Sunday, May 6, 2018

Book Review: "Luckiest Girl Alive" by Jessica Knoll

Well, I think it had been a few days since I saw a book compared to Gone Girl so thankfully we didn't lose a step. Truthfully, though, other than the fact that both books have the word "Girl" in their title, I don't know what they have in common, so maybe someone else can explain the need to compare the two.

Ani FaNelli finally has it all. She's engaged to a gorgeous, wealthy man from a notable family. He makes her feel safe and secure, and allows her to buy the designer wardrobe she needs to fit in. She also has a terrific job, writing for one of the most popular women's magazines, and while she is wearying of writing sex column after sex column, her boss promises a tantalizing opportunity not far in the future.

But in her teenage years, Ani, then known as TifAni, longed desperately to fit in, to be considered part of the popular crowd at the prestigious Bradley School. Her need to belong led herself to be more vulnerable than she would have been ordinarily, and although she quickly was befriended by a sarcastic group of outcasts, she wanted to be invited to the in crowd's lunch table, to be best friends with the girls everyone talked about.

A decision made in a split second made her the target of a humiliating event, and so while she became the talk of the school, it wasn't for the reasons she had hoped. But that event set her and her classmates on a dangerous course, one which will change many of their lives in ways they hadn't expected.

Years later, Ani is invited to tell her side of the story in a documentary. She desperately wants to show her old classmates that she isn't the same girl, that she finally has it all and is a worthy opponent. But what secrets will this documentary lay bare? Will she be able to channel the fear and anxiety she has had since those days? Is she truly a survivor, or a master manipulator?

Jessica Knoll creates a flawed and enigmatic character in Ani, and teases out her plot little by little, so you want to keep reading. There was some suspense, as I wanted to know how Ani's secrets, and how Knoll was going to resolve everything. Some of the twists were predictable, some less so, but while this was a diverting book that I read on a long flight, I don't know that I enjoyed it as much as I had hoped. Knoll certainly can write; I just found some of what happened really implausible, and at times, Ani was so unlikable that I just didn't care.

While I was reading this book on a plane, several passengers told me how much they liked it, so I may be in the minority here. But I just wanted to be wowed a little more, to feel a bit breathless when I finished the book, and that didn't happen.

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