with this in mind that Jane pushed herself and strived to achieve the very best she could. 

Once Jane arrived at Birch Grove, she was shown a beautiful academy where she could put her knowledge to good use. She could really make something of herself. Jane's life plan was to do well at school, get good grades, find a good job - everything any young woman wants for herself. If Jane can only stay on with Birch Grove and achieve the qualifications, she's in good stead to achieve her dreams. 

Once school starts, Jane finds herself with a group of friends, people who she may never have associated with before Birch Grove, but that's probably just because none of them were from Hellsdale. 
I will leave it for you to meet the girls, it's definitely much more fun to experience them first-hand. 

Jane is embraced by the Radcliffe family, the headmistress, her husband Tobias and their two sons Lucian and Jacob. But she starts to suspect that there is more to them than meets the eye. At first glance, people would see Lucian - known as Lucky - as the golden haired, blue-eyed, disarmingly handsome boy that draws attention from all the girls. His brother Jacob - or Jake - is the opposite. He's not so much in the limelight with the girls. He's a musician and he's got a kind of air about him. He's hard to describe really. His sardonic nature has you on the back-foot so that you never know when to take him seriously. 

Life at the academy isn't all it seems from the outside though. Something isn't quite right, but Jane can't be sure what it is. 

Now, it isn't for me to tell you what it is that Jane discovers. Instead it's time I told you how I felt about the story. 
Firstly, I adored Jane. She doesn't come from the best beginning in life and so you would forgive her for being a little "woe is me" but she isn't. She may have the nickname Mousie, but that's very misleading. She is actually quite a feisty young woman with a fire in her belly when the situation so requires. 
I admire her guts and determination, the fact that she's fierce and fights for what she thinks is right. There are times when she questions herself as well as others, but I found that I didn't blame her. I would have felt the same, even if I had dealt with it a bit differently.
Jane is an easy protagonist to relate to. We haven't all come from the same beginnings, but it's easy to imagine how she must feel. Perhaps it's because I too don't have parents that I can empathise with her. Though I didn't end up in care, nor was I offered a scholarship to a girls academy. But I could imagine myself being in her shoes and what I would have done with the situation she was presented with.

As for the other characters, I really liked MV, Constance and Harriet. 3 better friends a girl could not wish for. They all had very unique personalities and character traits that made them very enjoyable. There were times when Jane was interacting with them that I felt like I was right there in the story with them and sharing the precious moments where they laughed and joked with each other. MV in particular was what I would call high-maintenance. But having said that, she was probably my personal favourite of the 3. MV has a knack for bringing laughter to a situation, no matter how dire. 

Then there's the Radcliffe family. Hyacinth and Tobias were a nice couple. They each have their quirks that you will discover in due course for yourself. As for the boys, well where to start? Lucky is the handsome, charming boy who you'd be proud to take home to your mother. At least on the face of it. Dig a little deeper and he's not my favourite character. That's not because he's a bad guy, don't get me wrong. It's more the way he treats Jane really gets on my last nerve. 
Because Lucky is the disarmingly handsome one, you assume that he and Jane are going to be the swoon-worthy love story of the book. But it's Lucky's careless disregard for Jane's feelings that really had me on edge. 
I can't really give you examples, but though Lucky is a nice person, he seems to get carried away with taking what he wants from his relationship with Jane and not necessarily giving her what she needs.  To me, relationships are meant to be a mixture of give and take, partners are equal. However Lucky is all take, take, take and Jane is all give, give, give. What I probably feel most saddened by is the fact that she is blind to this. She wants to give Lucky everything he wants in order for him to be happy. But in my personal opinion, she should have more self-worth and realise that she is worth more than a boy like him can possibly give her.

There's also Jack. He's not as 'traditionally handsome' as Lucky. He's not the boy that girls are falling over their own feet to be near. I guess you could say he's the underdog. I don't mind telling you that I am usually more of an advocate for the underdog. 
Jack is a very puzzling young man. He's got the kind of attitude that makes you want to tear your hair out. Not because he's got a bad attitude, he's just very sarcastic and you never know when to take him seriously or if he is playing with you.
I don't mind admitting that it's Jack that won my heart. I may be alone in this - but I don't mind being an individual - I can honestly say, I am Team Jack all the way. I hope that if Marta writes more books in this series she features Jack quite prominently.  I am currently unaware whether this is to be a stand-alone novel, or if there will indeed be more to come. I know I really hope that it's at the very least, a trilogy.

I loved the world that Marta Acosta created and the characters she chose to feature in it. The writing itself is beautiful and in some instances, quite haunting. Some of it really sticks with you (nothing I'm willing to share, of course - you'll just have to pick up a copy). 
I adore the way Marta uses quotes between her chapters. There's quotes from books like Jane Eyre and The Picture of Dorian Grey. They all tie in beautifully with what each chapter is about. You can tell that there is a lot of research that went into writing this story and you can see Marta herself is a well read, well educated woman. 

I am looking very much forward to owning DARK COMPANION in hardback. I currently have it on my Kindle as it's an eARC and I feel like it's definitely something I need to own and put on my shelf of favourite books.

Thank you Net Galley for providing the eARC. Thank you Tor/Macmillan for approving my request. But the largest thank you of all goes to Marta Acosta. Thank you for writing a novel in which I gladly got lost for hours on end and didn't really want a compass to find my way out. I would have happily stayed lost a while longer. Thank you most of all for creating Jack, the one the synopsis calls puzzling and sardonic whilst I call sweet, loving, caring and an all round amazing guy!

Thank you each and every one of my followers and friends who came here today to read this review. Thank you even if you clicked the link by mistake but you stuck around to read it anyway!

See you all again soon! (I hope)

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