When foster teen Jane Williams is invited to attend elite Birch Grove Academy for Girls and escape her violent urban neighborhood, she thinks the offer is too good to be true. She's even offered her own living quarters, the groundskeeper's cottage in the center of the birch grove.My Thoughts: I have to admit that I found this book stunning. Stunning and moody. I was hooked when Marta Acosta read an excerpt at a book signing and I am so pleased that I decided to pick it up. This is the type of book that comes alive in your imagination. You can near the woods rustling around you. You can feel the wrongness of the perfect town that Jane finds herself in. You never quite know who to trust and it's brilliant and edgy and it makes you tense.
Something's not quite right about the school -- or is it Jane? She thinks she sees things in the birch grove at night. She's also beginning to suspect that the elegant headmistress and her sons are hiding secrets. Lucky is the gorgeous, golden son who is especially attentive to Jane, and Jack is the sardonic puzzling brother.
The school with its talented teachers and bright students is a dream for a science and math geek like Jane. She also loves her new friends, including hilarious poetry-spouting rich girl, Mary Violet. But the longer Jane stays at Birch Grove, the more questions she has about the disappearance of another scholarship girl and a missing faculty member.
Jane discovers one secret about Birch Grove, which only leads to more mysteries. What is she willing to sacrifice in order to stay at this school...and be bound to Birch Grove forever?
Jane is a driven, damaged girl. She's determined to make more of her life than what she starts out with. She teaches herself to care about school because she sees a good education as being the first step out of her neighborhood. She's interesting. I like the idea that she pushed herself to learn. She's careful and practical and part of her is terribly, terribly unhappy. Her desire to fit in and be loved leads her to accept things that she should have questioned. It made me want to shake her sometimes and tell her to look harder, look below the surface, see things the way they really are. Her journey was hard but it made her revelations about herself and the people in her life so satisfying when we got to the end.
I loved the supernatural aspects. I loved that Jane was quirky in an understated way. I even liked her over-the-top friend who liked to embellish French sayings. And I really, really liked how wonderfully random Jack was. His nicknames and odd theories about Jane made me smile. This is a dark, haunting world and it made me ridiculously happy.
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