Critics think they are doing Jessica Knoll a favor by comparing her debut novel to Gillian Flynn's books. They are not. I, as a reader, was led to expect an entirely different book than I got.
Does it tease out the story with plenty of foreboding and dangling clues and teasers? You bet.
Are there some surprises in there? A few.
In fact, it's one of the best-written books I've read in a while. However, the hype around the book influenced my reading of it, which wasn't fair to me, Knoll or poor TifAni.
As the book opens, Ani FaNelli is living the life of her dreams. She works not at just any magazine, but The Women's Magazine. She isn't just engaged, but engaged to a blue-blood, Old Money bachelor with an obscenely wealthy family. Her address, her clothes, even her friends are Just Right — rich in all the right ways, and all because of fiancé Luke. She is starving herself into a size six wedding dress, drunk half the time, wicked all the time. The veneer, however, is starting to peel, which her fiancé notices.
Ani's past unfolds alongside her present, and it's compelling. Her childhood was changed by a singular bad choice in middle school that propels her to Bradley, a posh private school in Pennsylvania. Readers meet TifAni, a desperate hormonal teen who will do anything to be popular and accepted by the blue bloods. Despite the central story’s surprisingly short fuse, the tale is well-paced and intriguing.
For 200-plus pages, Ani is a calculating, measured gold digger, a bizarre delight to read — until she nosedives in uncharacteristic missteps and unexpected displays of immaturity. I forgave that flaw in hopes of a big payoff, The Big Secret. In fact, I don’t think there was a Big Secret. There was, however, a logical and satisfying conclusion.
Long story short, abandon all expectation. Hide the dust jacket and ignore all adjectives. Approach this book as a debut novel with a well-told tale that provides an unraveling of a tightly-wound gold-digger whose fall is delicious and hearty.