Title: Luckiest Girl Alive
Author: Jessica Knoll
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Length: 352 pages/ 11 hours 50 minutes
Source: Borrowed from my library
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 Alive explores 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?
Between the synopsis and the blurb on the cover comparing this to a Gillian Flynn novel, I expected some crazy twist. And when you’re about halfway through it, the biggest twist that could happen is pretty evident. Which makes it less of a twist (when you can see it coming). That kept me tense throughout the entire audiobook. But it turns out, that’s not what this book is about. And it speaks highly to Knoll’s skill that, when I figured that out, I wasn’t disappointed at all.
And I can’t actually lay that all on the synopsis and blurb- Knoll drops plenty of hints that Ani/Tiffany may be an unreliable narrator. It’s also pretty heartbreaking to accept that rather than some sociopathic mastermind, she’s just a girl who went through trauma after trauma and dealt with it as best as others would allow her.
When the book starts off, she’s not a likeable character. Some of her fear-based actions are understandable and relatable, but here’s a high-powered, snarky, manipulative woman living a very crafted and artificial life. It’s hard not to revile someone who plays life like a chess game rather than embracing it, even though it’s admirable that anyone could be that controlled, determined, and clear-sighted (and have that much energy- oof!)
I don’t doubt that this kind of thing happens every day. Women and men living plastic, high-powered lives that are carefully crafted around a false notion of success that is, inevitably, doomed to fail when the facade cracks. I don’t know NYC, or the Main Line, but the old money/new money socioeconomics behind it is a tale as old as time.
And even though, at points throughout the book, I wanted to scream at every single character except Lolo and Nell, I was fully and constantly engaged in the narrative. The audiobook was well done, with each character’s voice distinctive and rich, and Ani herself at turns frustrating and pitiable (but never pitiful). By the end, though, I actually liked Ani. I liked her ability to adapt, her priorities, her realizations (which never were the false-lightbulb kind, but came about primarily because her own skills at manipulating others allowed her to see deeper motivations). I still think Nell is hero, but she’s also a subtle background role.
It’s rare that I can end up liking a character who embodies things I despise about people in reality, which is why I recommend this book to basically everyone who likes contemporary fiction.