Ever get one of those small slips of paper, say, from your library after checking out a book, or with your credit card receipt after purchasing a book, with the words, “If you like this, then you’ll like…”? I crumple them up and toss them before I can even see the offensive suggestions listed. The next nominee for an Edgar Award (Mystery Writers of America) in Best First Novel Category reminded me of those paper slips, the book jacket comparing Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Don’t be fooled–they are nothing alike.

TifAni FaNelli (really?) is a sex columnist for a women’s fashion magazine in New York, late twenties, engaged and soon to be married to the fabulous blueblood, Luke Harrison. She has everything going for her, including a bitchy, sniping attitude toward everyone (including Luke), which she tries but rarely manages to stifle. She hates everyone and everything, including herself (the psychological projection isn’t hard to figure out, and Knoll hits us over the head with it, again and again). Within the first seven pages Tif overshares that she likes to do weird things in bed: “…me (?), electric shocks to my pussy with a ball gag in my mouth to stifle my screams.”

Ordinarily, at this point (did I mention seven pages in?), I would’ve sworn and thrown the book across the room. Alas, since I’m reviewing it, I slogged on. The book didn’t get much better after page seven. Tif doles out her back story, which includes being gang-raped as a  drunk fourteen-year-old. We learn lots about how hard she wants to fit in at the upper crust high school she attends–and we get lots lots more about her moronic behavior and juvenile personality which develops into her present day character of bitch with a capital B.

SPOILER ALERT. If you want to read the book, stop reading this review here.

Tif, now AKA Ani (as a way of redefining herself as well as hiding who she is), doesn’t want to marry Luke but can’t bring herself to walk away from the glamorous life he’ll bestow upon her once the vows are spoken. She will also become Ani Harrison, which we don’t yet understand is important for the hiding bit. She experiences all kinds of angst about the wedding and her weight (she’s a size 2 and thinks she’s fat, wants to be a size 0).

We get more flashbacks about her high school life after the gangbang. Tif also reveals her ambivalence about being interviewed for a mysterious documentary about “The Five”: The boys (and some other girls) who raped her are killed/disabled in a Columbine-type shooting at her high school, carried out by Tif’s friend Arthur. Tif comes under suspicion as possibly being involved, and although she’s exonerated, many people (including the paralzyed Dean, one of the rapists who survives the school shooting), don’t believe her. Thus her real motivation for wanting to marry Luke…to change her name.

Somehow, Ani manages to buck up, confront Dean and get an apology from him, walk away from marriage to the fabulous Luke, and confirm her original identity at the end of the story with these words: “I’m TifAni FaNelli.” Oooohh, that’s deep.

This book has no redeeming qualities. Jessica Knoll gives us an Ani in the beginning of the story who is impossible to like or even feel some shred of compassion for, because the story is told in a mash-up way. If we knew about Ani’s difficult past IN THE BEGINNING, we could understand and root for her to struggle with self-hatred, PTSD, and general unhappiness in her adult life. Instead, we feel no connection to her or her story.

On a scale of one to ten, this book rates a one (and that’s being generous).

Advertisements