One of the biggest thriller debuts this summer is Luckiest Girl Alive (May 2015) by Jessica Knoll. If this is the first you’re hearing of it, I’m sure my review won’t be the last. My initial impressions of this novel are vastly different from my final thoughts. What starts off slow, becomes a cleverly written, twisty thriller that you simply cannot put down.
For the most part, thriller novels either catch your breath in the first chapters or are a slow build up. This novel falls somewhere in the middle. When the reader first meets the self-centered, shallow main character named Ani, there is little to like about her. A senior editor at The Women’s Magazine, she’s been working to fine-tune her high-brow life to fit in with the New York City crowd and her fiancé who works in the finance industry. I really didn’t care for Ani and reading about her life in New York. However, the book takes a turn for the better when Ani meets Spencer Hawkins. Fellow alumna of the private Bradley School, Spencer recognized Ani on the Today Show. She didn’t recognize her by her appearance or her name but knew it was her. When Spencer asks about if Ani changed her name because of a past event, the plot thickens. Who is Ani? What event is Spencer referring to?
Soon the reader learns Ani is short for TifAni and something happened to her while a freshman at Bradley. The story then begins to flip between the past and present and I felt more connected to the main character. Her recollections of growing up, specifically the past that she has hidden from the life she built in New York, were revealed in the second half of the book. Everything that happened to her made her who she was. Understanding this, and respecting it, made me like her more as a person. The second half of this novel was definitely better than the first. Although some details do not carry over from the first half, these hanging threads did not distract too much from the overall novel.
TifAni truly makes this book what it is—a great summer read that keeps you guessing and turning the pages. I recommend it to adult readers who enjoy complicated main characters such as Gone Girl’s Amy and unreliable narrators such as Girl on the Train’s Rachel. This praiseworthy debut would make a great movie. In fact, it was recently optioned for film by Lionsgate. I look forward to seeing the movie and reading the author’s next release.
Reviewed by Libby Bridges
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