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The Book Beat: So much to hate

Sacrificing happiness for social status in Jessica Knoll's 'Luckiest Girl Alive'

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When it was first released on May 12, Jessica Knoll’s "Luckiest Girl Alive" was quickly labeled the next "Gone Girl.” 

On the surface, it is easy to make the comparison: Both novels feature affluent, thorny and sharp female characters; a shocking, true-crime-inspired plotline that makes for an easy, gripping read; and both books were picked up by Reese Witherspoon to be optioned into movies. However, that is where the similarities end.

"Luckiest Girl Alive," the debut novel for Knoll, a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, is told from the point of view of TifAni FaNelli (pronounced Tif-ahnee), a status-conscious 28-year-old who spends more time obsessing about achieving the perfect size zero for her upcoming wedding than she does worrying about the fact that she is thinking of murdering her perfect fiancé, Luke. 

“Ani,” as she now calls herself, is more concerned about achieving the highest social status possible than she is about being happy. This concern in achieving the highest social status possible is reflected in the narration, as Ani peppers her thoughts with so many name brands and pop culture references, it makes it difficult to follow the plot, and this is a problem no writer should want to have.

With the hatred towards her fiancé, her obsession with material items and her need to cut down every female she meets, it is really hard to like Ani. However, the reader soon learns of a traumatic night Ani suffered during her freshman year at the Bradley School, a prestigious co-ed private school just outside of Philadelphia; that single night, a night which too many girls may have experienced in their own lives, creates a domino effect that provides some insight into why she behaves as she does.

Knoll does falter by waiting too long to reveal the details of a second, more traumatic event that happened a few months after the first event at the Bradley School that haunted Ani for 13 years. The author successfully builds suspense by dropping hints in conversations Ani has with other characters, but it isn’t until she recounts her tale to a documentary crew during the last third of the book that all is revealed.

Knoll then spends much too long recounting the tale, in all its gory detail, and she fails to devote enough time to wrapping up Ani’s wedding conundrum. The ending happens so quickly and seems so far out of character for Ani that it is hard to swallow. 

In short, "Luckiest Girl Alive" is a dark and witty work that moves so fast it begs to be read in one sitting. Much like its protagonist, it’s oftentimes fun to hate. However, there isn’t much in the book to make it memorable.

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