Orphaned at the age of six, Jane Williams has grown up in a series of foster homes, learning to survive in the shadows of life. Through hard work and determination, she manages to win a scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy. There, for the first time, Jane finds herself accepted by a group of friends. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. Things seem too good to be true.
The more she learns about Birch Grove’s recent past, the more Jane comes to suspect that there is something sinister going on. Why did the wife of a popular teacher kill herself? What happened to the former scholarship student, whose place Jane took? Why does Lucien’s brother, Jack, seem to dislike her so much?
As Jane begins to piece together the answers to the puzzle, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove—and what she would risk to stay there….
When I started reading this book, I didn’t really know what to expect. Honestly this is one case where the summary doesn’t really tell you a whole lot about what’s going on, so I basically went into this with no expectations. Dark Companion takes quite a bit of time to set up the plot. Jane is a newly emancipated minor whose been accepted into a prestigious all girls school, which allows her to escape her terrible foster home and her town of Hellsdale (actually Helmsdale). Much of the first half of the book revolves around Jane doing normal everyday things like shopping, studying, attending classes, etc. For some people, it could get tedious, but I didn’t mind it so much because I was using the time to get to know Jane, who was a bit difficult for me to understand initially mostly because she and I are very very different. Throw in her crush on the headmistress’ gorgeous son, Lucky, and her strange antagonistic relationship with Lucky’s brother, Jack, and you’ve basically got the first 50% or so of the book.
But then things start to pick up, and you finally get the “sinister” aspect of the summary. I don’t want to spoil anyone because I honestly think it’s better if you go into this not knowing what you’re going to get, but I have to say that I sort of saw SOME of what is revealed early on, although expecting something paranormal made me guess a bit incorrectly. Let’s just say that it was a fairly unique twist, and I was pleased to see something different. The latter half of the book moves along much more quickly, although I had to put it aside a couple of times because of one major thing that just drove me absolutely crazy.
And that thing was, unfortunately, our main narrator, Jane. Jane is totally blind when it comes to Lucky, and she says these things about her feelings for him that made me want to reach through the screen of my Kindle and shake her. Things like, “I was replaceable for now. If I could prove myself to [Lucky] until his feelings for me grew, the equation would change,” like she had some ability to change his feelings for her. Lucky is a jerk – I didn’t really like him from the start – and it irritates me that she thinks she loves him mostly because he’s good looking. Then there was, “On Monday, I raced home from class so I would be there if Lucky called or came by,”, which UGH! I get that Jane hasn’t had love in her life, and probably doesn’t realize what it actually is or how others should act around you if they care about you, but her dependence on Lucky’s attention just really made me angry. Thankfully she finally figures it out – 77% through the book – but WOW is that 77% a struggle for the reader, who sees exactly what mistakes she’s making and is just along for the ride.
Now, let me talk about the things I loved. Jane becomes friends with these absolutely spectacular girls, Hattie, Mary Violet (MV), and Constance, and I adored every single second they were on the page. MV is my personal favorite because she is absolutely bubbly and cheerful and just fabulous (she makes up poems! And makes Jane smile and laugh!), but I loved the interactions between them and Jane so much that they really saved that slog through the first 77%. I also really loved Jack, who had such a quick wit. He confuses Jane because he doesn’t actually come out and say what he means, which is irritating in person but actually works really well on the page of a book. He calls Jane “Halfling” because he thinks she’s some sort of fairy creature, and there is just a whole lot of tenderness in his interactions with her that she’s too blind to see. I adored Jack; next to MV, he was definitely my favorite. Here’s my favorite Jack line: “‘H is for happy and for hope, and…’ Jack thought for a moment. ‘And for honey, which is both an endearment and nice with peanut butter in a sandwich.’” ♥
Other Favorite Quotes:
“I didn’t care what Jack’s name meant. Probably jackass.” (10%)
“I had craved him the way some girls crave a diamond ring, or an expensive car, or a closet full of designer clothes. I’d wanted to possess him as a spectacular and precious thing–a TSB, a Trendy Status Boyfriend, to impress others and boost my ego.” (77%)
All in all, Dark Companion was an interesting read. If you can get over main characters making boneheaded mistakes and strange leaps in logic – particularly when it comes to love – and are willing to give some time for the plot to develop, then you might just enjoy this book. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever read, but there was enough in the book to keep my interest and keep me reading. If you’re wanting something that’s not-quite-paranormal, give this one a read. But check your expectations at the door; I really think it’s best to go into this one without any preconceived notions or ideas about what’s going to happen.
Dark Companion will be available in North America on July 3, 2012.
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from an uncorrected proof.