Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The Society of S by Susan Hubbard
Ariella Montero is a sweet, sensitive 13-year-old girl from Saratoga Springs. Unbeknownst to her, she is also a vampire. Raised by her widowed father, Ari is told she has a weak immune system and should stay away from crowds. When she learns that her father is also a vampire and that her mother may not be dead at all, she embarks on a journey to discover the truth about herself and her family.
I read The Society of S over two days and found it irritable that I didn’t pick it up on a weekend, with nothing else to do. This is a one-sitting book by an author whose writing reminds me strongly of Neil Gaiman’s in Stardust and of The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. There is a gentle flow to her writing, a beautifully descriptive style, that enhances how melancholy and lonely the unique main character, Ariella (Ari) is.
We are shown what a quiet life she leads in Saratoga Springs, sharing the house with her aloof but brilliant father. She is homeschooled by him as she is a “fragile” child – there is the possibility that that she suffers from lupis (I had to look it up myself). There is no sign of Ari’s mother and we learn that she mysteriously disappeared (very) shortly after Ari’s birth.
Her only contact with the outside world is their housekeeper Mrs. McGarritt whom you can tell pities Ari for leading such a cloistered life. Ari never leaves the house, she spends her days reading and studying and doing her lessons – some very advanced – with her father who works from home. She is fed a range of awful tasting foods by Mrs. McG who can’t seem to cook properly at their run-down mansion.
After some discussion, Ari gets to visit Mrs. McG’s home and meet her family. She is introduced to a wild bunch of kids, amongst whom she makes friends with Kathleen and Michael. With Kathleen as her guide Ari learns about the outside world, discovers the Internet and gains a bit of freedom from the cloistered existence she shared with her father.
As Ari explores the boundaries imposed by her father she realises that what she had thought was a normal life, was in fact something very different. The “reveals” in the novel are planned with meticulous care and never once do you disbelieve Ari’s reaction to them – you have a deep personal insight into her thoughts and her actions make complete sense, from her point of view, if not from yours.
Ari leaves home, to truly find herself and to try and figure out the truth of where she comes from and maybe, just maybe find a link to her mother. She becomes a drifter, a ghost, moving from one place to the other. This part of the novel was truly melancholy and I did feel truly sad for her. But although Ari is not street-wise, she is clever and pretty together after an initial period of odd inertia.
Following the tenuous bits of information her father had given her about her mother and their time together, she manages to track down some family. There is another big reveal and well, you have to read the book. Needless to say it reads very well and is decidedly more-ish.
Although the book deals with vampires, it is not cliché. Although the book deals with a teen vampire, it is not cliché. The writing is evocative and beautiful (and I am happy to report, it is not Bella and Edward, at all). I am really looking forward to reading the follow up novel, Year of Disappearances when it is released. I do however think that The Society of S works perfectly as a standalone novel. A second novel means just more lovely writing from a really talented writer. I will not be complaining! Find the author’s website here and her UK publishers, Walker Books, here. The Society of S was released at the beginning of December 08.