Ani FaNelli, 28, is a slick editor at The Women’s Magazine, pitching fluffy Cosmo-esque sex pieces. Ani is engaged to Luke Harrison, a wealthy man from an old money family. She is a successful young woman with everything going for her, but remains unsatisfied. A secret has haunted her since she was 14 years old. After getting caught smoking pot, young TifAni transferred from public school to Bradley, an illustrious private school. Eager to make friends with the popular crowd, she adapts to the style of the Queen Bees, Hilary and Olivia, and bonds with the new boy Liam and the popular boys including Dean and Peyton. She wants nothing more than to cement her place in the upper crust at Bradley, despite striking up a friendship with gay loner Arthur. TifAni’s burning need for acceptance leads her into danger when the popular boys sexually assault her. Only her English teacher, Mr. Larson, ever tells her it’s not her fault. TifAni keeps the assault a secret because she still wants to maintain her popularity, but bullying from other students casts her down from her pedestal. She spends more and more time with Arthur, thankful for his willingness to criticize the kids who have hurt her.
A documentary filmmaker has contacted Ani to appear in his film about a different scandal that occurred at her high school, and she feels as if she’s being given a chance to clear her name and flaunt her success. Despite having curated the perfect life, Ani still isn’t happy. She can’t shake the feeling Luke doesn’t consider her assault a rape and sees her trauma as annoying baggage. She’s unhappy writing trite, idiotic sex columns for a living. She can’t stand her future in-laws and their racist, homophobic remarks. When she reconnects with Mr. Larson, the only person who has ever seemed to really have her best interests at heart, she’s forced to re-examine her plans. Ani’s also holding on to a dark secret that’s begging to be exposed.
At first, I really couldn’t stand Ani. She’s judgmental, hypocritical, and kind of insufferable. She always seems to be picking fights, or picking on others. She’s manipulative and knows how to work people for her gain. After reaching the end of the book, it makes sense that Ani has a need to be close to people while simultaneously pushing them away. It makes sense that she puts the image of a perfect life ahead of real happiness. The layers of trauma she endured at the age of 14 and the lack of support from the adults in her life left her with a skewed view of how to live. The story follows her decision to either continue on the trajectory towards a veneer of perfection, or finally break free from the constraints she’s put on herself at the behest of societal propriety and start living a more honest life.
Luckiest Girl Alive explores the social politics of rape, sexual assault, and bullying in a graphic and realistic way. It perfectly captures how peer pressure convinces young people to act a certain way. Boys should pick on gay kids and rape girls to prove how manly they are. Girls should do whatever guys want to show how chill they are. If a girl sleeps with a boy who isn’t her boyfriend, she’s a slut, even if she was raped. If you want to maintain a comfortable status in high school, you better subscribe to these restrictions. What Luckiest Girl Alive does with these themes is powerful, as these injustices wind up wreaking havoc on the characters. It’s a book worth reading, even though it may make you uncomfortable.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Swedish fish
2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Categories: The First Book You See in a Bookstore