Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica KnollLuckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll is a psychological thriller about a hot shot NYC socialite and magazine writer with a disturbing past. Luckiest Girl Alive is nominated for the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

It took me forever to figure out how to start this thing. I’m supposed to be reviewing Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll, and I’ll eventually get there, but first I’d like to discuss reading, specifically why do we read crime fiction? Escapism is a common reason, especially when it comes to some genres: paranormal, historical, international. But I think it has more to do with catharsis – with the idea that by putting ourselves into the head of a character with deep-rooted psychological stress and pain, we get hurt peripherally as well, and when it’s over, when the last page has been turned, we’ve gone through a purging of sorts – a purging that allows us to release these strong emotions and thus feel relieved, even lighter.

I bring all of this up because reading Luckiest Girl Alive is no walk in the park. It’s a combination of many emotions: disgust, fury, frustration, uneasiness, and revulsion. There were points when I’d legitimately feel sick while reading this book. And I think that’s why I’ve struggled to start writing this review, because I didn’t enjoy the process of reading it. But that’s not to say it’s bad. In fact, it’s the opposite. If the goal of creating art is to evoke emotion, then Luckiest Girl Alive is a masterpiece.

Let’s start by discussing the book’s protagonist, TifAni FaNelli. Before you ask, no, my shift key didn’t get stuck – that’s how it’s spelt. Don’t worry; she goes by Ani (pronounced Ah-nee) now. Anyway, Ani is a 28-year-old hotshot working in New York City living what she calls the perfect life: “cool job, impressive zip code, hungry body, and the kicker – dreamboat fiancé.” As you’ll learn, Ani does not beat around the bush. Rather, she yanks the whole damn bush out of the ground and smacks you in the face with it and then yells at you for getting dirt everywhere.

Now here’s where I must inevitably compare Jessica Knoll to Gillian Flynn, because just like Michael Cera and Jessie Eisenberg, Keira Knightley and Natalie Portman, and Lena Dunham and old-school Courtney Love, it’s impossible to look at one without thinking of the other.

You will never be able to unsee this.

Perhaps I’m jaded because I work in publishing, but every time I see a book being marketed as the next Gone Girl, I throw up a little bit. We get it – Amy Dunne was one fucked up girl. She was captivating, sadistic, and sociopathic. Cards on the table here, Luckiest Girl Alive sat on my bookshelf for almost an entire year before I read it, and I only picked it up because of the Edgar’s coverage we’re running here on the site. I wasn’t interested, and once I’d finally started reading, it seemed like the first 50 pages or so were doing everything in their power to prove me right. But then I got to a part of the book that suckerpunched me from behind and left me gasping for air. And then later on, another part did the same. I said before that Amy Dunne was one fucked up girl, but she has absolutely nothing on TifAni FaNelli.

I won’t touch upon the plot here, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but take my word when I say you should read this book. Everyone in this world has, at some point or another, erected an imaginative wall to keep others out. And that’s exactly what Ani has done here, only after she built the wall, she dug a moat and added alligators. Blood-thirsty, eternally-hungry alligators.

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Joe Brosnan works in book publishing for St. Martin's Press and manages Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.

Read all of Joe Brosnan’s posts for Criminal Element.