Book Review: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Warning: This review probably contains spoilers, or if nothing else it at least contains many hints of plot details. Just saying.
A couple of months ago my book club read Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. I know I’m behind on the review, but I’ve been crazy busy and didn’t want to pass this one up. I can’t even remember who chose this book, but I’m so excited to tell you all about it because, spoiler alert, I freaking loved it! Now, I will say that not everyone in my book club was as enthusiastic about this one as I was and that’s fine because our group is a very eclectic mix and we all have very different tastes in literature. That’s what makes book club so interesting, there’s always a book you would never have picked on your own.
Summary In A Nutshell
Anyways, back to Luckiest Girl Alive. In a nutshell, this book is about a woman who as a young girl attended a prestigious school where she never quite fit in. After suffering through acts of humiliation at the hands of her peers and an unthinkable tragedy, she reinvents herself to forget her past and the girl she was. As the pieces of Ani’s new perfect life come neatly together, a secret from her past comes back to haunt her and threaten the façade she’s built.
A Protagonist You Just Love To Hate
Let me start by saying that I know a lot of people hate the protagonist of this story, heck I hated her within the first few paragraphs of the very first chapter, but I think that’s an unfair assessment. Our first introduction of Ani reads like a stuck up New York city bitch, one lacking even a single redeeming quality. She’s got the looks, the dream writing job, and the handsome deep-pocketed fiancé, and of course, she’s not satisfied with any of it. Yes, it was very easy to hate Ani and when it came to her younger self, TifAni wasn’t any easier to love.
TifAni Is Real And Raw
My favorite thing about Knoll’s protagonist is how real TifAni’s character is. Every stupid, embarrassing, or inappropriate thing you could do, say, or think as a teenage girl is represented with TifAni. She’s naive and gullible, the perfect target for popular boys and mean girls. TifAni got herself into a lot of stupid and dangerous situations, but to me, that’s real. Of course not every high school girl allows herself to get blackout wasted with four fast-moving boys, but it does happen probably more often than most parents would like to think. Knoll even dedicates the book to “all the TifAnis”. Although I could hear myself internally screaming “you idiot!”, I could fully appreciation the reality of such situations and the lack of attention they get. Even after several acts of abuse and humiliation, TifAni still thought she was one of the cool kids, not realizing that she never was to begin with.
When Two Become One
Knoll paints a tricky juxtaposition of TifAni and Ani. The two are so different, but are still one and the same. Ani’s life was seemingly perfect, but a past full of secrets and tragedy are enough to keep her on edge. Ani is careful to present herself a certain way to keep that part of her life buried. TifAni, on the other hand, is an open book, and sort of a clueless one at that. She lives with her heart on her sleeve with no regard for heartache she sometimes brings on herself. Ani’s truth remains guarded behind her carefully crafted perfect life. In the end, Knoll finds a way to bring these two together. Spoiler alert, Ani finally finds closure for the wounds that have haunted her for so long. This is where I fell in love with Ani/TifAni as a character. Ani finds a way to come to peace with her past and put her whole self back together again.
Back To The Plot
This novel is filled with twists most readers would never expect. Just when I thought I knew what Ani’s childhood secrets were, I was shocked to find a completely different turn of events. I quite literally got chills as I discovered the deep dark past she was hiding from. I had no freaking idea of what was coming, yet this big of a plot twist still made sense to the story line and gave the characters more depth.
If you haven’t read the book, here’s where I will really spoil it for you. So if you want to read the book without knowing the details, turn back now. Okay, so the build up in the first half to two-thirds of the book led me to believe that Ani’s dark secret was her rape. While that is a very important part of her tragic past, it’s not the kicker. The crazy plot twist comes in the form of a school shooting that had me shocked and then tracing over the past few chapters I had read realizing that the signs had all been there. Maybe that’s an intentional suggestion at real life school shootings, I don’t know. I have to hand it to Knoll who obviously did her research. The details on this event were almost too realistic to bear, very chilling to say the least.
Not only did TifAni have to kill her friend to stop the bloodshed, but she was later accused of being in on the school shooting plot. You pile this on top of the multiple rapes and it’s a miracle that TifAni went on to create the life she did for herself. I think this really explains a lot about Ani. How could someone who has been through all of this trauma not be guarded? To me, this was the point of the novel. Resilience. Many people would have buckled under the heartache of it all, let their lives crumble around them as they searched for any way to cope. You could say TifAni’s coping mechanism was to completely reinvent herself and pretend none of it ever happened. I think it’s fair to say that she needed that time away from her past to rebuild and come to terms with all that she had been through. In the final line of the book, Ani introduces herself on camera as TifAni and I would like to think that she’s finally come to terms with her past and will no longer find the need to run from it.
And just for fun I wanted to share this with you all. I tweeted the above picture and the author, Jessica Knoll, reached out saying she hoped I enjoyed the book. How cool is that!?!