Review: The Luckiest Girl Alive

Happy Thursday from The Literary Elephant! Today I’m bringing to you my first book review of 2016, which I hope is only the beginning of a long and fruitful journey through this year’s reading endeavors. This week I want to talk about:

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

To be honest, this one hovered for months on the list of books I might want to read before I actually came around to it. I was a little put off by the fact that about half of the book focused on the main character’s high school experience. I new before I started that this would be the case, and I thought I wasn’t in the mood for a high school story at the time, but I’m glad I finally gave in and checked out Knoll’s debut novel. Although some of the story is told from a teenager’s perspective, the book is more mature than a YA novel, which I mistakenly assumed it may be.

On the layout of the book: The Luckiest Girl Alive is presented in two time frames, with chapters that alternate between main character Ani’s present adult life as an engaged New York socialite on the rise with a powerful literary career, and her past struggles with relationships, unpopularity, and horrendous crimes. Far from the overly dramatic narration of a young adolescent, Ani’s story is engaging because she doesn’t realize the inescapability  of her intense past until she’s reflecting on it several years later.

As the layers of the story build on each other, the events become more shocking, the characters seem less predictable, and it all culminates in an emotional scene at Ani’s wedding. About that ending…

After all the buildup and the craziness some of the characters have exhibited at that point, I was incredibly surprised that Ani’s final action of the novel seemed so tame. It was a move that any woman who is confident about the person she has become could be proud of, but it did seem to fall a little flat after reading about some of the illegal and deadly events in her past. Once I had finished the book and let the ending settle a little, it grew on me.

Although I would have been willing to accept (and indeed, I expected) a more dramatic finale, the ending seemed to bring the story back into the realm of realistic fiction for me. I would certainly call this book a thriller first, but it didn’t seem as implausible to me as some other books in that category. The prose is witty, somewhat cynical, and fast-paced, overall very enjoyable and amusing to read, which helped me soldier through a few points in the story when I found myself strongly disliking the opinionated and self-centered main character. There is definitely something to be said for a book that can be interesting and fun to read when the main character is, at times, unlikable.

Additionally, there were a few times I was annoyed by obvious foreshadowing, but more often than not the payoff was worth the blatant nod that something important was coming. While I would’ve been happier with a more subtle approach, the foreshadowing helped keep the pace of the story quick and the pages turning.

Now that I’ve had a week to think about it, I’d give The Luckiest Girl Alive 4/5 stars. What are your thoughts on this book? Please comment below if you’ve read it and want to share an opinion with me, or haven’t read it yet and are looking for more information. If you’re looking for something new to read based on this book, I’ll give two recommendations:

  1. For those who like over-the-top drama with foreshadowing and intricate ties, like Ani’s high school experiences include, try Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. It’s a little lesser-known than Gone Girl, and has a higher maturity level for those looking for something firmly outside of YA, but deliciously dark and suspenseful.
  2. For those who like the tamer drama with more relatable challenges and a realistically imperfect heroine, like Ani’s adult experiences feature, try Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on The Train. This one is also more mature than a YA book, but less creepy and more mysterious.

Alternatively, if you’ve read either of these two suggestions and haven’t picked up The Luckiest Girl Alive yet, I think you’d be interested in giving it a go. Also, if you’ve read any of these and have a recommendation for me to review or just to read, please include it in a comment below.

Coming up: Next week I’ll be reviewing The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins. If you want to keep up with me on my literary journey this year, you can pick it up now, or wait and see how it’ll rank after my review next week. I realize I’ve been reading more female authors lately, but I’d like a good mix of books to review. If you have a good suggestion for books by male authors you’d like to see in the upcoming weeks, please let me know! I’m planning a nice book haul soon 🙂

I hope you’ve found this review helpful as you’re making your lists of books to read in 2016!


The Literary Elephant


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