Review of Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

Look out Amy Dunne and Rachel Watson, there’s a new crazy bitch in town and her name Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knollis Ani (pronounced, Ahnee, not Annie, thank you very much). There seems to be no shortage of broken, psycho and dysfunctional twenty-something crazies clawing to make their fictional debut. Everyone and their magazine editor is riding the wave to instant success. Heck, even Reese Witherspoon couldn’t wait to get her hands on the movie rights to Luckiest Girl Alive. Says Ms. Witherspoon, Luckiest Girl Alive is the kind of book that grabs you and doesn’t let go. The hero of the book is a wily, intelligent, complex narrator. This character and the thrilling narrative that she drives are exactly the kind of story our company, Pacific Standard Films, wants to produce.” I think she means this book has quickly become controversial and she stands to make a boatload of money.

Luckiest Girl Alive is being touted as having “…the cunning and verve of Gillian Flynn but with an intensity all its own,”. Unfortunately, this is just one more empty promise made by one more publishing company looking to cash in on Ms. Flynn’s success. No. Luckiest Girl Alive most certainly does not come anywhere near the literary level of a Gillian Flynn novel.

The book hops back and forth between young, angst-ridden fourteen year old TiFAni FaNelli and woman of the world and first class bitch Ani. But I honestly don’t think flashback hopping was a huge issue. The problem I had with this book was, regardless of whether she was a chubby, misunderstood teen or an anorexic bitchy twenty-something, the main character was woefully one-dimensional, superficial and painfully weak. At no time was I able to connect with her enough to give a darn about what happened to her. The writing in general was flat and boring. It wasn’t terrible, but it was far from great.

Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne was so good at being twisted that you just loved to hate her. Her character was so complex and unpredictable and that’s what made Gone Girl so great. Ani’s snarky and downright mean-just-for-the-sake-of-being-mean demeanor was overdone and mind numbingly repetitive. Reading time and again about her massive breasts and the overabundance of McMansions (this term was used FIVE TIMES throughout the book) got on my last nerve. I considered giving up reading several times, but pushed through it because I believed all the hype that promised readers a “riveting story of retribution and redemption.” I kept thinking, maybe the ending will be great. Ugh.

Luckiest Girl Alive deals with more than its fair share of painful and violent events, carefully ripped from the headlines. Unfortunately, this is what makes it read more like an After School Special marathon where every possible social issue is crammed into one book. The ending was so anticlimactic that I had to go back and check twice to make sure I didn’t miss something.

I have the feeling this will be one of those books readers will either love or hate. Publishers really, really need to stop labeling every darn book that centers around a wounded female the next “Gone Girl”. Gillian Flynn fans will continue to be angry over false comparisons, which means they’ll continue to leave negative reviews. It’s not fair to readers and it’s definitely not fair to authors.

3 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton

Review of Peoplescapes by Nancy Calef

When I first received my copy of Peoplescapes, My Story From Purging To Painting,  I was struck by the expressive, colorful painting on the cover. Nancy Calef certainly chose one of her more provocative works to represent what was inside the pages of this charming and heartfelt book.Peoplescapes by Nancy Calef

I was immediately drawn into the author’s tales of her atypical and often dysfunctional childhood. The modeling industry is a world where the sexualization of women and girls is still very much prevalent, and it was somewhat shocking to find out that Nancy’s own mother was the one pushing her in this direction. Far from a typical stage mother (or maybe not that far?), Esther was often eccentric and a bit odd.

As often is the case with girls who are made to rely more on looks rather than any other asset, Nancy soon fell into the world of anorexia and bulimia. Yet, rather than bemoan her unconventional upbringing, battle with eating disorders and life with stage mom, Esther, Nancy found a more productive outlet in her artwork. Peoplescapes also includes some of Ms. Calef’s  personal travel stories (depicted with additional artwork), which I found quite interesting as well.

I enjoyed Peoplescapes. I absolutely love Nancy’s artwork. She’s clearly a talented contemporary artist. While I would like to have read more about her battle with eating disorders, that certainly didn’t take away from the book. Nancy Calef is proof that we can all overcome life’s difficulties and turn negative experiences into positive creativity. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about triumph over adversity, and finding ones’ own creative path and purpose.

5 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton