Cover Image: Social Creature

Social Creature

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Member Reviews

This book shows the toxic friendship set against a sparkling Manhattan backdrop. The characters were objectively unlikeable, but I enjoyed following the weird, dark circumstances scattered along their journey. The writing was atmospheric and made it easy to keep turning the pages. While different, something felt missing in this story and by the time I finished, I had lost some of the interest I had earlier on.
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The first time I saw the movie Black Swan with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, I was astounded, scared, and even inspired by how far the boundaries of psychological thrillers could be pushed. I needed to find some book equivalent to the way the movie made me feel, how it made me question my own perception of my reality, my own morals, and my even own ambition. When I requested Tara Isabella Burton’s Social Creature from NetGalley to review, I was a little hesitant. Normally well-reviewed thrillers fall short on the psychological twists that keep me hooked to the very last page. But Social Creature didn’t just keep me hooked to the last page: I was deep into this book until the very last word.

Told from the point of view of an omniscient unnamed narrator, we follow twenty-nine year old Louise as she gets swept up in the extravagant social life of twenty-three year old Lavinia. A chance meeting — an unnecessary tutoring session for Lavinia’s younger sister that turns into an all-night babysitting job — sweeps Louise up in the tidal wave of Lavinia’s influence. It’s hard not to: she’s wild, free, beautiful, privileged, and has a seemingly limitless bank account. She is, and has, everything Louise is not, does not have. When someone extends a hand and invites you into the mouth of the rabbit hole it’s hard to say no. Not that Lavinia takes no for an answer. Ever. From Louise’s perspective, people like Lavinia have earned, or somehow deserve, the privilege to be above hearing no. Any door Lavinia wants opened does. Anything she wants, she gets. Louise, on the other hand, is poor, working multiple jobs, living in a city that’s just a constant reminder of everything she’s failed to become. That someone like Lavinia even looks at her makes Louise feel special — and that’s really all Louise needs to feel in order to shift her entire life around Lavinia’s. What neither of them know is that there’s a time limit on just this time together, but life itself.

With Lavinia’s death coming closer and closer with each page, there’s a palpable bass-line of tension woven in through the constant stream of people, parties, bars, speakeasies, private clubs, drinking, drugs, and dancing. The more Louise is pulled into Lavinia’s world, the easier it is to leave everything she has, and everything she was, behind. A The Secret History for the social media age, Social Creature circles closer and closer around the idea that not only is (conventional) beauty is terrifying because of how powerful it can be. What Louise fears is losing being around Lavinia, being part of this life — losing everything. After all, what did she do to deserve someone like Lavinia to take her in? To Louise, Lavinia is unstoppable, untouchable, mythological, invincible. If Louise is the Richard of this The Secret History, Lavinia is a combination of Henry, Charles, and Camilla on a cocaine-fueled mania trip, careening towards the edge of a cliff. And like with Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Tara Isabella Burton’s Social Creature is a story of love and hate, lust and power, and the blurred lines between not just friendships but identities, too.

The exploration of identity, of those blurred lines between people and relationships, between platonic and romantic love, between love and power of one's own actions, how that love can be weaponized is what makes Social Creature such a compelling read. What I was left with at the end of the book was what the line between fixation and obsession is (if it even exists) and what (if any) actions are understandable (justifiable?) when the object of your fixation suddenly vanishes.
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Sadly, this one just didn't work out for me, but I liked enough that I'm definitely willing to pick up the author's next release.
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A fun reinvention of the Talented Mr. Ripley. It was fun to read about places I've been, such as Sleep No More, but I did find myself suspending my disbelief a lot.  It was enjoyable, and I've thought about it in the time since I've read it, but something about it just wasn't as convincing as I'd hoped.
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Social Creature was such a wild ride of a book! There were so many twists and turns that I never saw coming! Definitely a page turner that kept me on the edge of my seat.
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The main character of this novel, Louise, is a young woman in Manhattan struggling to make ends meet when she meets frivolous rich Lavinia who takes her under her wing and pulls her into her life and social scene - and as Louise starts to like this life, things get darker and creepier from there.  Dark books about (intentionally) unlikable characters are not usually my thing but this one was really atmospheric and page-turning and interestingly written.
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Loved the cover, couldn’t stick with the book. I was instantly annoyed by both of these characters, I think I am just too old to understand or relate to them. They were so obnoxious, shallow and self-absorbed. And besides the characters, the writing in this book was pretty terrible. Maybe if you are a young twenty something with not a care in the world, and trying to live your best fake life on social media, then you might like it. Hard pass for me.

**I received a copy of Social Creature from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are of my own.**
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SOCIAL CREATURES is one of those books that will seduce you into reading it. It will pull you in with the prose and the author's ability to weave together a compelling story. I lost myself in these pages as I delved further into the world created in these pages. A solid read.
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The title, the cover, the description all should have been indicators that this would not be something I'd like, but I guess that's why you shouldn't judge things too hastily. 
This book was shocking, crass and dark and really good. 

Two young women meet randomly in NYC. One is rich, a self-absorbed party girl, the other is poor, struggling to make ends meet and adrift. They meet when the poor girl, Louise, is tutoring the rich girl, Lavinia's sister Cordelia. 

Lavinia if frenetic and intense and when Louise is absorbed in to Lavinia's orbit her whole life changes
and not for the better. Lavinia can't be alone and her mania rubs off on Louise as the story takes on darker and darker overtones.
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This book starts like it is going to be a fun romp and then it turns dark and edgy.  I love a book that makes you want to stay up late into the night flipping pages.
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Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton was a really fun read! I couldn't put this one down! Loved the suspense and this would make a great beach read.
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I debated putting this book down and walking away from it multiple times. It felt like a shallow look into New York's rich, drug loving high society and how easily a struggling writer could be pulled into it's depth. Sadly, nothing about this book made me care about Louise's struggles or Lavinia's carefree life.
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This novel tells the story of a struggling young woman in New York who gets befriended by a socialite and then decides to take over her life. This trope has been done many times before (and better). I was willing to give it a shot because I thought it could be done in a fresh way with a social media lens. However, a lot of it was predictable, and the writing style just felt really stilted and stale. The worst part is that I hated every single character - which meant I didn't care what happened to any of them. Won't be recommending this one.
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This somehow manages to be compulsively readable while being just bad. For the readability, I give this two stars.

However, there is zero plot. That's not an exaggeration. Nothing happens. Sometimes they go to parties? And that's like it. 

So okay let's call it character driven, but the characters are trash. I don't mean unlikable, I like unlikable characters. I mean so, so poorly developed. Louise is the least interesting sociopath of all time. We're told in the beginning that she people watches and learns how to behave from that, and there is no evidence of it anywhere else in the entire story other than in how she obsesses over Lavinia. Lavinia has no redeeming qualities, and her ability to bewitch those around her into obsession makes no sense whatsoever. Rex is boring and basic and the only moments he's not being boring and basic he's being abusive. The remainder of the characters brought so little that I've forgotten their names, minutes after finishing.
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This book is certainly written in a unique style, very stream-of-consciousness with lots of social media references. I enjoyed it although this isn't a style I would want to read all the time. Lots of damaged, self-centered characters in this one, and if was fun seeing how they all self-destructed in their own ways. An interesting read, although I suspect people much over their mid-thirties might find the style pretty annoying.
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Somewhat of a guilt pleasure. But a twisty and mysterious story. Loved the links with media and technology.
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I read a few chapters but just could not get into this book or the characters. I can't make it through and will not review it on Goodreads or anywhere. Sorry. Guess it was just not for me.
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I could’ve rated Social Creature 2 stars OR 4 stars and felt good about either choice….it’s completely ridiculous and messed up, but also addictive and intriguing. This book made me say “holy sh*t” multiple times.

Plot Summary:
When Louise, a nobody trying to make it in NYC, meets Lavinia, an outrageous party girl/socialite, they embark on an intense friendship during which Lavinia ends up dead (this is not a spoiler…it’s revealed almost immediately and in the publishers’ blurb!).

Why I Read It:
I’m a sucker for NYC social world books…especially dark and disturbing ones. Plus, Tyler Goodson (Manager at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA) and one of my top recommendation sources gave it 4 stars.

Major Themes:
Friendship, obsession, social media, New York City, image, socialites

What I Liked:
- This is one demented story. Maybe the most messed up book I’ve read since The Roanoke Girls. If you like dark and twisted, Social Creature is for you! But, fair warning, this book is not for everyone. Some people will absolutely hate it.
- The bottom line with Social Creature, and the reason I decided on 4 rather than 2 stars, is that it’s absolutely addictive. I couldn’t put it down, especially during the second half.
- At first, I was bored by the seemingly endless stream of ridiculous parties and socialite antics, but I couldn’t have predicted in a million years where this story would go. It’s the rare book that I wanted to DNF many times in the beginning, but I’m thrilled I didn’t.
- The writing has a frantic, breathless, almost childlike quality with lots of “and, and, ands”…which totally fits the story.
- Lavinia and Louise (and some fringe characters) seem ridiculous and unrealistic. But, having lived in NYC for years, I can assure you that people like this really exist. There are “It” Girls who are essentially exaggerated caricatures and have personal “brands” they try to live up to. There are nobodies who completely reinvent themselves into somebodies…while disavowing their past. And, there are the kids of famous and successful people who live lives of debauchery funded by their parents. These characters would’ve made me want to throw the book across the room (and will probably make many other readers do just that) had I not lived in NYC and understood that the craziness is very real.
- Finally, try to go in as blind as possible. Shockingly, the publisher’s blurb actually does a good job of not revealing too much.

What I Didn’t Like:
- The publishers compared Social Creature to Gillian Flynn and Donna Tartt, which I don’t think are quite accurate. I can see Gillian Flynn a bit, but definitely not Donna Tartt. Publisher comparisons are always a crapshoot!
- The story takes a bit to heat up. At first, the endless stream of NYC socialite parties was over-the-top, but also annoying and monotonous. I wish some of this had been cut down.
- It got kind of raunchy at times, which doesn’t bother me, but will absolutely bother people who are more sensitive to that stuff.

A Defining Quote:
"There’s a reason people are able to function, in this world, as social creatures, and a good part of that reason is that there are a lot of questions you’re better off not knowing the answer to, and if you’re smart you won’t even ask."

Good for People Who Like…
Dark and disturbing books, New York City, dislikable characters, open-ended endings

Other Books You May Like:
Another dark, disturbing book with a cat and mouse game:
Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach (my review)
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I don't really know if I liked this book or not. I did at first but as the story went on I lost interest in it. I really didn't like the ending. It felt rushed and too easy. None of the characters were likable which is normally ok for me. I don't have to like a character to enjoy a story but these characters were just insufferable. I probably wouldn't recommend this book.
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Very compelling tale here - I went through this one pretty quickly & enjoyed the storyline & character development. Thanks to netgalley for the opportunity!
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