ARC review: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: AmazonGoodreads
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Source: ARC via Netgalley

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?

It seems like every magazine I flip through these days, I see some sort of blurb about Luckiest Girl Alive. They’re calling it “the new Gone Girl”. They’re calling it “chilling” and “enthralling” and “darkly funny.” They’re generally hyping it up all over the place. I have a problem with overly-hyped books. It’s a problem I’ve brought up and discussed too many times to count. Tell me a book is going to be amazing, and I’m probably going to think it’s mediocre at best. And, no surprise here, that’s exactly what happened with Luckiest Girl Alive.

Let’s start with the basics –

TifAni FaNelli was lucky enough to attend a prestigious high school that her family could absolutely not afford. Constantly out of her element, but desperately trying to find a way to fit in, she made bad decisions that ultimately ended in her being humiliated in front of everyone. But still, she clung to the notion that if she just ignored it, if she just pretended that nothing bad had happened, maybe, just maybe, the popular kids would accept her as one of their own.

Flash forward ten years and Ani is the picture of success. She’s about to marry her rich, handsome, perfect fiance. She’s a writer at a prestigious women’s magazine. She has the address, the wardrobe, and the status she’s always wanted. But she can’t forget, or forgive, what happened to her when she was younger. Somehow, in some way, she’ll make her classmates pay.

Is this story good? Maybe. Is it great? Definitely not.

The thing about Luckiest Girl Alive is that it has a really slow start. Gone Girl, that book everyone is comparing this to? Yeah, that had me hooked on the first page. This book, not so much. I was just casually flipping through the pages until about 80% in. Then I was hooked. But it shouldn’t take that long. I should be hooked from the first sentence.

I could never quite tell whether I could trust Ani. It’s definitely in her personality to lie about everything that happened, to twist it so that the reader sympathizes with her. But did she? Sometimes I thought yes, other times I thought no. And that wasn’t a positive for me. When I’m reading, I need to know whether or not I can trust my narrator. Otherwise, what good is the story?

Ani as an adult, by the way, is awful. I could not stand her. Whiny, self-absorbed, bitter twenty-somethings are not my cup of tea. With all the comparisons to Gone Girl, I was expecting someone to not necessarily like, but at least to understand. Ani brought on so much of her own trouble – not because of what happened to her, as I’ve seen many reviewers say. That’s not what I mean in the least. What happened to Ani was awful, and I am in no way blaming her for what those boys did. But she made her life so much more difficult than it had to be by blatantly lying, by denying the truth even when the adults in her life flat-out asked her if it was true. All because of her relentless pursuit of popularity. And did it get her anywhere? No. If anything, it made it worse. And I couldn’t sympathize with that. Maybe because popularity was never a big deal to me in high school – I didn’t need to be invited to parties hosted by the “cool kids” because I had my own friends that liked me for who I was, not for someone else that I’d have to pretend to be. For me, she was one of the most irritating narrators in recent memory.

There were other small things that felt off to me as well. For one, the side plot with Mr. Larson was a little weird. Clearly he wasn’t interested in anything more than a friendship with Ani, and then he sort of fell away never to be spoken of again. The story overall was a little too heavy, without any moments of happiness or humor to break up all the negativity. And, in the end, Ani didn’t really accomplish anything. I expected her to bring her tormentors down, to punish them in some crazy, finite way that would pull everything together, but in the end, I was just disappointed.

I know one thing for sure: This book wasn’t for me. Maybe it had to do with my state of mind at the time I read it. Or maybe, like I previously said, I just couldn’t get on board with Ani’s motives. This book is clearly getting a lot of mixed reviews, but it looks like the majority of people liked it. Don’t let my dissatisfaction keep you from reading it. You might really enjoy it.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

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