Luckiest Girl Alive is unlike any other book I’ve read. Don’t get me wrong, there are elements to it that will feel familiar. But taken as a whole it completely surprised me.
The book begins with a perfect girl. She’s got a high-powered job working for a magazine in New York, she’s pretty and thin, she’s engaged to a rich and pedigreed financier (as evidenced by the large yet tasteful ring she displays prominently), and lives in a beautiful apartment. On the surface, she has everything.
But when we meet Ani, that perfect veneer is starting to crack ever so slightly under the weight of the secret she has fought hard to keep hidden, a secret it will take most of the book to reveal.
The story flips back and forth between Ani’s perfect present and her nightmare past so that the two Anis play off one another. I liked how this was managed. Knoll reveals information so incrementally and yet with such a measured hand that while you are continually learning more about the character, it isn’t until close to the end that the final puzzle pieces fall into place. This creates an ongoing suspense that draws the reader through the book without losing momentum.
That said, Ani isn’t an easy character. There were definitely times when she nearly alienated me. Ani is honest to a fault. We’re in her head, and her head can be a very unpleasant place. There is no filter between Ani’s thoughts and the reader, so we get to see… well, everything. The thoughts you have but quickly banish from your mind for being too cruel or insensitive, we hear in her narration.
I appreciated her honesty and found this type of character development fascinating, but that very same honesty reveals her to be, at times, the worst of female stereotypes: the grown up mean girl. Mean girls encountered in high school are bad enough, but at least they have the excuse of lacking both maturity and life experience. Grown up manipulative mean girls are probably the women I have the absolute least respect for and patience with. And make no mistake, Ani is an expert manipulator. Her entire life is one big game of pretend – she dons different personas as easily as she slips in and out of her expensive outfits.
That the plot switches back and forth between this cold, calculating, nearly sociopathic adult Ani and a younger version who is deeply damaged and sympathetic is an inconsistency that somehow works. But it isn’t a comfortable reading experience. Though she doesn’t lie to us, the stark contrast between the two versions of the character make her feel borderline unreliable. I think this feeling of not feeling that you can quite get an accurate read on Ani is why there have been so many comparisons drawn between this book and Gone Girl, though the latter is framed in a different manner and is taken to the extreme. I could see that, but what kept coming to mind for me as I read was the TV show Revenge, where a character purposely creates a false persona to get revenge on those responsible for her father’s incarceration and subsequent death.
Though not an easy read in any sense of the term, Luckiest Girl Alive was a bloody good one. If you enjoy complex characters who aren’t always likeable, if you’re okay with subterfuge and secrets, and if you like your books dark and edgy, this is definitely the book for you.
HER PERFECT LIFE
IS A PERFECT LIE.
As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.
But Ani has a secret.
There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.
With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Aliveexplores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.
The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free? – Goodreads
Book Title: Luckiest Girl Alive
Author: Jessica Knoll
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Released: May 12, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Character-Driven
Date Read: July 9-12, 2015