Marta Acosta’s young adult debut Dark Companion certainly has an interesting concept for the plot to be built around. Jane Williams, a foster kid living in the ghetto of Helmsdale, is offered the chance of a lifetime – a full ride scholarship and living allowance at the Birch Grove school, a posh private academy for girls. She even gets her own private cottage. Yet, something sinister is going on behind the scenes. Unfortunately, Dark Companion does not live up to the promise of it’s awesome premise.
The atmosphere and setting within Dark Companion is very well done. Marta Acosta provides the reader with a strong sense of place with her descriptions of foggy Birch Grove. Yet, there is a lingering sense of something evil beneath the surface which is infused in the writing.
Yet, while Dark Companion excels in atmosphere, it fails in dialogue. Conversations between characters feel stilted and do not read at all like real people. When Jane is talking with her friends Mary Violet and Constance, it sounds so formal and not how teenagers talk. When Jack Radcliffe hits on her, he continually refers to her as halfling or pixie or with another synonym for fairy which gets kind of grating.
As for romance, there is a slight love triangle between Jane and the two Radcliffe boys, who are the sons of the headmistress of Birch Grove. Jane is convinced she is in love with Lucian ‘Lucky’. Yet he is very disinterested and his only redeeming quality is his golden boy looks. Then there is Jack who always seems to be at the right place at the right time and is full of pet names for Jane.
What could have been an excellent YA Gothic read was stunted by meandering descriptions of clothing, constant similes describing eye colors and unfortunate dialogue. If you read purely for atmosphere and can look past the faults listed, why not check out Dark Companion by Marta Acosta. Alas, it was not the book for me.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.
Other reviews of Dark Companion by Marta Acosta:
The Lost Entwife – “a mix between a paranormal gothic and a boarding school novel”
All Things Urban Fantasy – “an intricate book that mixes a variety of tones and plot lines”
Bibliophilic Monologues – “ a very readable book”