I pick my books the way I browse the grocery aisle. I scan, double back and pick things that call my name. I also scan the ingredient list carefully looking for markers that signal ‘that’s not for you’. I also hate to go shopping so I make sure I load my cart up when I do head out. Why am I talking groceries in lieu of books? Well! every once in a while I trawl through best seller lists and check out the library’s recommended reads. I read reviews on amazon and then look for the books on my library’s online portal. More often than not, the books have a waitlist and I end up putting the maximum number of books on hold possible.
Jessica Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive was one such book. I saw the comparisons to Gone Girl and I read the reviews that screamed that the book did not match up. Yet, I felt compelled and I am glad I did. The book starts out innocently enough. I was starting to tire of the name dropping and the obsession with brands when it hooked me. It was 11:30 PM on a weeknight. One more chapter I plead to myself. It was 2:30 AM when I was done leaning against the vanity of my daughter’s bathroom, the over head fixture providing mellow lighting. When I closed my eyes, the tiny screen of the phone was outlined against my eyelids.
The story traces a suburban teenager through a horrific school experience and how she makes it through the cutthroat world of online publishing. On first read, the story is gripping enough for you to keep turning the pages. But it is two days after that I keep going back to the plot. The things left unsaid. I wonder about the back stories. I wonder why her parents were distant. I wonder why her mother pushed her into a school that was clearly outside their league. I love that there are hints of stories in the background and the author lets us imagine the underlying tensions without spelling them out.
The protagonist’s actions seem forceful and out of character till you are near the end and then they seem to make sense with startling clarity. This was a character I could not relate to. Her background, her upbringing, her reactions to what happened to her were all so far away from the life I inhabit, yet I was invested. Invested enough to plough through the book overnight. It helped that the book was set practically in my backyard. I have traveled in the trains she rides. I have passed the landmarks she mentions several times. It perhaps helped bring the book to life and reminded me that the setting is a powerful a character in a book as the characters themselves.
In the mood for some great writing and an uncharacteristic plotline? Pick Luckiest Girl Alive. You will not be disappointed.