Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dark Companion by Marta Acosta

Darkness surrounds you as you walk through the woods near an old school. The birch trees around you whistle with the wind at your back. Your hair is tossed and you feel like something is watching you. Through some of the trees you see a dark figure, which then flits out of your sight. You walk faster as you scare yourself. This leads to sprinting. Once you get to your cottage, you look back, only to see that there was no wind at your back, the birch trees aren't making any sounds, and there is just moonlight. Well, everyone, welcome to the world of Gothic fiction and the writing style in Dark Companion by Marta Acosta
The novel follows young Jane Williams, who was orphaned under circumstances she can't remember, and who has been in and out of group homes and foster care her whole life, due to abuse or neglect, in a ghetto somewhere by the name of Helmsdale, better known as Hellsdale to the residents. After years of trying to better herself and find her way out of Hellsdale, a mysterious woman by the name of Mrs. Radcliffe offers her a scholarship to her school by the name of Birch Grove Academy, an all-girls school. Arriving at Birch Grove, Jane notices that the school has a dark feel to it, along with the town it is located in by the name of Greenwood. 

Even though this feeling stick, she meets some great people along the way, making friends with some of the girls and with Mrs. Radcliffe's son's Jack, who does not seem like he likes Jane... AT ALL, and the attractive Lucian, better known as Lucky, who she gets to tutor. But along side meeting great people, she also starts finding out that there she was correct with her intuition because mysterious and sinister things there  have been things going on at Birch Grove and Greenwood, such as a teacher's wife committing suicide and the leaving, or what seems to Jane as the disappearance, of the last scholarship recipient. Jane begins to wonder why she was brought to Birch Grove Academy and hopes that nothing too horrible will happen to her in what seems like a perfect place.

Marta Acosta has written an amazing novel that can reach out to young and adult woman. But the writing does seem to lack in the aspect for many males to read it for the reasons that it centers around mostly the Jane's love interest ( "girly" books). The novel could offer though more if guys look into it. It has some action involved and they can learn a lesson or two of how NOT to talk to a girl from Jack. On the aspect, though, of a great read for what age, I would suggest freshman and sophomores in high school.

I would also like to see this added to a classroom somewhere along the line. The plot, along with some of the themes of love and finding yourself, would make for a great class novel. It also mentions some other great novels, such as ones written by Charlotte Bronte and other Gothic novel writers. Also, teachers can find someway to possibly add extra credit for looking up these authors and could also create a lesson plan revolved around Gothic literature and Dark Companion, creating a compare and contrast theme.

1 comment:

Nickolas Armstrong said...

This book sounds interesting. It seems like it could be classified as a thriller. So much about the plot and what you mentioned about the characters comes across as sort of quirky, such as being orphaned for a reason that was forgotten. The sort of reality set up in the book seems tinged with darkness, which I guess is part of what makes the gothic style. I would find this book fascinating to read simply to understand this style better, and the plot does seem legitimately interesting. I think this would be a great book to keep young high schoolers engaged in reading, it strikes me as a plot that is both fun for students and also worth some legitimate analysis during class time.