Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton

I stayed up until gone midnight to finish Social Creature. I had to know how Louise’s involvement in Lavinia’s life was going to pan out.

Lavinia is a girl who has everything money can buy: a beautiful apartment in the Upper East Side of New York; social connections; an unflinching desire to live life to the max; a large bank account; perfect hair; social ease; a skinny, perfect body; a knowledge of make-up; a perfume made especially for her; a sense of entitlement… the list goes on. Despite all of this, Lavinia is lonely. Lavinia longs for authentic connection, longs for a sense of feeling alive.

Louise has nothing. Despite her ambitions to become a writer, she works as a tutor and in a coffee shop, lives in a rent controlled dump she can barely afford and has a social life that revolves around Netflix.

When Lavinia asks her to help her sister study and then doesn’t reappear to pay her until the following morning, Louise finds herself swept into Lavinia’s life. Her career, her appearance, her social life, all soars into a place Louise had never imagined would be accessible to her. As long as she keeps playing the game right, she hopes she can stay there. But as the days and weeks wear on, she gets less and less sleep and her game face starts to slip…

At first, the idea of a woman like Louise, someone constantly hoping they won’t mess up opportunities life throws their way, is very compelling. She is so relatable. We take her outsider’s journey into this social elite. It’s a little like reading a literary ‘Gossip Girl’. Beneath all the glamour there is always a scandal waiting to be uncovered.

Obviously, I found the novel compelling and there is a lot of social commentary that brings novels like The Great Gatsby and American Psycho to mind, but there is also a sense of nagging disappointment that is shared by Louise and some of the other characters, notably Lavinia’s ex-boyfriend’s best friend, Hal: is this really it? Is this the best life has to offer? Jobs based on social standing and impressive Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds? Is any of it really worth it? What should we truly value in life?

Social Creature doesn’t offer any answers. It offers romance, glamour, intensity, desire and rips it all away to the bare lying bones because ultimately all there is is pretending, lying, to make people like you, to cover over the teeth and claws snapping beneath the lipstick. This is a novel that doesn’t believe in the selfless, that doesn’t believe in charity or kindness; it’s all about survival.

I’m still not sure if I really liked this novel but I did leave it feeling a little sick with myself and the world and perhaps that’s no bad thing.

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