Louise is struggling to survive in New York; juggling a series of poorly paid jobs, renting a shabby flat, being cat-called by her creepy neighbour, she dreams of being a writer. And then one day she meets Lavinia. Lavinia who has everything – looks, money, clothes, friends, an amazing apartment. Lavinia invites Louise into her charmed circle, takes her to underground speakeasies, the opera, shares her clothes, her drugs, her Uber account. Louise knows that this can’t last forever, but just how far is she prepared to go to have this life?

There are a lot of stories that go like this: person struggling with money finds themselves invited into a wealthy inner circle where the parties are wild, the champagne flows endlessly and the rules don’t apply. But Tara Isabella Burton has done something different with a familiar plot, in this truly disturbing tale of twisted friendship.

The pace is relentless. The writing is frenetic and fevered, so in each scene the reader gets the sense that something terrible is only seconds away from happening. The pressure builds and builds until you’re gripping the book in both hands, desperate to look away and yet utterly unable to do so.

It bears comparison to The Talented Mr Ripley, but has been updated for the social media era. Louise and Lavinia are constantly posting photos of themselves online, watching the likes and comments roll in, and it doesn’t matter if they aren’t having a good time at a party as long as it looks like they are on Instagram.

It did have a few flaws. The writing takes a while to get used to, with the characters mentioned by name in every sentence instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’, but this starts to make sense the longer it goes on. The secondary characters were also quite weak, with not enough personality to make me either like or hate them. Rex in particular, an old flame of Lavinia’s, never felt as though he existed except to have pseudo-intellectual conversations with other characters.

Louise enters Lavinia’s glittering world of high society and extravagant parties, made desperate by the knowledge that soon she will turn 30 and won’t have made any steps towards her dream of becoming a writer. But the more time she spends with Lavinia and her friends, the less time she has to work on her writing. Her identity is slowly eroded and, while we understand the toxic charm of Lavinia’s world, we pray that Louise gets out before it’s too late – all the while knowing that she’s already in too deep.

Burton makes us complicit by dropping in paragraphs addressed directly to the reader: ‘Now is the part you’ve been waiting for. You and I both know what happens now.’ Like Louise, we are fascinated with the seedy underworld of the wealthy, just as much as we are entranced by the glitter and champagne. We want the filth just as much as want the glamour.

Social Creature is a scintillating, sharp novel, a tale of friendship and jealousy, an examination of our obsession with social media and the ‘perfect’ life, and I would highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Bloomsbury for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.