Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton: The Book I Could’ve Rated Either 2 or 4 Stars (Spoilers)

There’s a short section at the end of this post that contains spoilers. It’s clearly labeled and everything before that section is spoiler-free.

Social Creature by Tara Isabella BurtonFiction – Thriller
Released June 5, 2018
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Doubleday Books)

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).


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)

SPOILER-Y Thoughts / Questions

  • Did the second half of this book remind anyone of a more sinister, online version of Weekend at Bernie’s?!
  • I wondered why Louise didn’t just let Lavinia be found in the bathroom by someone else. If she managed to sneak out of there with Lavinia’s dead body, couldn’t she have more easily snuck out alone and let the police try to piece together what happened? Or, couldn’t she have said it was an accident? I realize there wouldn’t really have been a story had either of these things happened, but I wanted a better reason why Louise chose the strategy she did…especially since she picked one that probably would never have occurred to most sane humans.
  • The Ending! I’m still trying to understand exactly why Louise killed Rex. Some possibilities:
    1) She needed him out of the way since she’d just confessed to Lavinia’s murder and cover-up. Purely a “get rid of the evidence” play. But, it seemed more emotional than that…
    2) She was enraged and jealous that he still loved Lavinia…and was lying about loving her (Louise). 
    3) So she could step into Louise’s life for good with people on her team. I thought it was this one for sure, but then why did she abandon that life and walk off into the sunset as Elizabeth Glass? Was she planning to stay around until Cordelia posted her Facebook rant outing Louise?
  • What do you think about why Louise killed Rex?

Have you ever read a book that you wildly swung between loving and hating?!

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  1. Ha! My review of Social Creature is posting on Thursday! Of course, I mention many of the same points as you, especially the caricatures that were the characters in SC. Like you, I had a hard time rating this one. It’s definitely a book people will need to be in the right frame of mind to read and I think that it’s good to warn them about it.

    As for your questions, I thought everything about what Louise did with Lavinia’s dead body was really, really unbelievable. For me it was a flaw in the story. I wish Burton could have handled it differently.

    I think she killed Rex because he’d never love her like he loved Lavinia and if she couldn’t have him then she didn’t want anyone to have him. He was a disappointment to her.

    Posted 6.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Totally agree about Lavinia’s body. I thought all the aftermath with the social media posts, etc was kind of brilliant in a demented way, but what she did with the body was unbelievable. How she could stomach doing that with her supposed friend’s body…

      Posted 6.10.18 Reply
  2. It’s really good to see your thoughts on this! I ended up getting an ARC of this one and stopped reading less than 20 pages in because I didn’t like the writing style. Maybe jtit deserves another chance!

    Posted 6.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I can see the writing style isn’t for everyone…I mean, the entire book isn’t for everyone!

      Posted 6.10.18 Reply
  3. You’ve made me so very curious about this book.

    Posted 6.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I want more people to read it – I’m so curious what people end up thinking!

      Posted 6.10.18 Reply
  4. My favorite quote from your review: “It’s the rare book that I wanted to DNF many times in the beginning, but I’m thrilled I didn’t.”
    It sounds like the book gives insight into a certain type of personality which is part of our society.

    Posted 6.5.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Ha! This might be the only time you hear me say that 🙂

      Posted 6.10.18 Reply
  5. Allison wrote:

    I avoided your spoiler because I’m totally intrigued. I can’t remember the last time a book truly shocked me but the story still works. Looking forward to checking it out!

    Posted 6.6.18 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I mean, not all of the story works, but the major pieces in the second half I do feel like could be pulled off in real life. It wouldn’t be easy, but it could happen!

      Posted 6.10.18 Reply
  6. Sarah R wrote:

    Just finished so now I can finally comment!! I love when you do spoilers/ending discussions.

    Yes – totally reminded me of Weekend at Bernie’s!

    I think Louise chose to keep Lavinia “alive” to avoid scrutiny into herself and into her past. There was a line for the bathroom, so anyone would have known she was in the bathroom with a dead body. She certainly would have been caught up in police investigations and the inevitably resulting news cycle that happens when a young rich woman is found dead. Even if she was cleared of murdering Lavinia, her past would have been revealed to everyone, including Rex.

    I was surprised she killed Rex but think she was so desperate for her past to not to be found out that she wanted as few people as possible knowing that she killed Lavinia. It was easier for her to assume a new identity than to try to be Lavinia with Cordelia onto her.

    Posted 6.15.18 Reply
  7. Tara wrote:

    THIS BOOK! I have very similar feelings, Sarah, and continue to vacillate between 2 and 4 stars – ha! Should I shoot for middle ground and say three?! Oh, I just don’t know. I couldn’t put it down, so there’s that, but not because I didn’t want to; I was really bored, for the first half (at least), but kept thinking something was going to happen that would change my mind. I really thought she killed Rex to cover herself, but the ending really threw me for a loop.

    Posted 6.18.18 Reply
  8. Anna wrote:

    What about the bit at the end where she said Cordelia would click on her name on Facebook to discover Louise doesn’t exist…do you think “Louise Wilson” was always an assumed identity? And that’s why she was always so terrified about f***ing up?

    Posted 2.8.19 Reply
  9. Anna wrote:

    PS I almost stopped reading it early on as I was so bored of the Gatsby-imitation party scenes. I’m glad I stuck it out, but also would struggle to decide on a star rating! It borrows so heavily from other ideas (Gatsby, Talented Mr Ripley) etc that I’m just not sure I can quite respect it!

    Posted 2.8.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Ha – you and I seemed to be on the same page!

      Posted 2.19.19 Reply

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