Dark Companion by Marta Acosta had so much potential to be a great modern day YA Gothic novel but unfortunately it fell very flat for me. Honestly, I spent half of my time reading it trying to decode it. Why? Because I just simply couldn’t understand it, and once I was finally able to some-what understand what I was reading, it just wasn’t worth it for me.
The premise of the novel is built around Jane Williams, a foster kid living in the ghetto of Helmsdale, who is offered a full ride scholarship and living allowance at the Birch Grove School, a posh private school for girls. On the surface everything seems to be perfect. Jane meets new friends, finds a couple cute guys, and even gets to live at her own private cottage but behind the scenes; things are not so picture perfect. In fact, there is something very sinister going on.
Now doesn’t that premise sound promising? Unfortunately, it just did not live up to that promise for me. One of the main reasons it didn’t was because of the main character Jane. I wanted to like her. I did! But she made it so hard. For someone with a tough attitude and who grew up in some very unfortunate circumstances, she was so wishy washy. Especially when it came to the boy she wanted whose name is Lucky. Believe me, there is nothing lucky about him! He was awful, and he was continuously either putting her in danger, or leaving her hanging, and she kept letting him do it. I just couldn’t deal with the two of them.
I also couldn’t deal with how long it took to get to the important part of the story. There was so much build up and introduction and other details which really were not very necessary in the storyline that by the time we actually got to the meat of the story, I was lost. And then I had to spend so much time decoding what was actually going on, I continued to be lost. Maybe it was just me but I couldn’t grasp what I was reading. Or at least I couldn’t grasp it enough to actually care about what I was reading. It was supposed to be very creepy, and just…wasn’t.
Also, I didn’t understand the dialogue between the characters. Honestly, I probably spent the first forty pages or so not exactly sure what era we were in because of the way that the characters talk. They’re so formal! Especially for teenagers. Even teenagers who are going to a very posh private school. They just didn’t feel real to me, and I hated that I could not really connect to any of them. Well…except for Jack. He is Lucky’s older brother, and he was at times a breath of fresh air in the story. Yet, even he got a little annoying at times.
I really did try to like Dark Companion but just wasn’t very successful. I did manage to finish it though … and then spent a bit of time talking to April on g-chat about how I was trying to decode this book I just read, and we basically came to the same conclusion regarding it: “UGH! That book!” (I love how sometimes she just gets me). If you’re looking for something with a Gothic feel, and are able to look over some of the flaws that I’ve mentioned, I would say go ahead and try this one out. It just was not the book for me.
Disclosure: Received finished copy from April.
Other reviews of Dark Companion by Marta Acosta:
Caffeinated Book Reviewer: “I recommend Dark Companion to fans of dark paranormal mysteries with a splash of romance.“
365 Days of Reading: “It had the potential to be an excellent book, but for me, it didn’t pan out.”
Michelle and Leslie’s Book Picks: “Overall, Dark Companion was a different and refreshing read.”