Author: Marta Acosta
Publication: Tor Teen; First Edition edition (July 3, 2012)
Description: 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….
My Thoughts: Jane Williams gets an unexpected opportunity in this story. She is living in foster care when she is chosen to attend the prestigious Birch Grove School for girls. She is eager to get away from her current environment and make something of herself. She does leave some friends behind. Wilde is a drug-using hooker who keeps saying that she is going to get straight and become a hairdresser. Her best friend Hosea had died of bacterial meningitis but he was a major influence on her desire to make something of herself.
Once Jane gets to Birch Grove she begins to settle in. She is lonely and wary. She is befriended by a group of the girls and she is looked after by the Headmistress - Mrs. Radcliffe. She is also dazzled by the son of the headmistress Lucian who is called Lucky. He is everything a poor lonely girl could want. He is beautiful, rich, privileged and entitled. He is also selfish and self-centered but it takes Jane quite a while to see that. She meets the other son of the headmistress too. But Jack isn't at all like his brother. He is constantly teasing her and confusing her. She doesn't know how to read him.
Then Jane learns a secret. She has been brought here to the school and given this opportunity so that she could become a Companion to Lucian. It seems that many of the people in the town have a rare genetic disorder that makes it necessary to keep them out of the sun and gives them a craving for blood. Lucian has this disorder; Jack, because he was adopted, does not. And Jane is not the first poor girl to be given this opportunity. The most recent was Bebe who disappeared without warning. Earlier another girl Clare Mason was also given the option. Clare had accepted the deal to be a companion and was the nurse at the school. She has recently committed suicide leaving her husband Mr. Mason grieving and confused.
Jane is torn between accepting the comfortable life of being a Companion - a safe place to live, all the education she wants, a family of her own - and remaining her own independent self. She is dazzled for quite a while. While I could empathize with her desire for acceptance and her crying need to belong somewhere, I thought she was too smart and too goal driven to be side-tracked for long. She throws herself into solving the mystery of Bebe's disappearance and discovers more than she wanted to know.
This is another teenage love triangle with Jane wanting Lucky, Jack wanting Jane, and Lucky mostly wanting his own way. Part of the confusion comes because Jane is convinced that Jack really likes Hattie who is a very nice girl with the same condition as Lucky. After a lot of confusion and struggles there is a happy ending. I think readers who love the paranormal and romance with enjoy getting to know the smart and feisty Jane Williams and will empathize with her. The story has wonderful gothic overtones that are highlighted by the quotations from gothic novels of the past that begin each of the chapters.
"So you came to see me, Halfling. I've been hoping you would."I received this ARC through the Amazon Vine program. You can buy a copy here.
His expression was so earnest that he almost fooled me, almost made me believe that he'd been waiting for me. "Very funny, Jack. Why would I come to see you? I'm here for Lucky." I saw the disappointment in his face--I guess since I hadn't fallen for his teasing.