Dark Companion by Marta Acosta
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release date: July 3, 2012
Summary: Jane, an orphan stuck in the foster system, is given the opportunity of a lifetime: because of her excellent academic standing, she is given a scholarship to Birch Grove Academy, where her tuition (plus room and board!) will be completely paid for. But being Birch Grove’s resident charity case comes with a price—one Jane might not be willing to pay.
Essay writer’s thoughts about this book: Dark Companion is a bit of an odd bird. It’s difficult to predict the direction it’s going: the first half of the novel seems as if it might be building up to some sort of paranormal reveal, but you’re never really sure. The second half of the novel, without spoiling anything, goes in an entirely different direction, focusing instead on romance, and a rather frustrating one at that.
Because the two parts of Dark Companion are so drastically different, I’ll focus on them separately. The first half of Dark Companion is the half I preferred, because it contained the perfect amount of character development and exposition. We learn about Jane’s new school and her new friends, and both are a really good time. Readers will especially warm to the group of girls who take Jane under their wing at the beginning of the school year; they’re laugh-out-loud hilarious, and I almost wish they could star in their own story. Luckily, they get a lot of face time for most of the book’s duration, and their presence helps break up particularly gloomy moments. These girls—especially Mary Violet—light up Dark Companion. This isn’t to say that Jane isn’t great—she certainly is, she’s just a teensy bit less fascinating. Teensy. Jane is everything you’d want in a protagonist. She has a sharp tongue and she is, hands down, one of the most driven characters I’ve read. I loved how hard she works to make a place for herself in the world. Speaking of which, Jane’s background is another unique thing about her as a character: it’s not something we think about, but most heroines in YA come from a relatively good place (except perhaps they’re missing a parent). With Jane, not so much. I loved that Marta Acosta kept Jane true to her roots while allowing her to grow.
In the second half of Dark Companion, Jane becomes a bit less lovable. This is the reason that I wasn’t a fan of the latter half of the book: Jane doesn’t act like Jane. She acts oddly naïve, and is willing to put herself in toxic situations. She doesn’t put herself first. All this contradicts the development she is given in the first half of Dark Companion, so I was left feeling lost. I wanted the old Jane back!
Upon finishing Dark Companion, I was torn about my feelings on the book as a whole. I loved the first half, but was not a fan of the second. Therefore, I’ll give Dark Companion a rating that is squarely in the middle. It had the potential to be an excellent book, but for me, it didn’t pan out.
For those who like: rags-to-riches stories, amazing minor characters