by Marta Acosta
Published by Tor Teen
on July 3, 2012
Source: Source: e-ARC from NetGalley. Read my review policy/disclosure statement here.
My summary: When hard luck foster kid Jane Williams is offered a scholarship at the elite Birch Grove Academy, she gladly accepts. The school is nothing like what she's used to, and Jane feels plain and unsophisticated compared to her glamorous classmates. Jane gets to know the headmistress, Mrs. Radcliffe, and her two sons, the dazzling Lucky and the ruggedly handsome Jack. But soon Jane begins to sense that all is not right at her new school.
My take: From the cover illustration and blurb, I assumed that Dark Companion must be a paranormal. Now that I've read it, and given the quotes that open each chapter, I'd say the author was obviously influenced by nineteenth-century Gothic fiction.
The similarities to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte are striking. Both Jane Eyre and Jane Williams come from modest means and were bullied as children. Neither Jane feels beautiful and both suffer from low self-esteem as a result. Both meet mysterious men while walking in the woods. Jane Eyre causes Rochester to fall off his horse and sprain his ankle. Jane Williams causes a guy on a bike to swerve to avoid hitting her; he injures his knee. Both Janes fall in love and then are shocked and repulsed when they discover dark secrets about the guy they're in love with. Both Janes run away in horror, then have to find the strength to stand up for themselves.
Gothic fiction does often involve the supernatural, and Dark Companion does have the requisite Gothic ghost. But Dark Companion also offers real-world explanations for some of the story's strange goings-on. And some of the goings-on in this book are strange indeed, including some kinky stuff that might make this book a better fit for older teens and/or adults who aren't excessively squeamish.
That stuff didn't bother me too much, but Dark Companion had another love-it-or-hate-it kind of quirk: odd, contrived dialogue. Many of the characters are really long-winded and love nicknames and wordplay. Sometimes it amused me, but at other times it got to be bit a little much.
Dark Companion is probably not going to be for everyone. I love Gothic fiction and always appreciate a new take on the genre -- if you feel the same, give this book a try!