Luckiest Girl Alive (Knoll)

Luckiest Girl Alive 
Jessica Knoll, 2015
Simon & Schuster
352 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781476789637

Her perfect life is a perfect lie.

As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.

With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to "have it all" and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that's bigger than it first appears.

The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free? (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1984 (?)
Raised—Philadelphia area, Pennsylvania, USA
Education—B.A., Hobart and William Colleges
Currently—New York City, New York

Jessica Knoll has been a senior editor at Cosmopolitan and the articles editor at SELF. She grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and graduated from The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. She lives in New York City with her husband. Luckiest Girl Alive is her first book. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
Luckiest Girl Alive is Gone Girl meets Cosmo meets Sex and the City.... Knoll hits it out of the park.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Readers guessing what the "dark underbelly" of this story is can guess again. It is just the beginning, a trap set by the author [who] scatters the clues so obscurely and randomly that peeking at the ending is just a waste of time.... No shortcuts here.... Knoll’s knack for social nuances on both sides of the socioeconomic tracks deserves mention for the high praise it already is receiving in the book world.
Buffalo News

This is going to be the book you insist all your friends read this summer.... [A] clever, cunning satire on the female condition in the 21st century.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Luckiest Girl Alive is crime fiction at its best, proving the genre’s deep connections to society’s fears, ambitions, and ability to question the status quo.... Jessica Knoll is a writer to keep an eye on, especially after being compared to Gillian Flynn by Megan Abbott. . . . However, I have found enough personality in Knoll’s debut novel to let her stand on her own, rather than label her "the next Gillian Flynn." Knoll’s version of the feminist crime novel is more steeped in pop culture than Flynn’s, and Ani’s psyche has nothing to envy of Amy’s: they are both troubled, and they both put up outstanding gender and class performances. But while Amy is more private and emotional, Ani relies on modern fashion references that will thrill even Vogue, Cosmo, and Glamour readers.... Luckiest Girl Alive is the ultimate critical companion to millennial femininity.
Los Angeles Review of Books

The perfect page-turner to start your summer (Book of the Week).

Dark, twisty...razor-sharp writing...propulsive prose.... [The] reveal is a real doozy—a legitimately shocking, completely unputdownable sequence that unfolds like a slow-motion horror film. It instantly elevates Luckiest Girl...and that momentum keeps going until its final pages.
Entertainment Weekly

Knoll slowly reveals the harrowing truth in a debut that’s part The Devil Wears Prada, part We Need to Talk About Kevin.
O Magazine

Loved Gone Girl? We promise [Luckiest Girl Alive is] just as addictive.
Good Housekeeping

A pulse-pounding, jaw-dropping novel about how tragedy twists and shapes lives.

When Ani FaNelli wants something, she gets it: the job, the body, the man. What starts as a Mean Girls-seeming story line transforms into something so dark, so plot-twistingly intense that…well, actually, no spoilers here.
Marie Claire

The perfect kind of summer read: Nail-bitingly addictive, equal parts funny and twisted, and full of "I never saw THAT coming" moments.

[Readers] probably won't leave Luckiest Girl Alive wishing they had a friend just like TifAni, but...if they liked Gone Girl, they'll be thrilled to see another woman who's allowed to be smart and mean, vulnerable and detestable.

Knoll introduces you to your new best frenemy, and you’re going to love it.... Destined to become one of the summer’s most gripping reads.

One of "18 Brilliant Books You Won't Want To Miss This Summer."
Huffington Post

One woman’s carefully orchestrated, perfect life slowly cracks to reveal a dark underbelly in Knoll’s knockout debut novel.... [W]hat sets this novel apart is the author’s ability to snare the reader from page one.... [A] completely enthralling read.
Publishers Weekly

[Ani FaNelli is] a cross between Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw and Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne.... Knoll’s debut truly delivers and will keep readers engaged until the end.
Library Journal

[A] dark, cynical psychological comment on our culture of excess and violence.... The promise of redemption in the end is not enough to balance the darkness.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions

1. Ani tells the reader “I’m no plucky heroine.” Do you agree? Why or why not? Did your opinion of Ani change as you learned more about her past? If so, why?

2. During the course of the book, the way that Ani is identified changes. At varying times, she is TifAni FaNelli, Tif, Finny, and Ani Harrison. What do these names indicate about her and how she relates to herself and others?

3. Why do you think Ani agrees to participate in the documentary about the Five? What was her role in the tragedy? How has it shaped her as an adult?

4. When describing Arthur for the documentary, Ani remembers how “he was the only one who stood up for me when a lot of people turned on me.” Why is it so important that she shares something positive about him? Discuss Ani’s friendship with Arthur. Why do you think he defended her? What was your first impression of Arthur? Did your feelings about him change? If so, why?

5. Ani says the word “fiancé” does not “bother me so much as the one that came after it. Husband. That word laced the corset tighter, crushing organs, sending panic into my throat with the bright beat of a distress signal.” Discuss why it is so important to Ani to be married before the documentary airs. Do you think, as Ani does, that her engagement ring is a symbol of status and legitimacy? What compromises, if any, must Ani make for the sake of her engagement? Do you think the compromises are worth it? Explain your answer.

6. What were your initial impressions of Dina FaNelli? After learning what happened to Ani at Dean’s party, Dina “told me I was not the daughter she raised.” What values did Dina impart? Do you think she was a good mother? Why or why not?

7. During Ani’s junior year of high school, she takes a trip to New York City with her classmates. How is this trip a watershed moment for her? Contrast the reality of her life in New York City with the vision of her future that she had then. Has she achieved the success she dreamed of? How does Ani measure success? Does this change by the novel’s conclusion? In what ways?

8. Although Ani initially distrusts the documentary director, Aaron, she begins to think of him as “kind, rather than leering.” What causes Ani to change her mind? Do you think Aaron has her best interests at heart? Ani’s burgeoning trust of Aaron ultimately leads her to wonder “if that had been the reality all along, and, if it was, what else I’d read wrong.” Many of the characters in this book struggle to distinguish their perceptions from reality. Are there any who are particularly adept at it? If so, who are they? Discuss how they manage to do it.

9. Explain the significance of the title of the book. When Ani is called the “‘luckiest girl alive,’” the phrase is used derisively. Who describes her as such and why? By the conclusion of the book, did you think Ani was lucky? If so, in what way?

10. What do you think led to the tragedy at Bradley? Could it have been prevented, and, if so, how? What role, if any, does Ani play in the tragedy?

11. After Luke meets Ani’s parents, he says “I can’t believe I’m the one who got to save you.” Discuss Luke’s relationship with Ani. Do you think he did save her from her past? Why is he so reluctant to speak with Ani about it? Did you think Luke and Ani were well suited?

12. Discuss the structure of the book. What’s the effect of alternating between Ani’s current life and her freshman year at Bradley? Did learning about Ani’s past help you better understand her current actions? Did your feelings about Ani change as you learned more about her? If so, how?

13. Ani tells Andrew Larson that she is wary of participating in the documentary because “‘I don’t know what the bent is. I know what the editing process can do.’” Are Ani’s reservations justified? Many of the characters edit their versions of events, often to fit self-serving narratives. When Ani is interviewed by Dr. Anita Perkins, Ani “had to guide everyone in my direction with swift surety, otherwise they would dig, dig, dig.” What effect does Ani’s distortion of the truth have on her life and the lives of those around her? Are there other characters who are lying by omission? Who are they and what are their motivations?

14. Why is Ani is desperate to be friends with Hilary and Olivia. What sacrifices is she willing to make to keep their friendship? Contrast Ani’s friendship with Hilary and Olivia with her friendship with Nell. Do you think that Nell is a good friend? In what ways?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)


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