Jessica Knoll

Luckiest Girl Alive

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Luckiest Girl Alive Summary

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Luckiest Girl Alive is a 2015 mystery novel, the debut work of American author Jessica Knoll. Focusing on a young woman that has attempted to reinvent herself following a series of horrific experiences in her teen years, the lead character, Ani Fanelli goes by several different names over the course of the book – TifAni, Tif, and Finny. The book is split into segments based on different time periods, with one chapter exploring the trauma of Ani’s high school years and the next exploring how it affects her in the present day. Exploring themes such as trauma, deception, and identity, Luckiest Girl Alive was critically acclaimed upon release and has been compared to smash hit mysteries Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Praised for its unflinching look at difficult topics including rape and abuse, it has been optioned by Lionsgate Studios, to be produced by Reese Witherspoon’s production company.

As Luckiest Girl Alive begins, Ani Fanelli has carefully crafted a new persona, TifAni, to participate in a documentary about her high school. As she reflects back on her traumatic high school years, she begins to realize the way she has tailored her life to help her survive and avoid the past traumas. As a new student at the wealthy Bradley School, Ani was desperate to be part of the popular crowd. She was infatuated with Dean, an older boy and was overjoyed when he invited her to a party. However, at the party, he and his friends Liam and Peyton got her drunk and proceeded to sexually assault her. Despite this trauma, she didn’t tell anyone and struggled to be accepted by Dean’s crowd. Word got out when the boys discussed their assault, and the principal eventually called Ani in to try to talk her into reporting the rape. Dean assumed that Ani chose to report on him, and he had her excommunicated from his circle of friends, casting her into social limbo. While being excluded from her old friends, Ani befriended another outcast, a smart but awkward boy named Arthur.

In the present day, Ani shares her current life with the documentary. She is engaged to a man named Luke Harrison, who is from a prominent, rich family. Secure in her relationship with Luke, Ani finally has the courage to talk about her experiences at Bradley. However, as the documentary proceeds, Ani begins to realize that the perfect life she thinks she’s building with Luke is not what it appears. When she finally gets the courage to share her trauma with Luke, he doesn’t believe her. He also doubts that the documentary is actually helping her and doesn’t support her efforts to find closure. Doubting her relationship, Ani seeks out two people from her old high school life. One is her old English teacher, who believed her about the rape even when she was still in high school, and the other is her close friend Neil. After talking to these people who were always there for her, Ani starts to realize that her relationship with Luke is not the solution to her problems and she needs to resolve her own problems before she can determine whether she and Luke will be happy together.

The actual subject of the documentary Ani has been asked to participate in is not revealed until the end. The Bradley School was the site of a terrible school shooting when Ani went there, and one of the shooters was Ani’s friend Arthur, who was killed along with six others including his fellow shooter. In the aftermath of the shooting, Ani was accused of being one of the shooters due to her friendship with Arthur. Dean, Ani’s rapist, alleged that Arthur handed her a gun and told her to kill Dean. This is the secret Ani has been trying to run for all this time, not wanting to be associated with these accusations. However, she is finally able to find closure in the documentary, as Dean finally admits that he made up the accusations. Ani is able to get Dean to admit in a taped confession that he raped her along with his friends, and after all these years she’s finally able to share her truth with the world. She ends her relationship with Luke and is ready to face the world on her own for the first time, as herself.

Luckiest Girl Alive is the first published work of Jessica Knoll, who has been a senior editor at Cosmopolitan, and the articles editor at SELF, a magazine focusing on women’s health and beauty. She grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was educated at The Shipley School, Hobart College, and William Smith College. She currently lives in New York City with her husband. Her personal experiences inspired Luckiest Girl Alive and she has recently gone public with her story to help raise awareness of sexual assault in high schools.