Tuesday 3 November 2015

Reviewed: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive was published by Pan Macmillan on July 16, 2015.

Thanks to Louise Buckley for sending me a copy of this book to review.

First things first, unlike the publisher description, I would not call Luckiest Girl Alive a thriller. Sure, it messed with me and got under my skin but it didn’t feel like a thriller – more the portrait of a woman screwed up from some shocking events as a teenager. I was in anticipation of a thriller and so the slowburning start to this book caught me off guard a bit. I like a book that grabs me straight away and this one didn’t, nor did I feel particularly enamoured with the protagonist, TifAni FaNelli, but Luckiest Girl Alive was for me a book worth persevering with. After I’d worked my way through the first 100 or so pages, I found it impossible to put down as it was always on my mind and the story, though quite grim, was laced with dark humour and twisty reveals which kept me reading on. I found Luckiest Girl Alive to be really fascinating and thought-provoking – one that will split readers and make a really good book club read as there is so much to discuss.

As is becoming more and more common now in contemporary fiction, Ani is probably not a main character you’re going to like much, if at all. She appears cold, harsh and judgmental. Her wit is always set up to offend. She doesn’t seem to care for anything or anyone. Really, she’s just shallow and nasty. But though I didn’t find myself exactly sympathising with her, we do get an insight into why she is the way she is. In Luckiest Girl Alive, Ani is engaged to Luke and despite neither seeming hugely excited about the wedding, and Ani’s doubts, she’s persistent that the wedding will go ahead. Ani has been invited to take part in a documentary, sharing her side of the story of a violent event which took place when she was a teenager. Luke’s lack of support and belief of Ani’s story meant I already disregarded him early on and I wasn’t a fan, but then that was a bit of a theme in this book as I can’t say I liked anyone, not that I think I was really meant to. Luke and Ani didn’t feel like a good fit and I wasn’t sure whether they’d make it to the end of the book, but happy endings weren’t really on the agenda either. Luckiest Girl Alive was haunting and twisted, a story of revenge and redemption and the curse of the battle to be popular.

I thought the contrast in the story set in the past and the story set in the present worked well. I much preferred reading Ani as a teenager and her past was so interesting I found myself reading the current time quicker so I could get back to the shocking twists and revelations from her teenage years. Honestly, I didn’t care for much in the present narrative but the connection I did have with it came from seeing how Ani’s life had been impacted from the violence when she was young, how everything she went through as a teenager had shaped her into this cold-hearted, difficult to love woman. It made for uncomfortable reading at times but I was hooked on reading about the events of Ani’s teenage years. She craved popularity and wanted to fit in, to have friends, to not be on her own. Although the sickening events were affecting Ani, it was her reaction and response to them that struck me the most. How she still sought after friendship and popularity despite what it was doing to her. It was unsettling to read.

There were so many strong themes involved in Luckiest Girl Alive, but some of them were merely touched on and over in a flash. I felt like they could have been developed further or cut out altogether as the main angle in this book had enough tension and edge to it anyway. For all this book’s controversy and hard-hitting themes, there were a couple of times I felt like it was turning more Mean Girls than serious, fucked up real life. Moments between Ani and Arthur in particular, or Ani and her backstabbing female friends in high school, were so bitchy but also at times quite tame and both reminded me of a couple of Mean Girls scenes. At times, I thought the story lost its edge and that was disappointing because when the plot really broke down Ani as a character, it was gripping and a fantastic read. But even though between twists sometimes this book went off on one a little bit, I mostly found the storytelling and style of writing extremely compelling and I loved how I always found something else to analyse, how this book really got to me and I couldn’t stop trying to figure it out, to figure Ani out. I loved the character portrait style story as we see how our past is never truly buried and how as much as we try to pretend certain things never happened, the trauma is always still just there, bubbling beneath the surface ready to boil over. I can’t say at times I didn’t find Luckiest Girl Alive slow and confusing but there was something about the shocking events, the dark, suspenseful writing style that had me so engrossed - I don’t think it’s a book I will forget anytime soon.

Not a thriller but sick, twisted and very engaging anyway


  1. Great review- definitely adding to my TBR list :) Laura

  2. Oooo this sounds super interesting. I can't believe I haven't heard about it before! Definitely going to be adding it to my wish list!

    1. I think you'll hear a lot more come paperback release! Would love to hear what you think of it.


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