Heavenly

Heavenly - Jennifer Laurens Initial Thoughts: There were parts of "Dark Companion" I liked enough to see where they went, but I don't think those parts outweighed the many times this book seemed to drop the ball and then some. I have a long review to write on this, so hopefully I can explain why this book didn't work for the kind of story it was going for. Gothic mysteries that tend to push the edge of things are fine, but I think for it to work, it has to have some measure of cohesion - there was very little holding this story together and it further fell apart after a certain point. Full Review:I find it difficult to know where to start with Marta Acosta's "Dark Companion" because I think Acosta's a solid writer - her eye for description in the sense of setting and establishing a specific mood is very well done. I wish I could give this more than a single star where the actual writing stylistic (not necessarily the pacing) is concerned. When I consider the collective whole of the story behind "Dark Companion" - there were many ties that suggested it could go into a wonderfully alluring direction with the mystery behind a disappearance and a love story, while maintaining some interesting loose parallels with Bronte's "Jane Eyre". But then it decided to drop the ball - hard. It's so inconsistent that I'm finding it painful to discuss even as I try to put words to what exactly went wrong in the duration of the story. I'm sure this could've been a better book if it weren't for several jarring factors that threw me out several times as I read it. The premise of this book had the makings of a wonderfully drawn mystery/suspense in a gothic, school-based setting, where an underprivileged girl named Jane attends in the hopes of reaching a better life from her foster upbringing and painful past (which she doesn't quite remember as readily). Yet, as Jane adjusts to the well-to-do settings of the school, she not only finds her heart torn in the mix of love and pain, but also a part in a mysterious, dangerous scheme in the backdrop of Birch Grove involving a missing person and some shady happenings in the backdrop of the school.I think one of the major problems that I saw from the get go in this book were the inconsistencies in the characterizations. There were problems with the voices of the characters - either being too formal or too casual and not settling into either one in the duration of the story. Jane herself is said to come from the ghetto, but while I could believe she's an intelligent young woman who worked her way up within a very tough background, I don't think the writing supports her character or background very well. She's very set in her ways, probably as a result of the life she went through, but we never see glimpses of the before "shown" (not told) to support that attitude. The characters she's surrounded by in her former lifestyle (with the exception of Wilde) are terrible one-dimensional stereotypes. Jane herself even seems single-minded as she champions math and science for the logic behind them and condescends arts/literature for their impracticalities (constantly - that annoyed me because the arts and sciences are equally important). While Jane takes on a rationale where she looks for the practical measures of things, she behaves in a way that suggests otherwise when her back's put against the wall in some very jarring measures - going against everything that's established in her characterization from the initial points. I didn't like her Birch Grove friends all that much because they also seemed like stock characters and their voices didn't seem like teenagers would speak at all. Yet, I want to address my primary focus in characterization on the two LIs (love interests) in this book - Jack and Lucky.Jack comes across as your typical jokester who flirts with Jane and calls her pet names (Halfling, pixie, among others). He looks after her when he's actually in the story to some extent. I had mixed feelings about his introduction, but the guy is funny in spurts as the story shows him later on. Some of the more intimate scenes where he and Jane are talking to each other (probably far and few between) showcase how much he cares for Jane. I think some of those scenes came a little too late and should've been incorporated much earlier than they were, so that at least when Jane begins to warm up to him (instead of fending him off constantly), it feels less jarring when she suddenly decides how good of a person he is to her. But even in the times where he's decent, there are other times when his interactions with her are awkward and forced.Then there's Lucky. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out what Jane saw in this needy jerk, and I could think of a boatload of harsher names to call him otherwise. I never got the attraction between these two in the whole time that I read this book - it was never really shown. There was nothing that told me anything about how Jane was attractive to him, and him to her. Sure there were physical aspects (appearance) of him described that were alluring - okay. Sure he seemed nice to her initially when they talked. But even in their first full encounter - he shows an interest in her blood. No, this isn't a vampire novel. There are mentions of vampires among other stuff here, but it's not a vampire thing - it's more of a genetic disorder thing. So the family says. In any case, Lucky's fascination with Jane comes with her blood. So what does he do?He takes out a knife, asks her to cut her finger, and starts sucking at her blood. At least Jane's fairly freaked out about it the first time he does it, even as he gets carried away and hurts her. He says he "needs" it, needs her. Normally I'm freaked out enough about the number of books in current YA culture that have male love interests who hurt the women they love (or have women who feel they have to be hurt) in some way for the sake of love, but I decide to see where this goes to some extent. Part of me hopes that the author knocks this idea down with the fury of a thousand mighty fists.Jane, up until a certain point, has been independent and doesn't really take any crap from anyone (so she says *rolls eyes* I really hate the fact that sometimes this factor is shoved in the reader's face, especially from the heroine's voice herself). But her character does a 180 and becomes completely lax about this and goes gaga over the guy, thinking if she subjects herself to his demands, he'll find a way to love her. Doesn't even touch the tip of the mind trip that Jane discovers in the backdrop of Birch Grove. She realizes there's something of a secret cult like social hierarchy in the backdrop of Birch Grove, with Lucky seeking someone to help him survive his genetic condition (remedied by feeding on his chosen's blood). Jane learns this from someone who isn't supposed to tell her, and there's to be a secret induction among the group to establish this tie. Apparently, the deal is that in exchange for being the person who gives their blood over to Lucky (per se), they establish a lifelong tie which grants them anything they want in terms of their ambitions (Ph.D., M.D., whatever). All supposed to be a very "logical" progression. And no, I'm not using logical in quotes to be snippy, but the term "logical" is used several times to explain these terms to Jane.It wasn't very logical at all. In fact, I think it showed several plot holes and transition problems more than a little bit.Suffice to say, Jane freaks out and runs like the wind out of there, back to her old life, only to realize that "No" - she's not sacrificing her future in the mix of this, and decides to go back to Birch Grove after a time to see the truth of the matter and to take charge of what she wants in her life. She then decides that, since she somehow loves Lucky in the time this is going on, that she'll subject herself to his whims and tries to justify him cutting her with a knife in different places on her body and drinking her blood.I didn't like the portrayal at all. It's painful to read in spurts, especially since it comes across in some degree of detail, especially with Jane crying with some of the ways she's physically cut yet somehow saying that it makes her feel "alive" in the process. The book does show, somewhat, how wrong these actions are, while occurring in the backdrop of a murder mystery that Jane ends up resolving in her returns to Birch Grove and getting down to the mystery ties, but the mixing of the mystery in with the so-called love story seems so haphazard. It takes a long time to get to the results of these events and even then, it's sometimes hard to see the transitional states to where the emotional constructions match up. Add to the fact that these characters aren't appropriately fleshed out, and it's really difficult to align to. In the end, I found it hard to see the progression/growths that they take enough to care about them, and I think the way Acosta structured this story, alongside taking too much time to progress to that point, really made the collective story suffer in the aftermath. Suffice to say, it began with an interesting idea in the setting and mystery premise and I do give full credit to Acosta's stylistic in her writing. I really wish the structuring, pacing, and characterization in the story was better, it could've gone in a much better direction/progression than it did.Overall score: 1/5Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Tor/Forge.