Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

From Goodreads: When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove. Something's not quite right about the school - or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother. The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member. Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school ... and be bound to Birch Grove forever?

My Rating: 1.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: If you had asked me how I felt about Marta Acosta’s Dark Companion when I first started it, I would have said that it was pretty decent. Yes, it was kind of slow and didn’t have the most interesting protagonist; but, I liked the Gothic atmosphere. The story also seemed to suggest that it was only going to get better, and I couldn’t wait to figure out what mysterious and thrilling secrets Birch Grove Academy held.

Midway through the book though, the story took a turn for the worse. Since I don’t want to ruin the plot, let’s just say that the latter part of the book involves bloodplay – which I might have been okay with if Acosta had decided to take her story into the paranormal realm. Instead, the characters stressed repeatedly that rather than being paranormal creatures, they were only suffering from an ‘autosomal recessive genetic disorder.’ When combined with the super descriptive scenes, it just felt so, so weird!

Since I didn’t love any of the characters either, I seriously debated whether I wanted to finish Dark Companion or not. I did; but much to my dismay, the story didn’t get better! Not only did I slog through the awkwardness to get an extremely neat ending, but characters magically changed their minds or feelings to achieve that ending! (Oh, and it’s hinted that maybe there’s just a bit of paranormal to this story after all. I’m still not sure what to make of that part.)

Anyways, let’s move on to the characterization. In general, I thought the characters were one-dimensional and had incredibly unrealistic dialogue. Also, their tendency to have nicknames – two completely lame ones being Lucky and Ornery – and/or give it to what felt like every single person or thing just grated on my nerves! In spite of this, Mary Violet somehow managed to grow on me.

Jane, however, did the total opposite by becoming the epitome of a TSTL character! I get that she desperately wants to be loved, but it boggles my mind how amazingly dim she became after falling – instant love alert! – for Lucky, an abusive jerk who was so obviously using her (and even says so!).  

Before reading Dark Companion, I’d seen reviews for it claiming how different it was. I’d have to agree … except it wasn’t different in a good way for me!

Dark Companion was released in July 2012 by Tor.

Comments About the Cover: I’m really going to have to stop judging books by their pretty covers! 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Tor) for free via NetGalley.


  1. Z! You made me laugh so hard. You sound so different in this review. I can feel your annoyance toward everything about this book. :D

  2. Hah yeah this book is NOT for everyone. I really liked it but it's very bizarre. I love gothic novels though and the setting really drew me in. I'm sorry you didn't like it more it's always annoying to read a book you're not into.

  3. I have to echo what Giselle said. This definitely isn't a book for everyone! While I do agree that it was bizarre, maybe even a little far-fetched, I still ended up enjoying this. It's a shame it didn't work for you but thanks for the honest review! :)

    And it's near impossible not to fall for a pretty cover. ;)

  4. Hmmmm. I'm super curious about this one now Z! I've seen such widely varying reviews of it that I kind of want to read it and find out what I think. I'm a little worried/nervous about this bloodplay you mention, I'm not sure exactly what that entails, but I don't deal well with blood - fictional or real:) Hope the next book you pick up works better for you!

  5. Ouch! I hate books like this that leave a bad taste in your mouth/mind. And yes, I've succumbed to pretty covers = horrible books too. That's what happened with me with "Hush, Hush", the Fallen Series, and Halo (which are all actually angel books). The ones I lucked out were the Lux series and Unearthly. Hope your next read is much, much better than this! Happy Friday, Z!

  6. Anonymous2:21 am

    1.5 stars? :( Curse my weakness for gothic novels! I've been wanting to read this book for awhile, but then all the mediocre to negative reviews starting poured in and I kept postponing reading it... Sorry it wasn't for you! Excellent review, regardless! We have similar tastes in books, so I may pass up on this one. :)

  7. Well, I'm quite torn. This bizarre quality seems to have people in a debate. If its Gothic, I'm probably going to give it a try anyhow... :S Good review, though!

  8. This books is on my to buy list (yes, I have many lists) for October and I really want to read it. But, OMG, not fun to hear that it's not good! Oh no!!

  9. *scratches head* ‘Autosomal recessive genetic disorder.’ and bloodplay? W.T.F.? I don't even know what to say? Since my tolerance for TSTL characters is very low, I think I'll be skipping this one, but I loved your review for it. I often do the same, slog through a story in hopes that it will get better... sad how it rarely does. Why haven't we learned better yet? Maybe for the sake of writing these entertaining reviews that express our annoyance. LOL

  10. Umm, bloodplay? Erm, I think I'll pass on that. Not that there was anything else that you were describing here that made me want to read it, even without the bloodplay. Bleh, it sounds like a mess! How unfortunate. On the plus side, is it weird that I love reading your negative reviews? You do such a good job at outlining exactly what is it that bothers you. And I can always tell that they would bother me too if I were to read the book - which I wouldn't, after hearing from you what's up!

  11. Hi, I am a new follower, I will need to check out this book! I'd love a follow back at


  12. I've heard so many mixed things about this book! I'm so sorry you didn't like it, Zahida. I hate when books start out fine and then go downhill. I can't tolerate TSTL protagonists, so I think I'll pass on this one. Love the honest review! :)

  13. I actually DNFd this at just over 100 pages, Z, so you're not alone. I agree with your assessment of the characterizations in particular, and I'm just as surprised at you that I didn't like this more considering all the rave reviews. Oh, well! Onto shinier books for the both of us. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  14. Great honest review. Again, sorry you didn't enjoy this one more.


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