Jessica Knoll’s debut novel, Luckiest Girl Alive, is Gone Girl meets Cosmo meets Sex and the City. With all of her bases covered, Knoll hits it out of the park.
The story centers on Ani, pronounced Ah-nee, not Annie.
Ani is a 20-something who has it all. Lucky in love with a blue-blood fiance in finance, Ani has the perfect editor’s job at The Women’s Magazine. She wears exactly the right clothes, has access to the magazine’s famous fashion closet and sports an enormous family diamond on her perfectly manicured finger.
Before you roll your eyes, this is not chick lit. Ani is not a perky heroine with just the right amount of spunk. She’s a fake. She’s really TifAni FaNelli from just this side of the tracks in Pennsylvania. She has worked long and hard to get to Ani, and she constantly has to remind herself why.
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TifAni had a hellish high school experience that had little to do with clothes, makeup and shoes, and everything to do with survival.
Knoll does a great job with Ani. The best parts of the book are inside Ani’s mind. She has created this perfect exterior that is almost tiring to imagine keeping up, but it’s what she’s thinking that is so twisted that it’s sometimes even funny. She has been pretending since her mother suggested just a little mascara in elementary school.
Ani’s flawless life is driven by her need to conceal, but not bury, the traumatic events of the fall of her freshman year in high school. After being asked to leave the all-girls Catholic school she’d attended all her life because of an unfortunate first try with marijuana on her fake rich friend’s McMansion roof, TifAni has to start over.
Now, she has to create a new TifAni to fit in at the prestigious, private, co-ed Bradley School in the “hoity-toity” Main Line region of Philly. This is where old money lives and rules, so TifAni has to step up her game.
Unfortunately, she has no idea how the other half really lives. Social class is more than where you sit in the lunchroom. This is where she learns that you can fudge your clothes and ZIP code, but you can’t fake old, powerful money.
Of course, all she wants is to be welcomed into the in crowd.
At Bradley, it’s the HOs (Hillary and Olivia) and the soccer studs. She sets her sights on Liam, also new to Bradley, and does anything and everything to get him. This is more than the average after-school-special material. TifAni faces things many grown women never have to.
The novel toggles between Ani’s near-perfect life and TifAni’s secret life.
With her dream wedding only a few months away, Ani finally is given an opportunity to make peace with her past. She agrees to take part in a documentary about the horrific event on Nov. 12, 2001, that changed her life forever.
Her family, her fiance and her friends want her to move on. She’s afraid to tell the whole truth, but knows she’ll never be truly happy until she does.
Following her instincts may lead to redemption, or it may lead to ruin. Ani is this close to a great life.
Moms, wives and girlfriends alike will find a way to connect with Ani, and even root for her. Who doesn’t want to have it all, beat the odds and truly live happily ever after.
Luckiest Girl Alive
by Jessica Knoll
Simon & Schuster, $25