By Marta Acosta
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Number of Pages: 368
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. She finds herself accepted by a group of amazing girls. She even starts tutoring the headmistress’s gorgeous son, Lucien. He represents everything that Jane has done without in her miserable life, and she thinks that if she can have him, she’ll also have security, family, and safety from the dangerous world.
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 previous 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 these puzzles, she must find out why she was brought to Birch Grove–and what she would give up to stay there. Because even the brightest people make terrible decisions when they’re offered everything they’ve always needed. And that’s exactly what powerful forces were counting on when they invited a vulnerable and isolated teenager to live among them.
The author is trying too hard. The ghetto that Jane is from is especially heinous, and the language she uses is not one that anyone would recognize. At one point Jane explains that she had to teach herself to be educated and that she only knew the words “go, you, me” and cuss words, which is completely unbelievable.
Countless times Jane states that she doesn’t or couldn’t understand material in class, yet somehow managed to become an A+ student in the best classes at her school. This is simply said, never explained or shown. While Jane is having issues staying afloat and doing well in classes, she has somehow decided that she will get a PhD.
Purple prose is definitely evident in this novel as almost every minute detail is described, oftentimes with similes in sentences mentioning far too many colours. And instead of apt word choice instead “bread stick things” are mentioned several times within three pages. There are continuous words used that instead of giving context clues about, characters explain the definition.
The supernatural is evident from the start, and it is far too easy to know exactly what Lucian is well before it is properly introduced. The only truly likeable character is Jack, whom seems to have an uncanny way of spotting supernatural beings, yet this is never fully explained.
Jane is not just plain but also oftentimes self deprecating. While this might be done to show that high school girls often don’t feel like they are good enough, this was a constant thought of Jane’s stated far too many times. It’s hard to enjoy a character who thinks of themselves so poorly.
Each chapter began with a quote, but none of the quotes were necessary to the chapters. Much of the information and lessons learned, that foreshadow what is going to happen in the novel, are given through lessons in class. Far too often the reader is brought into a class, learning about another book, and then brought back into Acosta’s novel. If this had happened once or twice it would have been a neat twist.
The best part of this book is the trees and Jane’s reaction to them. Much like Saratoga (now called Muse, by M. R. Pritchard), this novel had a very unique idea, but it was overrun by the already widely known/written about supernatural. While Jack has an idea that Jane might be special there is very little time spent describing what makes her special, or dedicated to actually figuring out what she is (if she is, indeed, a supernatural creature herself).
While in the end Jane does realize who she is and that you can take your past with you without letting the bad parts of it control you, the lead up was excruciatingly painful. Despite knowing better, she constantly puts herself into bad situations, and although she says she wants to study and do well in school, there are multiple described weeks in which she pines over Lucky and can’t concentrate on anything else.
Author Bio: (From Amazon)
Marta Acosta’s dream job is to write heart-rending obituaries, because she feels they are the most under-appreciated of all literary forms. She’s the author of the recently-released THE SHE-HULK DIARIES, DARK COMPANION, a young adult gothic, the award-winning CASA DRACULA series, and NANCY’S THEORY OF STYLE (under the pen-name Grace Coopersmith).
She’s a Stanford University graduate and was a frequent contributor of features and op-eds to the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE and the CONTRA COSTA TIMES.
A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Marta still lives in a fog-belt with her family and dogs. Her many attempts to grow tomatoes have failed, but she can finally bake a loaf of crusty bread. Her current obsession is vintage fountain pens and she’s happy to send personal notes to readers.
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