Another change of genre for me and a retelling too which I am always drawn to.
The Society for Soulless Girls
Ten years ago, four students lost their lives in the infamous North Tower murders at the elite Carvell College of Arts, forcing Carvell to close its doors.
Now Carvell is reopening, and fearless student Lottie is determined to find out what really happened. But when her roommate, Alice, stumbles upon a sinister soul-splitting ritual hidden in Carvell’s haunted library, the North Tower claims another victim.
Can Lottie uncover the truth before the North Tower strikes again? Can Alice reverse the ritual before her monstrous alter ego consumes her? And can they stop flirting for literally fifteen seconds in order to do this?
Exploring possession and ambition, lust and bloodlust, femininity and violence, The Society of Soulless Girls is perfect for fans of Ace of Spaces, The Secret History and The Inheritance Games.
I have never come across a Jekyll and Hyde retelling before so with that cover and that title and the promise of a dark academic setting and a good dose of mystery thrown in I was looking forward to getting into this book.
I’m not going to lie it took a little while to settle into this story, I think because our first taste of Carvell and its history is through the main characters who are not the most compelling. The story is told through two POVs, Alice, who feels like everyone is against her but uses that mindset to judge everyone automatically, and Lottie, who always seems very bright and bubbly considering everything that happens to her and around her.
Alice is certainly not the most likeable character to start with, she does have a redemption arc but her spiky demeanour doesn’t seem to come from anywhere in particular which makes her quite difficult to connect with at first. She does start to very slowly open up but is in between bouts of terror and suspicion which means that when it does hit she almost feels like a very different character.
Lottie is a lot more likeable but, her sunshine outlook becomes her whole personality in the story and it just didn’t quite fit, within the first part of the story some very unusual things start to happen to Lottie and it seems like it doesn’t really affect her, and when she is confronted with what is happening to Alice she is a lot calmer about it that I imagine anyone would be. There was a lot of scope in the story for some real tension between the characters and instead it was like we barely got to scratch the surface.
I think the same can be said of the plot, the premise is exciting and mysterious, the setting should be atmospheric, but it never quite materialised the way I had hoped it would. Don’t get me wrong the story was entertaining enough. I did want to find out what was happening to each of the characters (although I’m still not sure I fully understand the purpose of what happened to Lottie) but this felt more like a parody of a scary story rather than a story that was wholly invested in itself.
The revelations in the story felt a little forced, I think that there should have been a little more foreshadowing because it felt like the biggest reveal came out of nowhere and at a time when I should have been at the edge of my seat with anticipation of what was going to happen next, I was wondering how the characters had arrived at the conclusions that had brought them to this point. I felt like I was left with more questions than answers.
It maybe didn’t help that there was a lot of telling rather than showing in the story, I think that being told that the characters are flirting or that Alice is vicious and wild but then Lottie seems fine to be around her, or that suddenly the women can be empowered, doesn’t let us get involved enough to really invest.
There could have been less telling if there was a bit more depth given to the characters because we would have discovered more about them through their conversations and interactions rather than revealing everything about themselves through their internal dialogue. To be honest it made the romance aspect seem a little tacked on as if it was put in for the readership rather than something that came up organically through the characters. I could have believed enemies to friends but I didn’t feel enough chemistry between them to feel like it was an authentic romance.
The Society for Soulless Girls was enjoyable and the narration was great, there was a different narrator for Alice and for Lottie which helped to define their voices a little more. I think I have probably been fairly critical of this book because I could see the potential in the premise for something amazing and it is always a little disappointing when a good book doesn’t live up to what it could be.