“Dark Companion” Marta Acosta

2012. TorTeen (Tom Doherty Associates). 364 pp. (Includes Teen Reader’s Guide)

DarkCompanionJane Williams comes from the squalid city of Helmsdale, also knowns as Hellsdale. She has no memories of what happened to her before the age of 6, when she was put into foster care. After bouncing around from home to home, she landed in a group home finally gaining her freedom through a full scholarship to a prestigious school at the age of 16.

Birch Grove Academy is like a dream come true. Jane has an allowance, new clothes, friends, and her very own cottage apartment in the midst of a beautiful stand of birch trees. She has feelings for Jack, the headmistress’s son, but falls hard for Lucian, Jack’s brother.

Jane is drawn into Lucian’s unusual lifestyle, soon finding out two other orphans from Helmsdale once attended Birch Grove. One mysteriously died and one disappeared, leaving Jane to wonder if there is a connection between their disappearances and the strange series of events that soon begin to transpire at Birch Grove.

“Dark Companion” did a good job of describing the heartaches of foster care, while being mysterious as readers attempted to solve the puzzle of the two orphan girls from Helmsdale. However, open endings abounded near the end of the book. Instead of blindsiding readers with some of her “solutions” to these open issues, I think Acosta should have added another 30 or so pages to solve them in more reasonable ways. Perhaps she was deliberately being vague so as to have a chance to write “Dark Companion, Part 2.”

I leave it up to readers 9th grade and older to make a decision as to whether they want to read it or not.

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