In a bowl, mix Opal Mehta (and every high school chick-lit ever) and The Devil Wears Prada. Add a dash of rape and blend well. Then add a few ounces of needless violence. Season it with terrible prose. And voilà!
Needless. That is the only word that comes to mind when I think of Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive. First and foremost, when you look at the front cover, you see a lot of tiny text, but ‘Gillian Flynn’ stands out – attention grabbing, that. Here’s the thing. A lot of authors these days are described as the next already-published-established-famous authors. Recently I got two other books, and both the authors were called “the next Stieg Larsson.” Another book’s promo tagline said “it will make Hogwarts look like playschool” (I already hate this book; I don’t even need to read it). Something about needing these borrowed legs to stand on tells you a little bit about the books themselves.
Luckiest Girl Alive is just another high school tale desperately trying to pass itself off as adult fiction. It is also as boring as a book can get. When I turned 29, I thought to myself there is no reason anymore for me to not ditch a bad book – as there are just way too many good books in the world. Old habits die hard I guess – I felt since I’d already invested enough time to reach the 12% mark, might as well reach the end and see how bad it gets.
Genre: Boring (yeah, that’s a genre)
Summary: TifAni (that’s how it’s spelled) is an editor at ‘The Women’s Magazine’, which is a prestigious… umm… women’s magazine (like the author herself). She also writes pieces on spicing up your sex life. She’s engaged to Luke, a filthy rich douchebag. Speaking of douchebags, TifAni is a horrible person. Like, really insufferable mean ass bitch. She is only engaged to Luke cos of the money cos her mother brought her up to believe a woman’s worth depends on whom she marries. TifAni has two best friends whom she hates. Basically she hates everyone. I’ve read till the end of the book and it never did explicitly explain why. Nor implicitly. She keeps chanting “I have a horrible secret.” But turns out – wait, we’ll get to it. Her catholic school tells her parents to transfer her to a different school following a weed smoking incident. She moves to a school in a posh locality and desperately tries to fit in. She gets accepted by Hilary and Olivia (the “HOs” (don’t ask)) but gets raped by the guys in the group. She later moves to college and in order to reinvent herself, changes her name to Ani (how many times have I read that before?)
Characters: TifAni/Ani, already described above. She is described as tiny in stature with large breasts. She has two friends, Nell, and another woman whose name I have already forgotten, but who is rather flat chested. Or wait, maybe it was Nell that was the flat chested one. Really, a lot of mention of boobs and the lack of them cos Ani does not have much else going on for her. TifAni was raped in high school by the “popular” guys and she wonders till the last chapter if it was actually rape (it was). But that’s not her “secret”. You’d think her mean nature was because of this, but it is not; she’s implied to be a bad human being even as a teenager, which is why I said we don’t know why she is intentionally shown as this villainous person. Her mother is your stereotypical, loud-mouthed mother-of-ungrateful-teenager woman with gold-digger tendencies. She lavishly spends her husband’s money and her only aim in life is to get Ani married to a rich guy so that she can keep up her appearance of wealth. Ani’s teacher in school is Andrew Larson, who is, later in the story, a client of her fiance Luke. He thinks she is a gem of a person, an angel, all those things, though I don’t see what he does in her (the boobs, maybe?)
The writing: Is laughably amateurish. Think about it, the only plot device in this book is having your main character repeat the words “I have a secret.” Unless this is the first book you’ve picked up in your life (in which case, my sympathies), you know nothing kills suspense more than those exact words. There is also something to be said about books that never make you reach for the dictionary – some books can create beautiful prose with the simplest of phrases; others, like this one, makes the writer look like he/she doesn’t know what they’re doing. That is not to say Knoll does not try to embellish her sentences, but they turn out hilarious bad. For instance: Sleep exploded over me like a meteor shower.
I don’t understand the need to try so hard to make her a bad person (she insults a waitress for no good reason, she draws on a colleague’s white pants when she’s not looking etc) – what is the reason to make her so bad? And why try so hard to imply something so pointlessly? If you’re making someone an out-and-out dislikeable character, at least give it a reason or make them interesting (like in The White Tiger, for instance or Voldemort) There are instances where Ani spouts wisdom about “all women”. I can’t make out if that’s what the author thinks about “all women” or just the character she created, but, to whoever it may concern – please speak for yourself. There are also some parts where whole paragraphs get repeated from a previous instance. As if the author thought when the reader reaches the middle, he/she might forget the beginning, or when they reach the end, they’d forget the middle. So much unnecessary repetition. Or maybe that is what was happening to the author because in a few places the descriptions did not match anything that was said at the beginning – like everyone recognizes Ani’s name cos of the high school incident, but later in the news reports, the reader is told her name was never mentioned. Funny thing is, Ani keeps remembering things and people (that bear little resemblance to the current context) and she would go on to describe them in detail, then she would give us reasons why she hates the person she is describing. Then said person would not make an appearance elsewhere in the story. That happens to scenarios as well – it is implied that Ani had weight issues because of which she is always on some kinda diet, but the whole body image angle isn’t explored in depth. She is buying a knife on the first page, I still don’t know why. The worst of it is, neither the story of rape nor the “secret” are given any true importance. They are serious issues dealt with so flippantly.
Overall, it felt like Jessica Knoll had a bunch of stories she felt like writing and somehow she ended up connecting them all with no real purpose or context. What this book is, is an insult to rape survivors, homosexuals, women (subcategories: homemakers/stay-at-home-moms, career-driven, unmarried, thin, fat, waitresses, with-fiance-less-successful-than-protagonist), less-than-affluent people, those suffering from mental illnesses, those suffering from anorexia, in short, everyone. Ugh how wasteful.
PS: I heard there is a movie coming out? I don’t know for sure. Am I the only one that gets pissed when such terrible books are made into movies?