Luckiest girl alive – Jessica Knoll
You know when a book grabs you by the throat and inexplicably won’t let go, til you’re quite done with it? Luckiest Girl Alive went in full throttle and held my attention so well that I didn’t really surface fully til I’d reached the last page. No TV, not much social media activity, I just wanted to see where our protagonist ended up and what had led to this point in the first place.
She’s not even that likeable. She’s smart, for sure. And yet… Her sharpness of voice and sass barely disguises that right from the off, she’s a pretty vulnerable girl, who’s back story quickly starts to explain some of her neurosis and attitude in the here and now, living her superficially successful new life in New York. She’s trying too hard.
So, flipping back to when she was a kid, and she arrived at a new school, full of the type of paranoia and insecurity that only a teenage girl holds on to. Maybe I didn’t like her that much because I remember being 14 and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have liked me much back then either. Spiky, short tempered with her mother, on the surface she’s hard work (if my own mum is reading this, don’t say a word). I swapped schools at that age too, and distinctly remember the feelings of loneliness and desperately wanting to be liked and to make new friends. May be that’s why I was prepared to give Ani a bit of a chance.
I also made some fundamentally poor decisions around that time, but remained unscathed, close shaves rather than anything life changingly awful. But not for this 14 year old. She makes some life defining, very very bad decisions, the consequences of which escalate at terrifying speed.
Shamed by her new group of friends following a hideous and “reading through your fingers because you can barely look” series of events, you think that’s the main back story. It would, after all be more than enough. But then comes something even bigger. Which I really didn’t see coming.
So I found myself thinking I was reading one story of abuse and vulnerability when suddenly, about two thirds through, it becomes something entirely different, shifting gear.
A sad, cautionary tale for any teenager. Faces rape, homophobia, alcohol, eating disorders and drug use head on, as well as the insidious nature of peer cruelty and just how life changing that can be. But I wouldn’t restrict the audience for this book to just the teenagers. Yes the voice is naïve and irritatingly self centred often, but I definitely wanted a good ending for Ani.
Literary genius? No. I found the ending particularly clunky. But an intense page-turner for the sun lounger or commute? Hell yeah.