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The Society of S    by Susan Hubbard order for
Society of S
by Susan Hubbard
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Society of S is a most unusual coming of age story, incorporating both rich literary elements and a strong vein of the paranormal. Ariella Montero grows up in a strange mansion, homeschooled by her stern, reclusive father, Raphael Montero, eating a vegetarian diet, and lacking memories of the mother who mysteriously disappeared right after her birth. The housekeeper, Mrs. McGarrit - who comes to cook and clean every day once her own children are at school - is the only source of true affection in her life.

Indeed, it's through Mrs. McGarrit that Ari experiences any kind of normal life, after she meets her housekeeper's children - Kathleen becomes her only friend and Ari shares a first kiss with Michael. Though Raphael claims to have lupus, over the years, both Kathleen and Ari begin to suspect he is a vampire. There are many disturbing occurrences. Ari often feels watched or notices motion out of the corner of her eye. A neighbor's cat is slaughtered. And as a teen, Kathleen develops an unhealthy interest in a pagan group that practices spells and role-playing, leading to tragedy.

An FBI agent named Burton keeps returning to ask Ari and her father questions, seeming suspicious of them. Eventually, Ari presses her father for his own story, as well as that of her birth and her mother's departure. He tells all but warns his daughter that 'Very little that people write about us is true' and that she will soon face a choice. Soon afterwards, Ari decides it's time to find her mother and heads south. On the road, she not only succeeds in her quest - and hears about her parents' lives and her own conception from another perspective - but finds her true self as well.

There are many more twists to the serpentine plot of The Society of S, in which Susan Hubbard elegantly sets a girl's coming of age against the background of a vampire society - including Sanguinist vampires who think biting or vamping people is immoral - co-existing with normal humans. Hubbard also takes the non-traditional position that many normals exposed to vampires will long to be turned for both improved looks and longevity (she doesn't show much down side to being a vamp). At the back of this first book is a preview for its sequel, The Year of Disappearances. I can't wait.

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