Title: Luckiest Girl Alive
Author: Jessica Knoll
Genres: Contemporary | Mystery | Psychological Thriller | Realistic Fiction
Length: 352 pages | 4992 locations
Ani has everything she ever wanted: a great job some would die for, a rich fiancé, and all the material things she wants. All that thanks to being a master manipulator, giving people the Ani they want to see, her fiancé included. Can she really be happy living like this, married to someone who doesn’t even know her true self?
Something happens that brings back all sorts of painful memories from TifAni’s past and she will be unable to avoid confronting that question any longer.
Let me just say I was positively flabbergasted when I found out this was the writer’s debut novel. No one is this good on their first try! I mean, sure, she was a senior editor for Cosmopolitan and is now the articles editor at Self (and you can definitely see those influences in the book), but writing a novel is in a completely different league.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I devoured this amazing piece of contemporary literature that not only every New Yorker but, these days, pretty much every woman (especially if you have seen shows where fashion is a big thing) from all over the globe can relate to – in every free, waking moment I had.
When I first started reading Luckiest Girl Alive, I thought Boy, that’s a disturbed chick. Contemplating stabbing her fiancé within the first few pages does not exactly scream normal.
Then he makes a comment along the lines of where all the stuff she eats goes and I am getting the vibe they don’t know each other that well. At that point, I wondered if she had an eating disorder. I was close, though that wasn’t exactly the case, but this was just the tip of the iceberg.
As we get to know what happened to TifAni in high school, we slowly understand how she came to be the person she is now.
I have a hard time describing how I felt about this character. At times I loathed Ani, others I felt sorry for her, and on occasion I even related to her.
What I do know is that, over the course of the book, I got to know TifAni like I never knew any other character I read about – not that I remember, anyway.
There was such depth to her. I knew her desires, her fears, how she worked so hard for the life she thought she wanted, but wasn’t really happy. I was appalled and at the same time sympathetic every time she would remind herself how she needed to be when she was with someone (Broken, I reminded myself, that’s what works on him.) and would adjust herself accordingly, never dropping her mask. Even when she really cared about someone, she would always be working an angle, a way to get what she wanted. It never once occurred to her that just being herself could be an option. It is exasperating to imagine someone living like that; how exhausting can it be??
There is constantly something in the prose that anyone, especially women (myself included) can and will relate to – things like that nagging feeling of knowing in your gut something happened a certain way, but since everyone acts like it happened differently you just got along; wanting to belong, wanting to be liked and doing things you are not proud of in order for that to happen; the 90s references like Saved By The Bell (my favourite show ever at the time); crushing on the cute, young teacher; those black prickles around your ankles when you have not shaved your legs for a while; tonguing that piece of chocolate out of your molar; lying in bed gritting your teeth over doing something so stupid, not reacting the way you should have; not knowing how to act in certain situations, having to force a reaction out of you because it just isn’t something that comes naturally – Sometimes I feel like a windup doll, like I have to reach behind and turn my golden key to produce a greeting, a laugh, whatever the socially acceptable reaction should be. How gorgeous is that?? I could never think of a way to describe it any better!!
The analogies were just crazy believable and accurate. It was so weird to picture sometimes grotesque things and yet feeling they were so adequate to what was being described, and that I could absolutely tell what I was supposed to get from what was being shown to me, not just kind of get it.
I carried around this little tease, precious to me as the shiny parasite attached to my finger, for months. The parasite is Ani’s beautiful wedding ring. So immediately I get that she values it but feels like it is leeching her out of her essence at the same time. See what I mean?
One other thing that was peculiar about this narrative was that we keep being fed details about the characters and places until late in the book; only when they become relevant to the story do they come up, there is no info dump.
And I was so happy about how the author portrayed the Tif-Andrew thing. It was so realistic! I am so sick and tired of reading about people giving in to their urges, and in this case – which was mostly driven by the idealized concept you made of a certain person, based on past fantasies -, it could have never have ended well. So I am glad one of them had the balls to do the right thing, and it was crucial for TifAni to start finding out who she really is, owning it, and turn her life around.
There just isn’t a whole lot wrong with this book. It clearly needs to be re-edited (absolutely normal in an advanced reader’s copy), and I felt the chapters were too long (my Kindle predicted I would finish reading one of them in 1h39m…).
I was also not a fan of the cover. It does scream bleak, which is appropriate, but the rose just made me think this was about romance, and it really wasn’t. I am glad I stuck to the description and not the cover.
Regarding the story, it took me a while to get into it in the beginning. I didn’t even get why she was picking a knife in those first few lines. And all the wedding preparations were necessary to set the context and get to know the character, but they did lose me for a bit. Not that long, though, only a few pages.
I did not get Ani’s sex obsessions, particularly the masochist tendencies, especially considering what she went through, but I accepted it as part of her character, while secretly hoping she had been the tiniest bit traumatized by the fact she never had a normal first time. I wanted her to feel crushed by how her dreams about it would never come true and instead I had to watch her go all casual in a sort of that’s not going to happen anymore, oh well, as if she missed some good concert or something, and keep crushing over the guy who practically pimped her out and raped her.
And the ending… It is not a whoa-never-seen-that-coming kind of ending. In fact, it is pretty much expected by then. But still. I never loved a last line as much as this one. It was absolutely the perfect way to end such a journey, because she was finally starting to find her true self. TifAni grew on me. I wanted her to be happy and to never have another sleepless night or be afraid ever again.
In case you can’t tell by now, I highly recommend this book. And I am so happy I did not read all the negative reviews before I dived into, it because it would have totally skewed my attitude towards it from the get go, and I would have read it in light of what those people felt instead of being fully open-minded.
Much respect to them, but this is exactly why I do not read reviews before I read the book. Not only do I not want to see spoilers but I also don’t want a person’s feeling of the book to impact my own. Each book should be a personal journey.
So don’t get discouraged by the first few pages, I promise it will get better. And don’t go after the comparisons to other writers, as this is something that should be appreciated for what it is, not in light of what another person wrote.
I think what the publishers meant by doing that in the praise section is that if you are a character driven reader and do not mind reading about someone you may actually loathe, you will most likely adore this book. I could not agree more, but I still think the comparison should not be made. Otherwise, readers will always keep that in mind and cannot help but compare the two, which I guess would explain all the 1 and 2 star reviews. So that strategy seems to have backfired.
This book is about Ani’s journey. Nothing else. She will piss you off at times, you won’t agree with what she is or what she does or thinks or becomes, but it is her choices and opportunity to know what exactly it means to be happy.
That’s when you can tell the writing is brilliant, when you put your principles aside and just enjoy something you could never stand in real life. As long as I can tell it makes sense for the character, I don’t need to agree with everything they do or are.
So don’t come in looking for mindblowing plot twists because there aren’t any, for the most part, not if you are comparing it to other writers’ books. Most of all, don’t come in with any expectations. Appreciate it for what it is, without pre-conceptions, and you will enjoy it.
Or maybe you just have to be a special kind of crazy to truly appreciate this novel.
Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Read from Jul 07 to Ju 09, 2015