Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dark Companion, by Marta Acosta

Jane has had a difficult youth; she was quite young when her mother died, an incident that also left Jane in a coma for a few months.  She has spent years bouncing around foster placements, knowing she will likely end up on the streets eventually.  But then her life changes, as she is selected for a full scholarship at a prestigious boarding school.  When Jane gets to the school, she quickly becomes close with the family of the headmistress, as well as a group of girls that are long time students.  Slowly, Jane comes to realize that there are secrets hidden in the trees around Birch Grove Academy, both literally and figuratively.  And she cannot help but wonder how she factors in, with secrets of her own.

I am quite confused with the ho hum reviews of this book; I absolutely loved it.  I found the gothic nature of the book quite reminiscent of Jane Eyre, but with a fairy tale spin.  I loved the mythological aspect of the trees in the book, and how much this subtly played into various plot points.  I also liked that, while there was a sort of vampiric theme at work, there were somewhat plausible explanations for why blood drinkers would exist, from a scientific standpoint.  The mythology of the vampire, while fascinating, often fails to explain why vampires exist.  I felt this book gave a fresh, creative explanation.

I found Jane quite interesting as a character.  She certainly starts of seemingly quite strong.  Many readers have complained that she fades over time.  I tend to disagree.  I think Jane's initial toughness is a facade, and that as her life takes a turn, her emotional barriers fade.  Just because a female character is emotional, that does not mean she is no longer strong.  On the contrary, I think Jane makes a very strong and brave decision regarding her fate.  I think we seen Jane evolve throughout the book.  I found many of the other characters very entertaining, and felt as though the dialogue was believable, something often difficult to achieve with young adult writing.

The book has very dark themes to be sure.  There is hinted sexuality, even fetishism and abuse, murder, and street violence to name just a few.  However, I do not think that these themes deem the book inappropriate for young adult consumption.  Many of these same themes (and symbolism) can be found in Dracula, which is often required high school reading.  

Personally, I found the book to be lovely.  I thought the writing was lush, and often haunting.  I found the book to be fairly believable, even in its strangest moments, and actually would not mind reading more stories about the goings on at Birch Grove Academy.

I received a review copy of this book as part of the Amazon Vine program.

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