Dark Companion

Dark Companion

3.9 12
by Marta Acosta
     
 

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Jane Eyre meets Twilight in Dark Companion, a lush and romantic YA gothic tale about an orphaned girl who attends an exclusive private school and finds herself torn between the headmistress's two sons.

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

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Overview

Jane Eyre meets Twilight in Dark Companion, a lush and romantic YA gothic tale about an orphaned girl who attends an exclusive private school and finds herself torn between the headmistress's two sons.

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.

They are.

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….

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jane Williams, an orphaned 16-year-old living in urban foster care, animates a conventional YA plot—the outsider with secrets who relocates and is forced to face painful truths about who she is. Boarding schools and touches of the paranormal are common to this genre, and Jane makes the giant leap from her group home to privileged boarder at the all-girls Birch Grove Academy. Buttressing adult author Acosta's (the Casa Dracula series) YA debut are nods to the gothic tradition and Jane Eyre parallels that she encourages through epigraphs, character names, and the events that unfold. Her well-drawn characters shine—Jane especially, whose very nongothic life on the street makes for a gritty opening and influences the whole. Jack Radcliffe (the mountain-biking incarnation of Mr. Rochester) and Jane's clearly delineated classmates are vivid actors in the drama as well. Their strengths are masked somewhat by all the genre ?apparatus around them, but even so, Acosta's story is an impressive contender in the crowded YA paranormal field. Ages 13–up. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, Janklow & Nesbit. (July)
From the Publisher
“This enjoyable, chick-lit update of undead culture gives vampires and their victims a long-overdue makeover. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre marked by creaky gender relations and unchallenged class stratification…. Acosta’s savvy take on sexist vampire traditions is refreshing.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Acosta’s story is an impressive contender in the crowded YA paranormal field.”

Publishers Weekly

“Compelling and romantic; a Jane Eyre for the Modern Age.”

—Julie Kagawa, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron King

Neurotic Review

"Takes the vampire legends in a whole different direction…With a whole new spin on vampirism and an easy-to-read, yet well researched novel, teenagers could expect an intriguing love triangle, between an orphan girl named Jane and the headmistress's mysterious sons."
Patricia's Vampire Notes Patricia Altner

This is the kind of book I wish I could have read when I was a teen. Jane is an inspiration to any young girl who doesn't fit in or underestimates her own strengths.... A lovely, spiritual, uplifting story.
Enchanted By Books Rachael Dimond

Reminiscent of the popular Twilight Series with the similar themes of angst ridden teenage love between two unlikely people. The writing is absolutely addictive and I could not put this book down for a second. The suspense, mystery, romance and paranormal all together make a very exciting book that is sure to impress readers of various genres. Overall, a breathtaking, beautiful novel that should not be missed.
Kirkus Reviews
This enjoyable, chick-lit update of undead culture gives vampires and their victims a long-overdue makeover. It's a breath of fresh air in a genre marked by creaky gender relations and unchallenged class stratification. Smart, ambitious and now aged out of foster care, Jane Williams is thrilled with her free ride to Birch Grove, a prestigious private high school. Her scholarship includes a cottage of her own, courtesy of headmistress Radcliffe and her family. Jane's streetwise toughness conceals a naive, inexperienced heart that's soon given to self-centered but gorgeous Lucian Radcliffe. (His musician brother, Jacob, has his own disturbing appeal, but he's no Lucian.) While Jane recognizes that Lucian harbors his own sinister agenda, she thinks she's willing to pay the price, which buys other compensations. Despite her lack of pedigree, she's befriended by upper-crust classmates and encouraged by teachers who recognize her potential. Still, Jane can't avoid asking troubling questions--she's no meek Eyre apparent. Any resemblance to Brontë's governess is purely cosmetic; this Jane's true peers are the heroines of the historical gothic romances. Quotes from such deathless classics as The Monk and The Castle of Otranto, among others, begin each chapter, making the book something of a survey of the genre all by itself. Acosta's savvy take on sexist vampire traditions is refreshing even if much of its bracing astringency gets lost in the melodramatic resolution. Young readers won't mind, and all can look forward to the inevitable sequel. (Paranormal romance. 14 & up)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429988292
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
07/03/2012
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
278,534
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dark Companion


By Marta Acosta

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2012 Marta Acosta
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-8829-2


CHAPTER 1

When I was six, I was entered into the foster care system because there was no one to care for me.

I was small and plain without the puppyish cheerfulness that makes grown-ups love a child, so I was passed from one miserable foster home to the next. I scurried in the shadows, away from the predators in the violent neighborhoods where I lived. I existed without love, without safety, without hope.

One sweltering Saturday in August when I was sixteen, I said good-bye to my roommates at the group home where I had spent the last four years. I picked up a ratty vinyl sports bag that contained all my worldly possessions: thrift-shop clothes, two pairs of shoes, a paperback dictionary, my SAT workbooks, a worn leather-bound Bible that had belonged to Hosea, and a tin box of trinkets. I had my life savings, $7.48, in my pocket.

As I walked to the front door of the ramshackle house, Mrs. Prichard grabbed my arm, her maroon nails digging into me. Her spray-on orange tan scaled on her rough skin while her inner arm was as pasty as a reptile's belly. She wore a purple t-shirt and new jeans with rhinestones and embroidered flourishes.

"Jane Williams, aren't you gonna thank me for everything I done for you?" Her yellow frizz of hair bobbed each time she snaked her neck.

I jerked away from her grip. "Don't you ever touch me again." I kept my eyes on her dirty dishwater-brown ones. "You've never done anything for me that you didn't have to do so you could keep getting money from the state. You would have thrown me in the street the second I aged out."

She flushed under the fake tan, her cheeks turning copper red. "There was no use spoiling you when you're gonna wind up like the rest of these stupid girls, another baby-mama on the public dime, hooked on the pipe."

"I never asked you for a single thing except kindness, but that's not in you. You don't know me at all."

"Don't you put on airs with me! Your fancy book-learning and phony manners might fool others, but I know that you're still what you always were — low-class garbage from no-account people. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

My anger was cold and dense. I leaned so close to Mrs. Prichard's face that I could smell the stale coffee and strawberry gum on her breath. "And I know what you are. You're a heartless, soulless waste of human life. When I'm older, I'll make sure that your license is revoked. I hope you burn in hell after what you did to Hosea. You're the reason he died, and I will never forget that. I will see that you pay."

Mrs. Prichard's lower lip quivered and she stepped back. I felt a spark of something unfamiliar: it was power and it warmed me as I imagined a mother's caress might.

Outside, the sun blazed on the ugly street, revealing the paint peeling on houses, dried blood on the cracked sidewalk, and trash in the gutters. The hood was a volatile mix of the destitute, the dangerous, and the desperate. I knew that the men on the corner, who seemed so nonchalant, noticed me with my bag, because they noticed everything and everyone. I kept my head down as I neared them.

One of the other men said, "Squeak, squeak, squeak," and they all laughed, but there was nothing I could do about it.

I walked past the liquor store, the check-cashing shop, and houses with chain-link fencing and pit bulls that lunged and snarled. I made sure to keep close to the curb when I went by a crack house, and then I reached a lot with junked appliances.

A tall, skinny Goth girl, incongruous in her short purple tube-dress and platform flip-flops, smoked a cigarette and leaned against a busted washing machine. Her straight waist-length hair was dyed black with shocking pink streaks. She wore chalky makeup, but her shoulders and legs had colorful tattoos.

When she spotted me, she shouted, "Janey!" and dropped the cigarette.

"Hey, Wilde!" I put down my bag and, as we hugged, I felt the thinness of her body and smelled her sugar-sweet perfume. My hand on her bare shoulder blade touched the raised surface of one of the small round scars that marked her body.

We finally let each other go and smiled. The thick blue eyeliner around her gray eyes and her sharp cheekbones made her appear old. She said, "So you're finally making a prison break from Mrs. Bitchard's?"

I grinned. "Hosea hated when we called her that. Remember how he'd frown that way he did and say, 'She's trying as best she knows.'"

"He was always schoolin' us to act ladylike." Wilde deepened her voice and said, "'Sis, you're too pretty to say such ugly words.' Heck, I still feel bad when I cuss."

"Me, too." We both were quiet for a moment. "The school's sending a car to get me."

"High styling!" Wilde had a wide-open smile with a small gap in her front teeth that made it special. "Well, good on you."

"I'm going to miss you, girlfriend." I wondered when she'd last slept or eaten a real meal. "How are you doing? How are you really doing?"

"Oh, you know. You know how you been riding me to get my GED?"

"Because you're as bright as a new penny."

"That's what Hosea used to say. Anyways, I'm gonna get my degree and go to beauty school."

"Seriously? You'd be an amazing haircutter. You're working those pink streaks."

She flipped back her hair. "I did it myself. They've got videos online about cutting and styling and the other girls let me practice on them."

"Wilde, maybe now's a good time to clean up ... because when you apply for those beautician licenses, I think they drug test you."

Her eyes narrowed in warning. "Let it go, Jane. I already told you, I'll clean up when I clean up."

"Sure, I know you will," I said, because Wilde got defensive every time I brought up this subject. "Hey, I'll come back to visit when I can."

"You do what you have to do and get settled in, baby girl. I'm gonna be fine even without you checking on me twice a week, and don't deny it. My man, Junior, takes care of me."

I gritted my teeth so I wouldn't say what I thought about the midlevel thug.

When she gave me another hug, her hand snuck into my front pocket. "Some cash for your stash."

"Wilde, you don't have to ..." I began, but she cut me off, saying, "Janey, you gave me running-away money when I needed it."

I gazed around at the dismal surroundings. "It wasn't enough to get you out of this place."

"Well, you were always more ambitious than me. I got away from Mrs. Bitchard and that's all that matters." She shrugged her narrow shoulders. "Quid pro quo."

Laughing, I said, "Where did you learn that?"

"My clientele. See, I can talk Latin, too."

A gray Volvo slowed on the street and the car's window rolled down. The man inside leered at Wilde, who waved her hand at him and said to me, "Sorry, Mousie, I gotta get back to work. Now get outa here and show them rich girls that Hellsdale girls got brains, too!" Hellsdale was what we called our city, Helmsdale.

My friend sashayed to the car, swinging her hips widely as she called out, "Need some company, sugar?"

In another life, Wilde would have been a model instead of working the streets. I patted the bills she'd put in my pocket and walked slowly back toward Mrs. Prichard's foster home. A shiny black Lexus was parked in front of the house. The men on the corner stared at me as I hurried to it, and I knew that they had already called in the license plate to their informant at the police station.

A driver in a blue suit got out of the Lexus just as I reached the front of the house.

"Hi, I'm Jane Williams. Sorry I'm late."

"Good afternoon, Miss Williams. I'm Jimmy." He tipped his cap. "I'm a little early. Mrs. Radcliffe didn't want me to keep you waiting if there was any traffic. May I take your bag?"

As he was placing my ratty bag in the trunk, I saw that 2Slim, the local boss, had joined the corner crew and was now ambling toward me.

I told Jimmy, "I'll be a minute. Do you mind waiting in the car?"

"No problem." Jimmy glanced at 2Slim and got in the car.

I stood on the sidewalk and 2Slim seemed to take forever to walk to me. I admired the jaunty tip of his straw hat and the creamy suit that was loose enough to cover a shoulder holster. His skin was a rich caramel and his expression was friendly. "Hey there, Mousie. Going somewhere special?"

He'd never spoken to me before, and now I stood straight and spoke respectfully, because I wasn't out of here yet. "Hello, sir. I'm going to Birch Grove Academy on a scholarship. It's in Greenwood."

"Birch Grove." He hissed out a soft whistle through his even white teeth. "I heard of it. We had another Hellsdale girl go there before, a long time ago."

The school's headmistress hadn't mentioned anything about another girl from Helmsdale. My confusion must have showed, because 2Slim said, "Nasty little thing left and never looked back. I don't like people who forget where they from."

"No, sir, I won't forget."

"Rich folk. You know the difference between them and us?"

I thought, Yes, education, money, manners, culture, decency, and waited for him to speak.

"It's not only that they talk like they just sucked a lemon and dress uptight." He pointed to a street memorial of plastic flowers and posters for the victim of a recent drive-by. "The difference is that we honest about who we are, what we do. They hide the bodies and think they so clean and nice." His laugh had the staccato rhythm of automatic gunfire.

I smiled, because when 2Slim made a joke, it was best to smile.

He said, "I remember when you came here, all skittery and spitting mad, like you was rabid. Wasn't sure if you'd want to get in the game like your girl Wilde, but I didn't expect you to take the long view. You don't have it all figured out yet, Mousie, so take care you don't get your little neck snapped in a trap."

"Yes, sir."

He reached into his pocket and brought out a gold money clip holding a thick wad of bills. He counted out five twenties and held them toward me. "Here's some cheese for little Mousie. No one from my turf's gonna show up without a dime and shame Hellsdale. Can't do nothing about your clothes now, but at least you neat and decent."

I took the money, feeling the thick crispness of the paper. "Thank you, sir."

"You remember me. You ever make good, you remember me. You know my name."

"2Slim."

"Too light to fight and too slim to win," he said. "I was like you, Mousie, puny, so I had to use other resources." He tapped one finger to his temple three times. "But for reals, the name's Norton Barrows Blake. You remember that and I'm sure gonna remember you. Jane Williams, Little Mousie, the orphan girl with the spooky eyes."

"Thank you, Mr. Blake." I didn't want to be remembered as Little Mousie, the puny orphan girl who got shoved around and hassled. I wanted to be someone else.

2Slim stared at me curiously. "You never been like the others, you know.

I could tell that from the start. Well, I got business to tend." Then he flicked his bony fingers toward the car. "Go on now."

2Slim stood there as I got in the front seat of the Lexus, and Jimmy, the driver, said politely, "You can sit in the back if you like, Miss. There are magazines and refreshments."

I should have known to sit in the back. "I get a little carsick. Is it okay for me to stay here?"

"Of course, Miss Williams." He moved to get out, but I closed the door before he could do it for me. He started the car, and I gazed out the window as we drove past a playground with broken swings and a toppled slide. We went by dirty walls and street signs all tagged with WTH, Welcome to Hell.

I'd heard that Eskimos have a hundred different words for snow; we should have had a hundred different words for filth because everything in Helmsdale was covered with grit and grime.

Jimmy said, "You can listen to the radio if you want, Miss."

"Thanks." I clicked it on to fill the uncomfortable silence. It was preset to a news station, and we listened to the entire broadcast twice as Jimmy steered along a series of freeways that led away from the group house, through the city, and beyond. I was conscious of my shabby clothes against the leather seat, but the fold of bills in my pocket reassured me.

Road construction slowed the trip, and three hours later we finally arrived in the town of Greenwood. It was set in a small valley below wooded hills draped with gauzy shawls of fog.

Jimmy turned on his headlights. "This place is in a fog belt. It's overcast all year-round."

I didn't answer because I was too busy staring at a tree-lined main street with a row of shops, each with gleaming windows and colorful flower boxes. Jimmy took an avenue up a hill where enormous older homes were set back behind hedges. The color green was everywhere: deep green trees, vivid green lawns, and lush green bushes. I suddenly felt queasy and closed my eyes, but I could still see green, green, green, and I clasped my hands together and squeezed my eyelids tight.

"Feeling carsick, Miss Williams?"

Jimmy's voice snapped me out of the weird feeling, and I blinked. "I'm fine."

"Here we are, Miss. Birch Grove Academy."

CHAPTER 2

Jimmy turned right at a private drive marked by stone pillars and a lacy black ironwork archway in a leaf and branch design. A square brass plaque read BIRCH GROVE ACADEMY FOR GIRLS. The car's tires crunched on the gravel road as we passed a garden. It looked like a park for the wealthy, with endless emerald lawns, flowering borders, and a pond with a fountain.

As the car rounded a curve, I gasped as I glimpsed Birch Grove for the first time. Towering evergreens framed a magnificent dusky coral building that rose three stories against the leaden sky. The photos in the glossy brochure hadn't prepared me for how ... how intimidating it was. I clenched my fists so tight my chewed-up nails dug into my palms.

Jimmy parked in front of the building, where wide white marble steps led to massive wood doors. I was so excited that I jumped out of the car before he even undid his seat belt. I walked to the steps, trying to take in all the details while Jimmy got my bag out of the trunk.

Above the ornate doors, a carved banner with BIRCH GROVE ACADEMY FOR GIRLS arched over a shield with a lantern, a fox, and branches. I read aloud the motto beneath the shield, Ut incepit fidelis sic permanet, and then translated the words in a whisper to myself. "As loyal as she began, so she remains."

I tore my gaze from the building and saw sprawling sports fields to the right and a more modern building set back on the left.

"There you go." Jimmy handed me my bag. "Mrs. Radcliffe said that she would meet you here. Would you like me to wait with you?"

"I'll be fine. Thank you, sir."

"Good luck, Miss Williams."

The car drove off and I stood there alone in the fog, feeling bewildered and incredulous. I patted my pocket, making sure the folded bills were still there. I wanted to take them out and count them, but someone called out, "Hello, Jane!"

I turned to see Mrs. Radcliffe, the headmistress, walking around the side of the building, carrying a basket filled with branches. Despite the weather, she wore a wide-brimmed straw hat with a white blouse, navy sweater, and navy slacks.

The first time we'd met, I'd been puzzled when I was called out of class and sent to my academic counselor's office. An unfamiliar tall, slim woman waited for me. She had smooth ivory skin, clear blue eyes, and sleek sienna-brown hair twisted back into a bun. She'd smiled graciously. "Hello, Jane. I'm Mrs. Radcliffe, the headmistress of the Birch Grove Academy for Girls. I'd like to talk to you about a scholarship."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Dark Companion by Marta Acosta. Copyright © 2012 Marta Acosta. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“This enjoyable, chick-lit update of undead culture gives vampires and their victims a long-overdue makeover. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre marked by creaky gender relations and unchallenged class stratification…. Acosta’s savvy take on sexist vampire traditions is refreshing.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Acosta’s story is an impressive contender in the crowded YA paranormal field.”

Publishers Weekly

“Compelling and romantic; a Jane Eyre for the Modern Age.”

—Julie Kagawa, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron King

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