Social Creature – Tara Isabella Burton
Release Date: June 2018
Synopsis: For readers of Gillian Flynn and Donna Tartt, a dark, propulsive and addictive debut thriller, splashed with all the glitz and glitter of New York City.
They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them… They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together, when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste…
Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon.
Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.
Social Creature is unnerving from the get-go. Louise is a relatively normal young woman in her late 20s struggling to make it in New York City. She’s got multiple, low paying jobs, a rent controlled apartment and no friends or disposable income. So far so good. Then we meet Lavinia, an eccentric, younger woman who hires Louise as a SAT tutor/glorified babysitter for her younger sister Cordelia. Louise and Lavinia strike up an unlikely friendship that spirals into a codependent nightmare fueled by alcohol, sex and selfies. By Lavinia’s death, it’s hard to decide who really needs who.
Lavinia kept reminding me of a youthful Miss Havisham at different points. She’s stuck in time–she never changes, never evolves as a person. Louise towards the end becomes much the same and comments repeatedly how it’s the same party every party, that nothing changes. She too becomes stuck in this loop. While Lavinia doesn’t evolve, (she dies, of course–we know this from the blurb) Louise does change in a way that fascinated me. She starts out as a desperate woman, pining for the approval of Lavinia and her friends and we see her made into a monster as the chapters go by. Or perhaps, as is hinted, she was always a monster underneath?
Social Creature reminded me a lot of the movie Ingrid Goes West in terms of both creep-factor and the pervasiveness of social media in our day to day lives. Lavinia is constantly posting/liking/commenting and Louise, well, she uses it as a very interesting tool in the last half of the story. If you haven’t seen Ingrid, I strongly recommend it… the film is very good but unsettling.
There’s so much going on in this book. Reading back through the notes I jotted down as I read is like a timeline of me descending into this frenzied reading binge as things got crazier and crazier. Like Lavinia, Social Creature sinks its claws into you and doesn’t let go until you turn the last page.
Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.