As it turns out, I’m kind of a fiend for horror/thriller stories. I learned that with Mexican Gothic, a book this is undoubtedly going to be compared to due to its creepy nature and time of publication, but aside from the horror aspects, these two stories are quite different.
Margot has had a tough couple of months. She is the only survivor of a car crash that killed her parents and siblings and she has no other family to take her in. Well, until her father’s friend comes into the picture and swoops in to take Margot to their creepy country manor where she will be given everything she wants. The only catch? Margot has to be a “companion” to Agatha, the near comatose daughter of the house who has a nasty habit of being around when things get… weird.
This book is heavy on the suspense; it relies heavily on tiny clues sprinkled early on in the story to hold out and come full circle when the moment is right. Most of the time, they pan out just when they need to. The facade of this family in the novel cracks and crumbles in tiny increments that let you see the horror just before it arrives.
Many times when I am reading horror stories, I complain about pacing– the book spends too much time trying to set the creepy atmosphere and not enough time to give me the payoff. The Companion, however, is actually very solid in balancing setting a creepy atmosphere and moving the plot forward. There are parts that I think can be cleaned up, especially int he beginning of the story, but there was not a second in the book that I felt like I was being dragged along.
Margot was an excellent narrator. She had that crisp, sarcastic voice that rang true to a teenager– especially one who’s gone through so much loss– without seeming forced and whiney.
The side characters; Laura, John, Barrett etc. work well in the roles they’re given. And they are given the classic thriller/horror movie companion roles. This book is like if The Orphan, Annabelle, and The Boy came together in a weird orgy. And it leans into that. Everyone feels specific to their role– and therefore can feel like caricatures rather than original characters, but you learn to just go with it.
The conundrum of Agatha is, in one word, creepy. Everything from the way she dresses to the messages on the wall to the disappearing and reappearing. It’s her world and we’re all living in it. Now I won’t give anything away, but her character is interesting.
So yeah, while this book is very grounded in the movies that it clearly drew inspiration from, The Companion is surely going to delight people (like me) who delight in reading the genre.
***Thank you to Penguin Teen for giving me an ARC for this book in exchange for an honest review.