Book Talk: Luckiest Girl Alive8:30:00 PM
I started this book talk differently in my head. I was going to talk about how I liked the book, but disliked the main character, but after having a bit to process the whole thing, I think I've completely flip flopped. Luckiest Girl Alive definitely took me by surprise, not because it's got twists or turns, but because I have been so unsure how I feel about it since I started reading it. I continue to have very mixed feelings about the novel, so let's get into why.
I think the marketing choice to draw comparisons between Jessica Knoll and Gillian Flynn was misleading. Obviously a lot of people are going to be interested in reading an author with the potential to be the next Gillian Flynn, but unless you can deliver on that claim, a lot of readers are going to be disappointed, and I was. There's very little that will recommend this book to readers of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects, or Dark Places, because while they are each about female protagonists and dark subject matter, the comparison pretty much ends there.
Luckiest Girl Alive instead reminds me of early seasons of Gossip Girl - Ani (pronounced Ah-nee) reminds me so much of Blair Waldorf with her "you have to be cold to be queen" routine. Ani is a supremely unlikeable character, which is clearly the author's intention. Hardened by years of maintaining a veneer of "fine-ness" in spite of everything that has happened to her, Ani is distant, manipulative, and ice cold. From behind a wall of glass, Ani observes the world around her with a critical eye - no one is free from reproach - because that's how she thinks the world perceives her.
She has spent her entire life trying to convince people that she's something that she's not - so much so that her narration, brutal as it is, doesn't come across as honesty, but rather like more lies (convincing everyone, even herself). I enjoy an unlikeable protagonist - their stories are often the most interesting - but an unreachable one? Not so much. There was very little about Ani that I could touch on, even by the end of the novel, when I had come to understand her better. Even after reaching the conclusion, I found there was little to redeem Ani as a character.
While there are sections of the novel narrated by a teenage TifAni, I wouldn't recommend this as a young adult novel, because so much of the novel is rooted in Ani's thoughts and experiences as an adult. Bullying, rape, and eating disorders are among the issues mentioned within the pages of this book, but they are glossed over with the Ani's typical callousness - because she keeps everything at arm's length, these issues are made to seem insignificant and go unaddressed.
Ani believes that she has created a life for herself that proves she has moved beyond her past, but what she fails to realize is that everything she has become is not in spite of her past, but because of it. This is the driving force of the novel - there is great conflict in Ani's attempt to both confront her past (and change people's perceptions of it) while also pretending it hasn't influenced the person she has become. This was really the thing that resonated with me - I think every person in their twenties feels the same struggle to change/grow beyond the person that they used to be while still remaining true to who they are.
I haven't ventured into other people's reviews of this novel yet, but I have a feeling that readers are probably very split in their opinions of it. As for me, I'm not sure which side of the line I stand on just yet. I might need some time and a re-read before I figure that out! If you've read Luckiest Girl Alive, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it! You can comment below or tweet me at @sparklescribble - I'm trying to become a better tweeter.