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The Society for Soulless Girls by Laura Steven - Review

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

I've read a couple of books by Laura Steven before and generally liked them, as she was writing contemporary YA, which I love. Then at Northern YA Lit Fest a couple of years ago she was talking about this book, where she's pivoted a bit because this is a fantasy novel although deeply rooted in realism. I liked the sound of it so I bought it that day and got it signed by Laura. I've been meaning to pick it up for ages but then it got buried underneath a load of other stuff, so it's taken me a while. But I'm so glad I finally got to it! It was a good start to Pride month, too!

So, the book is set in Northumberland in the United Kingdom. There's a university called Carvell, which has a long and dark history. It used to be a convent, and a nun called Sister Maria took her own life in the late 1800s; she was later made into a saint and a statue of her oversees the college, with a necklace of rubies around her neck. Then, ten years prior to the setting of the book, four people died in mysterious circumstances. One of them, Janie, was known to one of the protagonists of this book, Lottie. She has been obsessed with the case of the four murders ever since. Part of her wanting to go to Carvell is because of these murders, which her dad isn't happy about. 

She is from Kent and she is close to her parents. She plays hockey for the county and wants to do the same at Carvell. She's studying English Lit and is very interested in the gothic. She is a jock, and very sunny and happy - she rarely gets angry or similar. She meets her roommate - yes totally tropey, they share a room - Alice and originally the two of them don't get on.

Alice is a proper goth, she is studying philosophy and is quite pretentious. She has two brothers and her parents. Her mum is unwell. Alice is from Northumberland and she has a lot of anger. Anger at how women are treated differently by the world, anger at how she's been treated, anger just at the world in general. She finds a book in the library which details a ritual she could do to make herself calm. She prepares a tincture and takes it one night in the library. And then her soul splits in two. 

Meanwhile, Lottie is obsessed with getting inside the North Tower, where all the deaths happened. The Dean, Vanessa Mordue, catches her one night and makes it clear she needs to back off. Lottie starts to sleepwalk, though, uncertain about what is happening or where she's been. And then she wakes up with a ruby embedded in her neck. 

The two girls absolutely do not get on and hate that they have to share a room. They're really different, and Alice doesn't endear herself to Lottie right at the beginning of the book. They barely getting along, but Alice desperately needs help to stop her harming herself or anyone else. Lottie wants to make friends and get on the hockey team, but the ruby is stopping her doing that... And there's also something between them, definitely. 

I really liked the setting of the book - it's eerie and gothic and I could picture it so well. I really liked both Alice and Lottie and wanted them to get together and sort it all out. I thought a few of the side characters could have done with a little bit more fleshing out, and I thought it did drag in the middle for a bit. I liked the mystery and the overarching message, and think this is a good message for young women to learn. In all I'm giving this four out of five. 

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