Read an Excerpt From The Society for Soulless Girls
Ten years ago, four students lost their lives in the infamous unsolved North Tower murders…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Laura Steven’s The Society for Soulless Girls, a young adult enemies-to-lovers retelling of Jekyll & Hyde—publishing with Delacorte Press on September 19.
Ten years ago, four students lost their lives in the infamous unsolved North Tower murders at the elite Carvell Academy of the Arts, forcing the school to close its doors.Now Carvell is reopening, and fearless freshman Lottie Fitzwilliam is determined to find out what really happened. But when her beautiful but standoffish roommate, Alice Wolfe, stumbles upon a sinister soul-splitting ritual in a book hidden in Carvell’s library, the North Tower claims another victim. Is there a killer among them… or worse, within them?
Music pulsed through the Refectory like a living thing. My brain beat against my temple to the rhythm of it; sweat trickled down the ridged white bones of my spine.
The Refectory had an ominous kind of sentience, breathing and shifting unnaturally. As the night wore on, the ceiling seemed to grow further and further away, and the walls grew nearer. It was as though a great hand had grabbed the roof like a fistful of clay and begun to stretch it upward. One of the stained glass windows appeared to flicker and change, too. In the time it took me to blink, the Virgin Mary would go from the picture of innocence to a snarling serpent and then back again. Every so often, my vision would flash ruby red in a way that had nothing to do with the strobe lighting.
Panic started to climb in my chest, claustrophobia pressing in on me from all angles.
I had to get out of there.
I’d fulfilled my promise to Lottie of staying for one drink. In fact, I think I’d had four. Four cheap whiskeys scorching my gullet like paint stripper. The drunkenness didn’t feel as good as it did when I was curled up in an armchair, reading Bertrand Russell and sipping Lagavulin. In that safe, quiet environment, the alcohol loosened my mind enough to let the ideas flow, to give my thoughts room to breathe and expand, but I still felt safe and contained.
This night was different. There was a wildness to it I didn’t like, a rabid unpredictability.
Blazer slung over my forearm, I was pushing my way through beer-sloppy dancers to the exit when a heavy hand closed hard around my wrist.
For a blazing millisecond, I was back in Chris’s starkly lit living room, back in that awful moment, and my free hand went protectively to my lips, but I was yanked back to the Refectory with a painful twist of my arm.
A floppy-haired, slack-faced student in a white slogan tee was on the other end of the grip. His drunk eyes roamed over me, and he smiled lazily, and pulled me closer and yelled into my ear, “You’re not going anywhere, gorgeous. You’re staying here with me.”
And then he leaned in to kiss me.
Repulsion roiling in my gut along with the cheap whiskey, I tried to twist my wrist free of his grasp, but even in his intoxicated state, he was still too strong, and I hated him for that, for this easy way he could control me no matter how drunk he was, and that hatred sharpened into a violent shard, and some animalistic fear took over everything.
The starburst of pain in my hand when it made contact with his cheekbone felt like power.
Then the circle of friends he’d been dancing with closed around us like vultures, and I realized just how outnumbered I was.
But they were laughing at him. They didn’t believe I could seriously hurt him. And so even though I could tell I’d hurt him, he was forced to laugh it off too. After all, he’d been hit by a girl. It would be inconceivably embarrassing to admit I’d caused him any pain.
Their laughter was flint to a flame.
I wanted them to fear me.
Without any forethought or conscious intention, my hand reached out and grabbed an empty beer bottle. Gripping the neck with my palm, I brought the bottom of the bottle down on the side of a table with a satisfying shatter, so all that was left in my hand were jagged glass teeth.
Stepping toward the guy I’d just punched, I pressed the broken end into his stomach, just hard enough for him to feel the spikes as they were about pierce his skin.
His eyes widened, and something monstrous inside me writhed with pleasure.
“Don’t you ever fucking touch me again,” I hissed.
The soft ebb of pleasure grew into a roaring warm internal gush.
I leaned forward, and the shards pierced his skin. He gave a yelp of pain, then quickly disguised it with a more masculine grunt as I stepped back and dropped the bottle to the ground.
“Harris, what the hell, bro?” yelled one of his equally intoxicated friends.
“Fucking psycho!” he snorted, shaking his head in disbelief. Then he turned to his group. “Did you see that? What a fucking psycho!”
I turned on my heel and walked away, relief and something headier coursing through me. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t take it any further—to security, or to the dean—because that would be too humiliating for his fragile ego. I pushed through the gaggles of dancing bodies and left the Refectory, stumbling into the blurry night beyond.
Once the adrenaline had worn off, I was filled with shame.
Shame over what I’d done, but worse, because it had felt so good.
That split second of raising my fist, of cocking my arm, of throwing all my weight behind it, of making sweet, crisp impact… there was no denying how richly satisfying it had been. Every muscle in my body felt alert and was tingling with energy. Every overthinking synapse in my brain ceased firing for a moment, and there was only the raw physicality of the act.
And then, his fearful expression when I had pressed the glass into his stomach. I had stolen the power from him. I had righted a wrong. He had made me feel small and vulnerable, and I had turned it around with a dramatic swing of the pendulum.
Until that night, I had never hit another person before. Growing up, my brothers Max and Aidan had always grappled, always play-fought and wrestled with gleeful shrieks and grunts. Afterward they’d be so mellow, so happy, as though some primal desire had been released. They’d shovel dinner into their faces with a wolflike hunger before falling asleep the second their heads hit the pillow.
It was different for me, as the only daughter. If I ever tried to join in, Mum or Dad would pull me away, tell me girls didn’t fight. It was just boys being boys. Boys were stronger than girls, and they didn’t want me to get hurt. I was encouraged to sit quietly in a corner, painting pretty pictures, reading books about unicorns, watching my brothers tussle with a secret, shameful envy, a feeling of that same primal desire left buried.
So was it any wonder that by the time I was in Chris’s starkly lit living room, or the dark, pulsing Refectory, I didn’t know how to wrest my own wrist free? I didn’t have the strength or the experience from years of harmless adolescent practice. I didn’t have the muscle memory to fight back.
That night in the Refectory felt like a rusty pressure valve finally loosening, and I was afraid of what that meant.
Excerpted from The Society for Soulless Girls, copyright © 2023 by Laura Steven.The Society for Soulless GirlsAlice