CJ’s Bookshelf: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

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Luckiest Girl AliveI’m not going to lie, I was hesitant to give this book a chance because the last book I read because it was hailed as the “next Gone GirlI didn’t like at all. Just like The Girl on the Train was way over-hyped, I had a feeling this book would be too. Let’s face it, even Gone Girl was over-hyped. I liked the book, but it wasn’t nearly as good as Gillian Flynn’s first two novels.

I read the first 50 pages of Luckiest Girl Alive and was convinced my initial assumptions about the book had been correct. I hated the narrator, Ani. She seemed like a wanna-be Amy – manipulative, fake and just plain mean – though unlike Amy the audience was made aware of this right from the start. None of Flynn’s female characters are particularly likable (in my opinion) but they’re at least interesting. I prepared myself to be disappointed yet again, and even considered giving up. But I pressed on. And I’m really glad I did.

Luckiest Girl Alive is structured so that the there are two timelines running through the chapters – Ani’s present, and her recollections of her freshman year at a prep academy. While at first it’s easy to make assumptions about Ani in the presence, the flashback chapters really help to add another layer to the character and help the reader to understand her motivations and what made her the person she is in the future. She’s not just a sociopath in the way that Amy is in Gone Girl. Ani may not ever have been a particularly likable person, but that is her biggest weakness – her desire to be liked and fit in. Not just to fit in, but fit in with the rich and successful kids. The flashbacks don’t necessarily make Ani more likable, but they do make her more sympathetic and show that she is a much more complicated character than I originally believed her to be.

The only thing I found slightly disappointing in this book was that it promised a lot of twists and turns, but there wasn’t really any twist that I didn’t see coming at least a chapter or two away. Sure, there were a few surprises, but not many. And I kept waiting for an even bigger twist near the end that never came. On the one hand, I’m disappointed we didn’t get that twist I was expecting – but on the other, I really like the way the book ended. It was very satisfying, and made Ani’s character feel even more complete.

This is definitely a great beach read – a little dark and heavy at times, but a quick read. If you haven’t yet read The Girl on the Train, don’t bother. Pick this one up instead. The writing is better, the characters more developed and the ending a lot more satisfying. I still don’t think it’s the next Gone Girl, but the ending is definitely much less depressing.

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