Luckiest Girl Alive Book Review & Why Ani is All of Us

Luckiest Girl Alive Book Review & Why Ani is All of Us

I’m a bit late in reviewing Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.  After all, the novel came out in May of 2015. I remember wanting to read it when it came out, then forgetting it until an AirBnber staying at our house recommended it.

So, I downloaded it on Audible and my husband (it’s still weird using that word!) listened to it on our Labor Day drive back to my hometown of Arnold, Nebraska.

We were captivated.

If you haven’t read the book yet, the story follows TifAni FaNelli, soon to be rebranded as Ani Harrison after her impending marriage to the epitome of urban WASP, Luke. The marriage is the summit of everything she believes she’s ever wanted—money, status, and overall, protection. But just before the wedding, Ani is scheduled to participate in a documentary about an internationally recognized event from her early teens—an event that was initiated by her own gang rape. She recounts the rape to the reader in flashbacks of her youth.

This book reaches out to grab any woman who has been through sexual assault. Knoll’s raw depiction of the rape is based in fact, on her own experience being raped. Her prose is alive with the confusion, pain, and misguided anger many rape victims encounter, as well as disjointed vignettes of the rape itself.

But even those who haven’t struggled with the aftermath of such a horrible assault recognize elements of Ani in themselves. To Ani, life is a competition to be won. If she’s not thin to the point of disappearing, if she doesn’t have a huge engagement ring on her finger, if she doesn’t have an effortless sense of style, who is she? If she doesn’t have those things, she’s just another middle-class nobody. She’s just a slut who tried too hard to gain the affection of a boy who was out of reach and got raped in return. And, what’s worse, if she doesn’t construct this façade of a human being, if she doesn’t build this wall around herself, she might be left unprotected, vulnerable to another life-shattering attack.

The end of the story left me wanting more. I won’t say too much, in case you haven’t read the novel. But as the novel came to an close I wondered—will Ani learn to live with herself as she is, imperfections and all? Or will she continue to strive and strive to better herself to the point of exhaustion? Or, arguably worse, to the point of not recognizing herself any longer?

Come to that—most of us work to better ourselves all the time. We try to eat right. We build businesses. We work and work and have Pinterest attacks on our homes and Instagram perfect photos of our food and our pets.

But when do we say, “You know what? I’m going to be okay with the extra fifteen pounds I can’t seem to work off. I’m going to be okay knowing that my bathroom is disgusting, and my fridge has a weird thing in the back that used to be a casserole but I’m too lazy to throw it away.”

When it comes to being ourselves versus striving for more, where do we draw the line?

Hopefully, Ani found it. Pick up Luckiest Girl Alive here.

S.M. Peterson