Book Club Reviews: Luckiest Girl Alive

Different books are appropriate in different situations. Some books are best discussed in a classroom, some books are best read with a drink and an ocean view, some books are best enjoyed curled up on your own couch. Particular books should be assessed differently based on the purpose for which they are read. The purpose of Papers and Airplanes Book Club Reviews is to determine a book’s suitability for book clubs. Today’s focus is Luckiest Girl Alive.

Luckiest Girl Alive is a 2015 bestselling novel by Jessica Knoll. The book, billed as a mystery novel, tells the story of TifAni FaNelli, a 28-year-old trying to reinvent herself to escape her traumatic past. The summer read is an entertaining page turner that will soon be a movie produced by Reese Witherspoon. (Book club rule of thumb: if Reese Witherspoon read it, your book club should probably give it a try.)

This book does plenty of things well. The story is engrossing and keeps you turning those pages. Most of the reviews inside the cover describe it as a combination of Gone Girl and Mean Girls, which seems fair enough. In the novel, TifAni, or Ani, tries to invent a perfect new life in New York City to close the book on her disturbing teenage years at a private school in Pennsylvania. The story is told in first person by TifAni, who provides a strong narrative voice for an unlikable narrator. She works as a magazine editor, has a closet full of designer clothes, a wealthy fiance, and a cruel stream of consciousness — and all she seems to care about is what other people think of her. The narration successfully brings the reader inside TifAni’s consciousness, making it an engrossing read. TifAni is callous and materialistic at best, and a dislike for her helps keeps the reader curious about what happened in her past and if she can be liberated in her present.

Additionally, the book’s various topics and themes help generate plenty of discussion. Half of the novel takes place during TifAni’s high school years, which brings up a variety of topics such as bullying and teacher-student relationships. Even if your book club doesn’t enjoy the story, you’ll find plenty to talk about based on the ideas it presents.

However, the book occasionally employs its devices a bit heavy handedly. For instance, there is an abundance of foreshadowing regarding the big event from TifAni’s past from which she is trying to escape. It’s hinted at so often that the reader may grow a bit annoyed. You may have to hold yourself back from shouting at the book: “Just tell me already!” Perhaps this is the novel’s way of successfully keeping the reader hooked, but it felt a bit excessive. Further, while the strong narrative voice does help pull the reader in, some might find TifAni too unlikable. When this is the case, the reader tends to become disengaged, not caring quite enough about the protagonist’s tale.

Overall, though, Luckiest Girl Alive will keep your book club talking. Like many book club friendly books, it even comes with a set of discussion questions at the end (and plenty more online). At any rate, between its plot, themes, characters, and prose, it’s a novel worth the read with plenty for your book club to delve into and discuss.

Papers and Airplanes Book Club Reviews are based on the readings and musings of the writer’s book club meetings in Los Angeles.

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