& Review: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Publisher: Simon & Schuster April 2016

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. Publisher: Simon & Schuster April 2016

The Book Itself: Powerful and dramatic. Not only is the black rose backlit by a spotlight eerie on its own, but the font that the title is in already makes the title seem tongue in cheek – it’s blocky, in-your-face. This story isn’t literally about the luckiest girl in the world. It’s much darker than that.

My Review: Ani FaNelli is the woman you love to hate. The woman who has it all. But behind the meticulously crafted façade lies the darkest and most violent of pasts…

When a documentary producer invites Ani to tell her side of the chilling and violent incident that took place when she was a teenager, she hopes it will be an opportunity to prove how far she’s come since then. She’ll even let the production company film her wedding to the wealthy Luke Harrison, the final step in her transformation.

But as the wedding and filming converge, Ani’s immaculate façade begins to crack, and she soon realises that there’s always a price to pay for perfection.

I thought this book was going to be one, or a combination of two things: another privileged, rich girl story that would make me roll my eyes a lot, AND/OR a crime drama akin to an episode of Criminal Minds/NCIS/Law and Order, etc. where you get a mystery, a crime, and a certain amount of time to figure it out before it’s revealed to you.

And yes, this is a privileged rich girl story. TifAni is one of the most vapid, judgmental, morally horrible female characters I think I have ever read. But she is so unbelievably over-the-top in her thoughts and actions, unable to let a moment slip by where she doesn’t pass judgment on something or build herself up while tearing something else down, that it read like a parody. Knoll makes her insufferable from page one. She makes you hate everything about this TifAni FaNelli, from her bizarre name to her bitchy comments to coworkers and waitresses. And then she spends the rest of the novel unpacking what makes TifAni tick, and why she is so unbelievably awful. Okay, I thought, upon being introduced to our protagonist. Something’s up with this narrator. Let’s find out what it is. And I couldn’t stop reading after that.

A lot of people seem to hate Luckiest Girl Alive’s comparison to Gone Girl. I personally hate comparisons saying “this is the next Harry Potter!” or “this year’s To Kill a Mockingbird!” because books can and do stand apart from one another. They can be LIKE or SIMILAR TO Gone Girl or share traits with a trilogy or genre, but Gone Girl and Luckiest Girl Alive are completely different books. All they really share is a female narrator with a troubled past and psyche. The plot, the methods of telling the story, and the character motivations are completely different. And both, I think, are good in their own right.

Now that I’m off my soapbox: Luckiest Girl Alive gives you the world’s worst person, and then sifts through her past to find what made her this way. You still don’t necessarily like her by novel’s end, or feel that her past justifies her present day actions, but I think it’s an interesting character study.

There are two horrific events that form the foundation of TifAni’s terrible past. I think both are written well. Both are very sudden, very shocking, and very telling of the characters involved. If you read through other reviews, you’ll spoil both events for yourself. I’ll do my best not to reveal anything. While I think either event would do serious emotional damage to any person, let alone a young man or woman growing up, going through puberty, navigating high school, BOTH are just the perfect storm to royally screw someone up.

TifAni doesn’t have an overwhelming a-ha moment. There is no moment where she comes to terms with her traumatic past and sees the error of her ways. But by the novel’s end, I don’t expect her to. The TifAni FaNelli (every time I type that name is just looks more and more absurd) we come to know would not break down and apologize for everything she has ever done. She couldn’t possibly process everything that has happened and become Mother Teresa.  I wouldn’t say that I like TifAni FaNelli by the end. But I can begin to understand her a little better.

I will say that I thought there would be another side to the story. By that I mean that I thought there might be one more shocking twist at the end, revealing that TifAni was more at fault during the traumatic events than we realized. I kind of wished she was a more unreliable narrator, that there was another facet to her (yes, terrible) personality.

But I didn’t hate the book. I wouldn’t say it’s the next Gone Girl.  But it’s a compelling story that pulled me in. Maybe, just maybe, it had me rooting for the worst girl in the world by the end.

My Grade: C+


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