The other day I was walking through Target when I stumbled upon these two teenage girls having the epic of all throw-downs concerning vampires. One of them (naturally) had an affinity for the sparkly vegetarian types while the other (clearly being the smarter of the two) maintained her theory of “Blood is best, down with the rest!” (Her words, not mine. Swear to God.) Of course, being the incredibly nosey person that I am (and because they were standing in the book aisle and I could easily eavesdrop without their knowledge.) I just HAD to know what stemmed the WWE Smackdown of Vampirism. So I crept over, slowly, quietly (totally creepy like) until I could catch a glimpse of the book in Goldilocks’ hand. It was Marta Acosta’s novel “Dark Companion.” This got me VERY excited (which resulted in my knocking over a display full of books and then immediately running for the hills) for 2 reasons. The first being that I knew for a fact that I had that exact book waiting at home on my shelf, which meant that I could read it and form my own opinion Second, I knew I would have a great opening story for this review. (See how I did that. Awesome right?!)
Anyways, aside from being the crazy stalker mom in Target, I was intrigued for one other reason. It has been a REALLY long time since I’ve read anything involving the blood sucking brats of Dracula. I was overdue.
“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?”
There are tons of varying reviews of this book, ranging from the “God, I just couldn’t finish it!” to the “This book was sooo awesome-sauce I wanted to eat it.” (Ok, maybe it wasn’t really worded that way, but you get my point.) And while I would love to be able to plop right down and give you a definitive answer one way or the other… I cannot. (Don’t look at me like that. I’M NOT PERFECT!)
The truth is, there were great things about this book. (The gothic undertones, the prostitute bestie and Jack) and there were bad things about this book (Incredibly slow off the starting line. Mary Violet made me want to slit my wrist and Jane. Yes, Jane.) But neither were enough to cancel each-other out, which means I kept reading. The ending result…a big ol shoulder shrug. (That’s code for ‘Meh’)
Let me break it down for you.
First off…the plot was incredibly predictable. As a matter of fact, it took a total of 12 words for me to discern the entire premise. (You can double-check that with hubs if you don’t believe me, he was in the room when I “heavy sighed.”) the 12 words:
“His voice was hoarse and low when he said, “Let me see.”
May not mean much to you, but if you do happen to read DC and get to this part (which, for the record comes on page 43) you will understand EXACTLY what I mean. Which just illustrates the lack of imagination on the authors part. But… (and here comes the confusing part) while the introduction to vampires (which they claim they AREN’T in this book) was generic and over-played (“Oh no, you cut your finger! *growl, glare, licks lips*) the actual semantics of the “diseased” were something I’ve never run across before. (Genetics? Really?)
I encountered the same issue with the characters. While I loved a few of them (one of which had VERY little to say or DO in the novel – despite the fact that he was a love interest) I pretty much despised everyone else. The dialogue was either brilliant or blah, there was never a happy medium, and as much as I tried (and y’all KNOW that I can sink into a book when I really want to) I just couldn’t find myself connecting to Jane. (Which is a problem. It is HER story after all.)
The ending (I have to admit) was the best part about this novel, and probably its saving grace. While the rest of the novel drug or wandered off into fields of red poppies (that’s an OZ reference for those of you thinking I’ve lost my marbles.) the ending delivered in glorious form. The action picked up, secrets were revealed and crazy people suddenly emerged from the shadows. If the entire novel had been written this way it would have been a knock out. Unfortunately it just took too long to morph into the Gothic beauty it ended up being in the last 50 pages.
Some may say better late than never. Me? I say shove it down on your TBR a few pegs, it’s ok but not outstanding.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: You can’t pick your family, but you CAN pick your friends. Choose wisely.
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Could be a 3, it’s a toss up.