Social Creature

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 24 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Unputdownable (I know that's not really a word but couldn't think of a better adjective). A story that's gripping, unnerving and completely possible, a Ripley for the Instagram generation.
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This is an absolute cracker of a debut. The plot is so intricately woven together with characters that I just loved to hate. I loved the toxic relationships and the entirely unreliable protagonist. 

This was a book I could not put down. I was horrified but intrigued by everything that was unfolding. Social Creature is a dark, brutal book which I couldn't forget about. The ruthlessness of each characters treatment of each other was shocking to read but so compelling. 

I can't wait to see what Tara writes next.
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The two main characters are moneyed Lavinia and down at heel although smart and educated Louise. I didn't care for either of the characters as they are both so self absorbed each in their own way. Louise seems to be completely in Lavania's control - but maybe not all is what it seems and this is hinted at throughout the book with references to the future. I was surprised when I learnt exactly how the future events were arrived at. 

Comparisons are drawn between this book and the Mr Ripley stories. Certainly it is set in a privileged New York background with Lavinia spending money like it's going out of fashion but not working for it, her parents providing her with a substantial allowance.

Whether it was the background it was set against, with the talk of parties, lavish dresses, men treating women as less than equal most of the time and everyone having names from the 1920's; I kept forgetting it was set in the modern day. Every so often there would be a spate of posts to Instagram and then Facebook updates and I would have a jolt back to the 21st Century.

Towards the last third of the book when events take a different turn, the social media side does come more into its own. Made for an interesting twist on the tale. It is this part of the book that took it from 3 to 4 stars for me as up until this point I was finding it all just so pretentious and a little boring. 

I'm giving this book 4 out of 5 stars. My thanks to netgalley for an ARC for review.
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Wasn't quite sure what to expect from this but it sounded very interesting. Made me really think about social media and the dangers of it. Very much a book with a shock factor.
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Louise is struggling to exist.  Aged 29 she rents a run-down apartment in an outer borough, juggles several low paid jobs and tries to make it as a writer.  Then she is employed as a tutor to Cordelia, a rich young girl trying to get into an excellent college, and she comes into contact with Cordelia's sister Lavinia.  Lavinia is 22 and on a sabbatical from Yale, she is rich and decadent and decides to take Louise under her wing.  Louise is swept up into Lavinia's world of drink, drugs and incessant partying but in order to maintain her friendship with Lavinia and the career doors this opens for her, Louise also has to let some things go.
There are times in this book when I just wanted to skip past the descriptions of the wild partying - there is only so much a reader can take - but I suppose it in integral to the story.  Otherwise this is a 'Talented Mr Ripley' for the instagram generation.  There are huge holes in the plot, how could no-one actually physically see Lavinia for five months and not comment, surely even the online generation would notice that?  It's a slightly amoral tale that skips by but doesn't really engage me.
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Full review on blog on 15/8/18

I tend to avoid psychological thrillers that are compared to Gone Girl because I loved that book and I think that type of comparison gives you a real sense of the way the story is going to go, taking away the fun of discovering twists and turns on your own.
For me it means I'm constantly looking for the twist instead of just enjoying the story. I didn't realise when I selected this from NetGalley that above the blurb it says this -
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.
Honestly, I'm a picky bitch so that would have been enough for me to not request the book.
Well I'm glad I didn't see the comparison because I enjoyed the book.

Louise is a chameleon, she has the ability to change herself to be what those around her want. She does whatever it takes to fit in and maybe she is a little off kilter.
'Men thought she was special. They did this you understand, because they were stupid. They didn't notice Louise. It was just that Louise looked blonde and thin and pretty, and they were dumb enough to think that all those things were true of her, and not just qualities she wore. And so they were dumb enough to think that her other qualities (she was so chill, she was so clever, she was so open-minded in bed) were real, too.'
Lavinia is the ultimate party girl. People flock to her, she is the life of the party. She is extravagant, generous, gorgeous and fun. Girls want to be like her and guys want to bed her. So when Louise is swept up into Lavinia's world she will do everything she can to stay there. As the girls party their way around New York, we delve into toxic relationships, the lengths people will go to just to look like they are popular and have it all, meanwhile their actual relationships are shallow, nothing more than snide comments and likes on Instagram.

The tone throughout the book was brilliant. It never wavered, whether describing an adventure, feelings or cutting up someone's body, it was always the same matter of fact, droll voice. It took a little to get used to, but it really worked for the plot. The story flowed well and while it was somewhat predictable, it was a good read.
I received an arc from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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It may be a long, hot summer, but there's certainly nothing light and frothy about Tara Isabella Burton's Social Creature, a darkly decadent debut which marries all the glamour of Gossip Girl with the absolute madness of Disco Bloodbath, in a tale of toxic friendship, total excess and death.

New York, New York: It's the city that never sleeps; the city of a thousand (broken) dreams. They say if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere, but if you haven't made it by the time you turn thirty, then you might as well move back home and settle down with that nice-but-boring guy you used to date (your mother loves him!) and did you know that he recently inherited the (rather prosperous!) family business (three stores and counting!) and is still a bachelor (after all these years!) to boot. Time to give up on yourself and your dreams and go pop out some sprogs – the more the merrier!

Meet Louise Wilson, 29, and running out of time.

An aspiring, though as-yet-unpublished writer, Louise works three jobs just to make rent on her crummy apartment in an even crummier part of town. The upside of this is that Louise is thin - because she can't afford to eat. You may not see that as the silver lining in this scenario, but that's because you've never lived in NYC.

Louise is one of life's 'have not's'. No matter how hard she tries, it seems that Louise is destined to live a down-at-heel existence of home hair dyes and Salvation Army clothes for the rest of her days. That is, until she lands a well-paid gig tutoring a teen called Cordelia, who lives in a lush apartment with her older sister, Lavinia. Ah, Lavinia. Now, that's where this story gets interesting. Full of whimsy and wonder, hard-partying Lavinia doesn't actually pay Louise for tutoring her sister, but she does adopt Louise as her shiny new play thing, a real-life Barbie Doll, if you will. Lavinia dresses Louise up in her fabulous clothes, perfecting her hair and make-up, before taking her out on the town to introduce her to a wonderful world of New York glitterati. Soon, Louise is partying it up with New York scenesters, with names such as Beowulf Marmont and Athena Maidenhead and it is all so FABULOUS. Until it's not. Because you know the Lavinia's of this world, right? That's right. They get bored - fast.  And they move on to the next shiny new thing.

But Louise likes her new life. And she's not about to give it up. Not for Lavinia. Not for anyone. New York, New York: The song talks about 'making it' but fails to mention what it takes – or how far some people will go – to maintain 'it' once you've reached the top.

A shades-of-Ripley tale for these fake-it-till-you make it (or get arrested trying!) Anna Delvey times, Social Creature, though it failed to impress me in parts, most notably in its conclusion, is nonetheless a worthy (and deliciously-written) cautionary tale for anyone who lives their life through the wide-eyed, rose-tinted gloss of an Instagram filter.

 Read it if you enjoyed: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little and Disco Bloodbath by James St. James.
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This was a strange book which made for compulsive reading, despite being about two complicated, toxic main characters. Louise is living in New York struggling to balance three jobs to make ends meet when she meets Lavinia. Lavinia is a member of the privileged high society; a flamboyant, eccentric and beautiful woman who seems to float from party to party with little further meaning to her shallow existence. When they meet, Lavinia takes the quieter, more reserved Louise under her wing and introduces her to side of New York Louise never knew existed.

Social Creature, Tara Isabella Burton

A whirlwind of glamorous parties, sparkling dresses, wild nights and dancing ensues. The author paints a picture of a fairytale New York which was fun to read, but there’s an underlying darkness to the story. The developing friendship isn’t one of love and loyalty, but of two flawed individuals who each have their own agendas, using the other for their own means. Neither of them are likeable, but the world they live in and their strange, fragile relationship made for compulsive reading.

The final part of the novel takes an interesting turn as the double meaning of it’s title comes into play, exploring the power of social media. Technology and social media are creeping into contemporary fiction more, and they are used here in a clever way which puts them at the heart of the story itself.

The plot isn’t a hugely original one; this novel has been openly compared to the classic The Talented Mr Ripley and it treads a path which many thrillers have followed before. If you know the basic premise of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, you probably know what’s going to happen here – hints are dropped throughout the story too – but that doesn’t detract from its entertainment value. The narrative feels fresh, the fast-paced lifestyle fun and the twists make for addictive reading. The two main characters are both volatile, unpredictable and complicated individuals, and the author draws an intriguing character study against the backdrop of New York’s glitz and glamour.
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Quiet, introverted Louise is jugglings jobs and struggling to make ends meet when she's hired to tutor Cordelia, the younger sister of over-the-top, rich-kid, party-animal Lavinia. The two quickly become friends and, bored out of her champagne-socialite skull, Lavinia invites Louise to move in with her, the duo quickly becoming inseparable. As the novel progresses Louise becomes more and more obsessed with Lavinia and the lifestyle she and her equally obnoxious friends lead. Fickle, Lavinia can turn on her friends in a heartbeat but when she does so to Louise, Lavinia ends up dead. Louise, not wanting to surrender the rich-kid lifestyle she's become accustomed to, shoves Lavinia's body in a trunk, dumps her in the river and poses as Lavinia online to convince Lavinia's family and friends she's gone away to 'find herself.' And it works. Because not a single person questions the fact that selfie-loving social media queen Lavinia has suddenly become camera-shy and refuses to show her face on any of her profiles.

Advertised as 'A Ripley story for the Instagram age,' this is anything but. Louise's inner monologue was annoying to read, with stiled sentences and slow pacing and by the time Lavinia actually died, I was relieved. Maybe now something interesting would happen? But no. It's just more of the same, with Louise adopting Lavinia's life as her own and impersonating her dead friend so that her friends don't realise she's dead. And there's still a third of the book to wade through. It's an absolute trainwreck of a novel; not in the addictive 'Can't stop reading because it's so enthralling' sense but an 'I'll trawl through the debris in the hope of salvaging some treasure but still come up empty-handed' sense. I kept reading because I hoped there would be a redeeming feature but for me, it wasn't to be.

If you like detestable characters, you'll be in for a treat with this title. There isn't a single one that's remotely likeable. Lavinia, in particular, was so obnoxious, pretentious, manipulative and needy that it's hard to see why she's so popular, nevermind that the 'desirable' lifestyle the characters lead seems pathetic and empty. And the gratuitous sexual encounter at the opera... seriously!?

I hate writing bad reviews because usually I can find positives in most books I read but, with Social Creature, I'm genuinely struggling. If the author wanted to craft a satirical caricature of the rich-kid socialites of yester-year, she succeeded in spades. If, however, this wasn't the intent, I can't understand why so many rate this title so highly.

I came so close to putting this book down several times. By the time I'd finished, I wished I had. Still, the cover art is kind of pretty. So there's that.
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I’ve been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it so my hopes and expectations were pretty high and for the most part they were met! First off I just have to say how perfect the name Lavinia is for her character. It’s a name that instantly makes me think of a certain type of flighty, beautiful, party loving ‘it-girl’ which to a certain degree anyway is exactly what Lavinia is. When we first meet Louise her life is honestly pretty depressing and lonely in a way that I think a lot of millennials can relate to in a world where the life that seems to matter most is the one you are seen to be living online. Once Louise has met Lavinia, which happens early on in the book, she is swept into the Great Gatsby-esque world of superficial people and superficial parties. I honestly don’t know if people exist in the real world who are like Lavinia – I think they must, but I’ve never experienced anyone like that! It certainly makes for a fascinating story as Louise becomes more and more dependent on and obsessed with Lavinia. The reader can tell pretty quickly however that things are not going to end well. There is something sinister to the atmosphere of the book almost from the beginning. Mimi, who is a previous ‘best friend’ of Lavinia’s, is ever-present as a sort of warning of how Lavinia picks people up and then drops them when she gets bored. Mimi’s desperation for Lavinia to bring her back into the fold is almost painful in how pathetic it is.

Social creature goes from a Great Gatsby place into far more of a Single White Female/Talented Mr Ripley territory about halfway through and this is the sort of book that is compelling enough to be read in a single sitting because of it’s intensity. This book is written with a detached almost clinical style and is full of short direct sentences. I really liked this tone and think that it worked beautifully for this story and it’s relatively short length. If this had been a longer novel the way it is written could have become a bit much but it was perfect for the characters of Social Creature. Speaking of the characters – this is certainly one of those books with very few truly likeable characters but that’s not something that bothers me if the story is intriguing enough which in this case I feel it is. The story has a kind of frenetic, addictive quality to it which kept me totally hooked until the very end. I was torn about my feelings on the ending but I think it did suit the narrative.

Overall I really enjoyed Social Creature. I think it’s a really clever and unpredictable novel with so much moral ambiguity and so many grey areas. It is a psychological thriller in many ways and also raises interesting points about social media and the way people put their entire personal lives out there on the internet for the whole world to see.
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Insecure Louise is struggling to survive let alone make it as a writer in glitzy and glamorous New York. Her luck turns when she meets the weathly party girl, Lavinia. Lavinia who has the life Louise could only dream of. Lavinia brings Louise into the fold of her extravagant and glamorous world, exposing her to the best it has to offer as Lavinia's new bestie. We get exposed to a world of outlandish parties, drugs and socialites who are obsessed with social media, to the point that their motivation for every decision is driven by how enviable and well "liked" their social media posts would be. Nothing lasts forever though, and when the relationship begins to fray and Louise's obsession takes root, the reader discovers the lengths Louise is prepared to go to to have Lavinia's life.

Not only is this book about toxic relationships and unhealthy obsessions, this book is also about the contemporary social media life in all its fake "splendour", and I must say the author does a great job in depicting this. 

All the characters however are detestable. This is usually not an issue for me, however Lavinia's character grated on me just a tad too much...she took spoiled rich kid to another level, with her shallow, obnoxious, and pretentious personality, it became tiresome to read about. 

As a result, the book did not always hold my attention, although it must be said that in other parts it did. 

Would I recommend this one? I think this is a toss up, depending on the audience. Perhaps I don't fit the target market for this one and maybe it would best be suited for the twenty / thirty somethings who could enjoy this one better. 

Many thanks to Netgalley, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc and the author for the opportunity to read an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.
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An intoxicating, whirlwind friendship; Social Creature is a haunting story of Louise and Lavinia, two women playing a dangerous game.

The world of Lavinia Williams is one many of us covet: endless parties, unlimited money, glamour. When Louise, a small town girl struggling to make end meet in New York is offered a taste of it, she can't resist. As she gets sucked in deeper and deeper into this charmed life, the sinister side of all that sparkle becomes glaringly obvious. Does she stay? Does she leave? What is the price of such an alluring lifestyle? That is the question Tara Isabelle Burton attempts to explore, diving deep into the world of obsession and toxic friendships.

Social Creature is certainly not a book you pick up when in need for a light entertainment. The story of Louise (Lulu) and Lavinia feels like watching in slow motion as two trains head towards each other at full speed, brakes off.

Burton's book was compared to The Talented Mr. Ripley and while there are similar themes, I don't find this parallel entirely accurate. You see, Tom Ripley is a talented con artist, while Louise is more of an opportunist who doesn't even seem capable of holding her life together properly, and things seem to just happen to her as she's trying her best to keep ahead of the events. While she's certainly not an innocent little bystander, the way she bends over backwards to remain friends with Lavinia in spite of her own better judgement just makes her seem pitiful more often than not. Just how far would you go to get what you want? Do you even know what you want?

We all measure success differently. For some of us, it means money, for other it's achieving a seemingly unachievable goal they set themselves a long time ago. For me, success can be those days when I manage to put on pants in the morning, get to the office on time and not hate my life all day. You know, what I mean. Think big, but embrace the small things. While Lavinia never wants the parties to end, craves constant attention and endless likes on social media, Louise wants, more than anything to become a famous writer. Eventually, when it's clear that ambitions only take so far, lies and deception becomes her second nature.

A well written, intriguing story about two self-absorbed women, Social Creature will suck you right into their dazzling world. But be warned: all that glitter is not gold.
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Louise is essentially failing at life. She is on the brink of giving up on her dreams and leaving New York to go back home. And then, she meets Lavinia.

Lavinia is everything that Louise is not. She is beautiful, interesting, glamorous and rich. She goes to incredible parties and everyone loves her. Somehow, Louise becomes great friends with Lavinia and her hope for the life she always wanted starts to return. The only problem is she isn't rich or interesting, and she has to work three jobs as well as staying up all night and going to any event or party Lavinia wants her to go to.

The book essentially asks how far a person would go to get the life they feel they deserve, or the one they could previously only dream of. All competent thought disappears when they are suddenly presented with the things they have always wanted. They will sell their soul to have that life, that dream. Once that happens, though, is it still a dream? Are they really getting what they wanted? There is a lesson to learn here about trying to be someone you are not - quite literally.

The author tells this story perfectly. It is very much a take on "The Talented Mr Ripley", and has a very pretentious feel to it. Lavinia and the people she surrounds herself with are rich and important. They know this and their lack of talent or usefulness does not bother them at all, because in their world it doesn't matter. Everything is completely frivolous and nothing seems real. I'm not sure what it reminds me of - one of those  parties in vintage America where all the rich people are out of their minds on drink and drugs and everything is so insidious.

The writing is excellent - the author takes you to these parties and makes you feel like you know what it is like to be Lavinia's friend even though you have never been to a place like this in your life. You want to be Louise, or you at least completely understand her motivation.

This novel is compelling and engrossing. It is a strange fantasy world that is beautiful and hideous at the same time, and even when things become simply ugly and tense the thrill is unmistakeable. I really enjoyed reading this; even though it is very much a chick-lit book and not usually something I would pick up, I'm very glad I did.
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Another Talented Mr Ripley plot but this time with difficult to read dialogue and uninteresting plot. Having read Tangerine this year, with a similar plot I think this could have been implemented better. Unfortunately a DNF.
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I thought this book was OK, but nothing so special. It's again has the feeling of Talented Mr Ripley, but the writing style is different. 
The subject was interesting, very relevant for today's world talking about how social media affect one's life. It's more of a character driven book rather than a thriller. I can't say I liked the characters, but they were dark and impactful. 
Another thing I didn't like so much about the book is the writing style, it felt very choppy with short and simple sentences. 
So, if you're looking for a book that's easy to read, dark, character heavy, you might enjoy it.
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Gripping, Dark, Creepy and SO well written, absolutely loved this book and looking forward to more from this author.
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It’s not often you get a psychological thriller with sparkle on the cover and I do love a bit of sparkle.  It’s rare to see any sparkle within the crime fiction realm at all but the sparkle on this cover is very befitting for this dark novel of obsession set in a socialite world.

I’ve got to say meeting Louise and Lavina was an experience.  Louise seemed the normal one to start with, living on the breadline working three jobs to make ends meet. But as the book goes on, her normal begins to unravel as she becomes addicted to Lavina’s lifestyle.  The more I read, the more I questioned Louise and wondered what tall tale she would tell next to keep herself in the life she had very quickly become accustomed to.   Lavina does come across as someone who is fickle not just with possessions but with people to. She’s happy to drop cash at the drop of a hat, a girl with a “can’t be seen in the same outfit more than once” mentality. And then there is Mimi, Lavina’s former bestie.  It’s very easy to see that her nose is out of joint at being replaced so easily.

“…you can’t fool all the people all of the time…”

Tara Isabella Burton has written a very dark and twisted novel about friendship, envy and deception.  I was swept up into the socialite world of partying so much so I felt I was there in NYC even though I have never been myself.  It’s a dark but glamorous world that Ms Burton has created. Having seen The Talented Mr Ripley (ashamed I haven’t read the book), I can see the similarities and understand why Social Creature has been cited as the “Ripley for the Instagram age”.  I have to say Ms Burton has pulled off a brilliant debut novel and I for one will be looking out for her next offering.
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I absolutely and utterly adored this book. Brilliant, addictive and wonderfully written. I will be recommending this to everyone and can't wait to read more from the author.
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Laura has broken away from small town life for a new start in New York City, but it is not quite working out as planned.  She has three jobs, which leave her exhausted, a small, sublet apartment in an insalubrious area, and constant money worries.  She planned on being a writer, but now she is often slumped on trains, shuttling between her shifts as a barista, or tutoring jobs.  When she is home, she spends her time hurrying past scary men on street corners; her key ready in her hand, heart hammering, guard up…
She meets the glamorous, wealthy and confident Lavinia, when she is asked to tutor her sister, Cordelia.   Lavinia is having the life that Laura had yearned for – meeting the rich and influential at constant parties, attending the opera and art galleries; knowing publishers, getting gloriously drunk and never thinking of what she is spending.  From the moment we meet Lavinia, we know that getting involved with her is a bad idea, but, of course, Laura is like a moth, confronted with a flame.  She is unable to resist the bright glow, the lights, glitter and glamour.  Of course, beneath the glitz and glamour, things get dark, ugly and downright dangerous.   Before long, Laura is leaving behind the life she wants to escape from, but it is all on someone else’s terms.   
It is hard to write a review of this book, without spoilers, so I will have to contain myself by simply saying that this novel has a lot to recommend it.  It is well written, with characters that, although not particularly likeable, do come alive on the page.   Lavinia seems larger than life, but that is, of course, what attracts Laura to her.  Meanwhile, as Laura wants more of what Lavinia seems to have without even trying, you wonder quite how far she will go to get it.   
I really raced through this and found it both disturbing and yet plausible.  It addresses some interesting questions – for example, the unfairness of the talented, hard-working Laura, who struggles so much, while Lavinia, and her circle, seem to get everything through their network of old school friends.  This is a novel of entitlement, of toxic relationships, the modern obsession with social media and of what people will do to obtain wealth and status, but how little it can mean, once tasted.   This would be a good choice for a reading group, as it has so much to discuss.  I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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The Talented Ms Ripley 

"Nobody gives a f£&@ about you. You're a complete nonentity."

Shake together: Highsmith, Waugh, Fitzgerald (theres even a direct mention of Gatsby in the book, in case you had any doubts), add a dash of Amor Towles, with more than a touch of Gossip Girl and Maestra and you've got the idea of the kind of writing and subject matter you're in for. It's important to say here that I don't think Burton is setting out to play in the same field as those authors, she is paying homage to them, with admittedly a less complex and nuanced story but a success nevertheless for its target demographic. 

How do we measure our success and our achievements? Beauty? Wealth? The number of friends we have (literally or on social media)? Through the apparent superficiality of the characters in this novel, there are some pretty essential questions posed. The characters themselves are unlikeable and yet that's the bit we enjoy. 

This novel is a guilty pleasure - it is immensely readable and I found I sped through it in a day.  Burton does a great job of building the suspense and the impending dread. We know from the get-go that this is not going to end well - this is not going to be a simple Makeover Story. 

The city of New York is ever-present as a character and the glamour, money and lights cover the trappings of a much darker underside.

Read it when you can give yourself time to consume it all in one go.
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