Thursday, October 27, 2016

I'm no plucky heroine, claiming ignorance of her quiet beauty and quirky charm

I got The Luckiest Girl as part of the Just The Right Book and I'm beginning to think that while I say I like thrillers, perhaps I am wrong and that's not actually the genre I like. Because yeah, most of the time I end up eye-rolling HARD at those books. Maybe it's crime? Or noir? I dunno. Maybe I just kept getting thrown thrillers that were Not My Thing. Also maybe this isn't really a thriller because genre labels seem so vague ("Thrillers are characterized and defined by the moods they elicit, giving viewers heightened feelings of suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety" so sayeth Wikipedia) so that could also be part of the problem. ANYWAY. This book.

First up: I was going to put this behind a spoiler tag but then I found this link on Book Riot which talks about a part of the book, so if you want zero spoilers maybe skip this paragraph. Anyway, that story (which I can't find now, but I swear is real) was about how the author's real gang rape informed the story so yeah, that happens here, so be warned (those of you who don't mind spoilers. Others I guess, sorry). And how the author's real life behavior (getting a job at Cosmo, focused on getting the right guy and the right zip code) mimicked that of her main character and now I feel bad for the fact that Ani, the main character in this book, is just terrible. I feel like if I say that then I'm saying the author is terrible and I'm sure she's not. Although I guess who knows, maybe she is, I don't know her. But I assume not, because she's a real person and likely has more facets than Ani FaNelli.

So the basic story is Ani has a seemingly perfect life, working for the important The Woman's Magazine* a fashion magazine in the Cosmo realm, she's super skinny, something she works very hard at, she has the TriBeca apartment, a rich fiancee. All that stuff that seems to truly matter in chick-lit style books. Also, she's just the worst. She's manipulative and a liar and superficial. There are cracks in her perfect veneer (not those previous descriptors, that's just her personality) but they don't really amount to much. Then we, the reader, learn about the dark secrets she has in her past.

Except, I had a problem with the "dark secrets threaten her current perfect life" deal. She doesn't actually confront anything new. As a matter of fact, most people in the story seem to already know her dark secret. We the reader don't and we're mostly kept in the dark about what really happened, but then you find out that other people around her have know the whole story for awhile. There wasn't tension that the story would come out and people would learn it and her world would fall apart. Cos you know, they already knew. Only we the reader didn't know, so the tension it tried to create didn't really work.

Instead all of the drama comes from us learning about these secrets, mostly through flashback chapters and a bit about a documentary she's doing to "tell her side of the story". But Ani never really changes throughout the story. There's no real arc for her. Not only because there's no opportunity for her to change. Also because the person she is before the Terrible Things sort of matches the person she is after. (NOT saying that she deserved any of the Terrible Things.) There is a bit about how this is a persona she's learned as a defense mechanism, except she came off as superficial and manipulative and focused on the "right" clothes before anything happened, so if it's a defense mechanism then the flashbacks didn't go far back enough to show the trigger for it. UNLESS this is trying to say everyone goes through this phase and the events froze her there? I dunno.

There's a lot of showing how she's the "cool girl" by tearing down other girls and women and I guess at times it reminded me a bit of Amy from Gone Girl except not at all. Because Amy felt like a real (super terrifying, omg she might be the villain I'm most afraid of) person who said things about the cool girl that felt real and true. Ani feels like the bitchy villain in a stereotypical chick-lit book. And ultimately she doesn't grow. She starts out as manipulative and superficial, grows up and continues to be manipulative and superficial, only now she has money to back up a lot of her behavior. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe there's a bit of growth, but if so, it happens in roughly the last pages and still feels pretty self-centered.

Clearly this was Not My Thing, but plenty of people seem to like it (Book of the Week from People magazine, Reese Witherspoon might make it into a movie) so this could be a me thing.

Gif rating:
*I thought that was just a generic name people were referring to the magazine has until I realized that is actually the name of the magazine and not a placeholder until Knoll could come up with something else to put there.

Title quote page 8

Knoll, Jessica. Luckiest Girl Alive. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 2015.