Book Review: The Society For Soulless Girls

The Society For Soulless Girls by Laura Steven

Released: 7th July 2022
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Rating: 3/5

Young Adult Supernatural Thriller by Laura Steven, advertised as a retelling of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I pre-ordered this book on Amazon for £7.37.

Carvell College of Arts is reopening after being closed for a decade due to a string of deaths. Lottie has enrolled with motives of finding out how and why the daughter of family friends died all those years ago. She gets more than she’s bargained for when she becomes possessed by some spirit of the past, who doesn’t want her to leave Carvell.
Her roommate, Alice, has grand plans to become a judge one day but is plagued by her own ill-temper and insecurities. She comes across a ritual that she believes could curb the anger within her, however it does more than that, splitting her soul it two. What is worse is the sedating effects are only temporary and a monster it waiting to break out from within her.

You read the summary and it sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It sounds like a really exciting and interesting premise…except the book unfortunately never really lives up to it.

I enjoyed the first half of the book, learning about Lottie, Alice and the mysteries of Carvell Academy. I engaged with Alice and the insecurities driving her anger. I liked these two unlikely friends being thrust together to solve the secret of Carvell and cure Alice’s curse.
Then I got to the halfway point, expecting things to ramp up a bit, for the building to some climatic point of the story and it just never came. In my opinion, the story meandered halfway up the hill and never reached any further.
Reading the plot of the story, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect tension, suspense and peril yet none of it really appeared. I really felt like the author was holding back, too afraid of employing any real violence or going too far into the dark.
The setting of Carvell Academy, a grand old building that used to be a convent, should have been prime for creating oppressive atmosphere but there was none. There was a murder but it felt incidental and we barely got any details about it. There were crazed women with their souls split asunder apparently running about the place but it never really felt like there was any real danger.

Humour was used often in the dialogue between characters and though I did smile a few times at the banter, light-heartedness was the last thing this ‘thriller’ needed. It was already barely in the shadows that the humour might as well have been a great big ball of yellow shining on the whole thing.

I understand this is a Young Adult Thriller but I do not believe this accounts for any of the toning down this story seems to be victim to. I believe even young adults would be expecting more. It’s supposed to be a Jekyll & Hyde retelling, and as far I’m aware that story didn’t shy away from the dark. (And if you didn’t know it was a Jekyll & Hyde retelling, don’t worry because the author hits you over the head with this fact halfway through the book – just why do this?? This unfortunately really grated me and I found it very patronising.)

Ending: <Warning Some Slight Spoilers>
It was an easy, quick read and though I was constantly waiting for more, there was enough to carry me to the end without feeling it was chore. The ending, however, did remain on the plateau with the rest of the book and had several holes that made it simply unsatisfying.
At one point, Lottie says to herself “I’ve had enough. I was coming for X.” (name not revealed to avoid spoilers) and I thought “Yes, here we go, time for the grit.” …sigh, nope. She literally climbs a drainpipe and steals a floppy-disk – that is it and we don’t even get to witness it.
Then we get to a disappointing wrap-up; Lottie tenuously linking it all to the real baddie and that baddie, though intelligent, keeping incriminating photos of him somehow accessing a locked off building to commit murder. And yes, it is a ‘him’ because of course it wouldn’t be any of the angry women – no, despite their raging inner monsters, they’re practically as innocent as they were before the ritual. I’m not sure if it’s some kind of feminist narrative but ultimately, it feels contrived and frustrating.
There are references made to Lottie being “Scooby-Doo” rather than “Sherlock Holmes” and in my opinion, ‘Scooby-Doo’ sums up the feel of this story.. Everything works out so fine and dandy for the girls that it just feels cheesy and not very believable. It is too ‘happy’ an ending for what supposed to be a “haunting” book.

I was so looking forward to this book based on its premise but after gaining some footing in the beginning, it stopped reaching for further heights. This story had so much promise and I really do feel that for whatever reason the author held back from really delving into violence and the darkness that was hinted at. There are holes that stretch the believability of the story, as well as the choice to have such overly positive outcomes for the girls and women characters that makes the ending unsatisfying.
I wish I could have given a more encouraging review of The Society for Soulless Girls as I really did actually want to like it. It had the foundations to be a great story, unfortunately, they were never truly built on and overall, I was left feeling disappointed as I turned the last page.

Published by kaelawalker

30-something aspiring writer on the West Coast of Scotland. Inspired by nature, beautiful Scotland and my journey coping with physical and mental illness.

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