Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Published by Simon & Schuster ISBN 9781476789637
Hardcover, $25, 338 pages
The one blurb that publishers want on their novel is "Better than Gone Girl!", which is getting a little ubiquitous lately. I'm not a big suspense fan, and Gone Girl wasn't my favorite book, but I have read other books compared to it, like The Girl On The Train.
Jessica Knoll's suspenseful novel Luckiest Girl Alive even has 'girl' in the title. It begins with Ani FaNelli shopping for items to put on her bridal registry. She picks up a Wustof knife and wonders how it would feel if she slid into her fiance's stomach.
Something is off about Ani. She has a fabulous job at a woman's magazine (think Cosmo), and is engaged to a great catch, a man with a great job and who is socially connected. But there is something in Ani's past, something that happened when she was in high school.
Ani grew up on the wrong side of the tracks outside Philadelphia. Her mother wanted Ani to meet the right people and so sent her daughter to Bradley, a private high school for blue bloods. Ani didn't fit in at first, she sat at the misfits' table at lunch.
Until one day, she caught the eye of one of the popular guys at school. Soon she was eating lunch with the cool kids and even attending their parties where, of course, everyone was drinking.
Something bad happened at Bradley, and the reader is not told what. A documentary crew wants to interview Ani about the incident, but Ani's fiance doesn't want her to do the interview. What exactly happened?
The reader is given clues, but when we finally find out what happened, about halfway through the book, the story really takes off. I have to admit that up until that revelation, I was not really taken with the story. But once we get to the incident, Knoll's writing is so tight and tense, I felt like I didn't take a breath for the entire chapter.
I have to admit, I guessed wrong as to what really happened, and so the surprise was shocking, even though as we got closer to the reveal, there are clues given if you want to pick them up.
Knoll's characters are well developed, and anyone who went to high school (which is most of us) felt many of the things Ani did- isolated, fearful of not fitting in, and hoping to make friends. Knoll taps into those feelings so well.
Ani has problems, and in the early chapters when she talks about her sexual desires, I admit to thinking that maybe this book just isn't for me. But I'm glad I continued on, because I was rewarded with a nail-biting story. Ani has to look inside herself to discover who she really wants to be, and her journey to get there is fascinating.
I liked Luckiest Girl Alive better than Gone Girl and better than The Girl On The Train, because Jessica Knoll does a great job of creating suspense and empathy for a troubled character. And even after reading it awhile ago, just thinking about now it is giving me heart palpitations and a dry mouth.