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The Companion by Katie Alender is a thriller novel that was initially released in 2020 by a division of Penguin Teen books, known as Putnam. This is not Alender’s first novel, but it is the only one released by the author in 2020.
I came across this novel through TikTok and was drawn in by the idea of a setting involving a creepy mansion and the overall premise of the novel.
Consisting of 439 pages, this novel follows the protagonist, Margot, who’s recently lost her family in a tragic accident. Due to Margot being the sole survivor of this accident, she’s sent to an orphanage, and then to the home of the Albright’s to be the “companion” of their sick daughter, Agatha. Margot is initially thrown by the situation, especially when she meets the Albrights and discovers the oddity of their relationship with Agatha.
Note: This review contains a few spoilers.
The first element of this novel that I noticed was the narration. Told in first person point of view by Margot, the audience gets to witness her perspective on the events she’s recalling. Personally, I found the narration to be very insightful and straight to the point. Alender’s usage of point of view benefits the overall telling of the story, especially because it correlates with the fact that Margot, a teenager that has just lost her family and the only home she’s ever known, is pretty confused and baffled at the situation she finds herself in.
The comments on the narrator’s part, such as questioning the structure of the Albrights’ house and the strange relationship they have with their daughter, make perfect sense. I believe the tone and the voice of the narrator are perfectly captured by the author, which make this book even more enjoyable. Not to mention, there are many examples of the grief that Margot is still facing after the death of her own family. These examples pop up in the text continuously, demonstrating that besides living in a stranger’s house, Margot also has to deal with watching a family interact with each other on a day to day basis, when she has just lost her own.
Another thing that accelerated my experience as a reader was the characterization of every character in the story. There are many layers to each character, which is what makes the text so interesting to read.
For example, Mrs. Albright, Laura, appeared to have more depth than any other character. On the outside, she presents as a put together mother who is just trying to care for her sick daughter and keep up with the maintenance of her family’s home. Laura mentions several times, throughout the course of the novel, that the house is her family’s and she wants to keep up with it, despite the fact that other family members do not.
One thing I admire about Laura’s character is that as the novel goes on, the layers begin to peel back and the audience is slowly able to see the type of person she really is. We are able to identify that she’s struggling just as much as every other character. Her inability to keep her daughter, her family, and this house perfect is what begins to unravel her. A lack of control results in her downfall. That’s why, at the very end of the novel, she resorts to different measures to try to ensure her control over an uncontrollable situation.
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Similar to this, the characterization of Margot is developed very well. The audience is able to see how living in a house like the Albright’s not only makes her nervous, but it also ignites a more curious and investigative side of her. She becomes determined to find the truth about what happened to Agatha and what’s really going on in this house. While pursuing this, Margot is still dealing with the trauma of being in a serious accident and the feelings she develops for Barrett, the Albright’s son.
The characterization of Margot and Laura are very vital to the story, however, I would like to know more about the characters of Agatha, Mr. Albright, and Barrett. We do learn small fragments of their lives, such as that Agatha enjoyed a pretty normal life that appeared rebellious to her mother, Mr. Albright works a lot, and Barrett doesn’t feel very connected with his family. I would love to know more about the journey of Agatha’s relationship with her mother and how she viewed the world during her “illness.”
The pacing of the novel differs in various places. Initially, it moves quickly, establishing Margot’s current situation and identifying that she’s headed to a complete stranger’s house solely to assist their daughter. When Margot is living in the house, the novel moves slower, establishing the growing oddities about the house through each day. While a slow pace may not always be the most exciting part of a novel, it can be vital when building an element in a story.
Alender’s use of the pacing in The Companion works to establish the strangeness of Laura, her relationship with her daughter, and the history of her house. By using the daily lives of these characters, it allows both Margot and the audience to see that something suspicious is occurring in this family.
However, I do wish the pacing had been used to establish the relationship between Margot and Barrett a little bit more. Things moved a little fast in my opinion, especially since their relationship starts with the two of them being wary of each other. However, their relationship is still well supported because the audience is able to see how much they care about each other.
Intriguing the Entire Time
Overall, I enjoyed The Companion, and it really helped me get out of my reading rut. The narration of Margot is very relatable, through the way she communicates and identifies different things in her surroundings. Along with this, the story kept me intrigued the entire time. I enjoyed the characters and thought that the twist at the end of the novel was well developed and plausible, considering there were clues and hints through the story to support it.
I read somewhere once that a predictable plot twist is never a bad thing because it means that the author has set the grounds for this twist and made it credible. The Companion utilizes the entire novel to set the grounds for its twist and does a good job of doing so.
Rating: 4/5 stars
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Katie K
Lady Dazy from UK on June 02, 2021:
This looks like an interesting story, I will look out for this book in the future.