Since I no longer have the obligation to read for class, I am trying to get back into reading books for pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, I truly love to read (#EnglishMajor) but I feel like I’ve pushed it to the wayside over the last few months. Instead of reading, I’ve spent far too much time watching Netflix, and then I wonder why I can’t fall asleep directly after watching several episodes of Gossip Girl. Clearly, I needed a change so I decided to pick up The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, in hopes that it would live up to all the buzz surrounding it.
To preface, Gone Girl is hands down one of my all time favorite books so the fact that this book is constantly compared to Gillian Flynn’s work excited me, but also reminded me how that can lead to disappoint (*cough* Girl On The Train *cough*). The being said, I was blown away by Knoll’s debut novel!
The story focuses on Ani, pronounced Ah-nee, not Annie, a woman who has it all. She is twenty something, living in Manhattan, and working as an editor for The Women’s Magazine (which sounds comparable to Cosmopolitan Magazine). She is engaged to Luke Harrison, who comes from a prestigious family and works in a high powered finance job. She wears a stunning family heirloom engagement ring, that further highlights her luxurious lifestyle simply by the swipe of her hand. She is the woman who walks down the street in the perfect ensemble, the woman that both men and women cannot help but stare at because she is effortlessly beautiful. Women wishing they could be like her, and men wishing they could be with her. Ani, without a doubt, has it all.
But, Ani also has a secret.
Now before you think this book is like all others, an optimistic and driven heroine who is still spunky and relatable, Ani is not that girl. She is dark, sarcastic, calculating, and above all else secretive. She is entirely fake. She is not Ani, but TifAni FaNelli, who grew up in Pennsylvania on the blue collar side of town. Her mother is status obsessed, and pretty much the worst version of “have nots” sporting a bright cherry red BMW that she cannot afford and is never without french tips. TifAni attends a prestigious co-ed private school filled with students who grew up in massive mansions. They all come from old money, where social class reigns supreme. TifAni longs to be a part of the “cool group” (as with any high school there is always that one group!) but quickly learns there is more than the issue of where to sit in the lunchroom to deal with in order to claim a spot. TifAni works to extricate herself from her lack of pedigree, and become a part of in crowd. While trying to move past her lack of status, TiFani undergoes a truly traumatic experience. This tragedy does not break her, but instead makes her more calculating and manipulative.
This novel weaves back and forth between the nearly perfect life Ani has crafted for herself and TifAni’s secret life. Although Ani’s life looks idyllic from the outside, this horrific experience from her high school years is one that she cannot move past. As her wedding date approaches, Ani questions whether breaking her silence will destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it set her free?
This is a truly compelling novel and one that I could not put down. I found the manipulative nature of Ani strangely refreshing. Instead of the typically spunky heroine, Ani’s thoughts are dark and cutting. She works very hard to make her life appear effortless, and in so many ways I couldn’t help but root for her. I think at some point in our lives we all work to appear a certain way, but Ani’s is constant and in many ways exhausting. Her narcissistic nature is clear from the get go, but also understandable given her experiences. She is keenly aware of how she is perceived by those around her, and makes sure she knows all the tricks of social class (for example: turning oyster shells upside down on your platter to show that you are finished) so that she is never revealed. I think Knoll’s best sections throughout the novel are when we read Ani’s thoughts. It is fascinating to hear her inner thoughts about all the ways in which she has created this ideal life for herself. That being said, this book is very disturbing at points. I will not deny that I had to keep reading because the thought of falling asleep after a certain chapter was too much for me. Knoll is similar to Flynn in this sense. As a whole, I definitely recommend this book to others, but also want to preface this by saying be prepared for some very traumatic moments.
Have you read The Luckiest Girl Alive? What other books are on your bookshelf? Any recommendations?