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Luckiest Girl Alive: Book Summary
Here And Now
TifAni FaNelli is cold and calculating hoping to never let the world really know the events of her past in Jessica Knoll's New York Times Bestseller Luckiest Girl Alive. As an adult, she reinvents herself as Ani, a sex writer at a women's magazine. She is stylish and admired by here peers, engaged to a man named Luke Harrison whom is handsome and well off.
Ani knows early on that she she really doesn't love Luke, but he fits her lifestyle and she is never going back to where she had come from. No one can really know the past that Ani hides.
Ani tries to to speak to Luke sometimes about what happened to her in the past, but he doesn't really seem to either believe her or take the events of Ani's past as seriously as a loving husband to be should.
Agreeing to come clean on a documentary detailing her past that she tried to hide, Ani not only finds the courage to speak out about the school place violence and series of violent rapes over the course of the school year that that stole her life and identity as TifAni.
Published in 2015, the words of Luckiest Girl Alive still ring true in the current media with "The Me Too" movement and school place violent that still plagues our world. Though fictional, what happened to Ani is the story of all those that had been affected by sexual assault and bullying.
There is an important need for books like Luckiest Girl Alive in the world of the Me Too Movement. Though fictional these are stories that need to continue to be told.
The New Girl At The Bradley School
TifAni is a recent transfer to The Bradley School after she is encouraged to leave her former Catholic Academy for being "the ringleader" in an situation when a few girls were caught using marijuana. Although Ani, swears that she was innocent, she sees here moving to The Bradley school as a step up as the prep school offered her a scholarship for her great grades and and stunning entrance essay about the death of her cat.
In the early pages of the novel, told as flashbacks by adult Ani, or talking about her adolescence with Luke, Ani comes off as a narrator that unreliable at best. At first you don't like her much as she craves having power over others and is cruel to a waitress at a restaurant as well as an intern for no real reason. Her "I don't really think I love Luke," seems that she is just using him as a vehicle to propel herself into the life that she thinks she should be leading.
We find out that while Ani's family wasn't exactly poor, they were struggling middle class in their leased car using maxed out credit cards to pay for household expenses. When she moved to Bradley, her mother tried to make a case to her father that she will be picked on for not having the best clothes and living in the rich part of town, actually having an hour commute to school. Her father doesn't give into these notions and when it comes true that Ani does become singled out in the early days, he is none the wiser.
Confusing with Ani's teenage narrative as she then still TifAni, or occasionally nicknamed Finny by one of her classmates, if Ani was actually part of the crowd that later turns on her or if the plan from the beginning was to go after the new girl. Ani is invited to come to a house party where no other girls were to know about, and to be expected after hours of drinking Ani is black out drunk and throughout the evening recalls waking up on at least three separate occasions with boys from the party having sex with her unconscious body.
Just as most victims of sexual assault though, Ani doesn't understand that its rape and just thinks that was was irresponsible as she did actually hope to have sex with one of the boys at the party, just not the ones that took advantage of her.
It quickly gets around school that Ani is a slut and that she let the boys do these things to her and the girls begin to pick on her as well slut shaming her, causing an eating disorder that carries into her adult years, and stealing a pair of her period stained gym shorts and tacking them to a wall.
A teacher learns of what is happening to TifAni, and asks her is she would like to speak to the nurse or go to a hospital but instead she goes to Planned Parenthood where the entire situation is misrepresented and is given the morning after pills and some condoms, but the nurse never reports the rape either.
Two adults have now failed Ani by not calling the police, which set up the next opportunity where Ani feels that some of the girls want to make up and invite her over, only to have one of the rapists go after her again, this time the assault avoided but Ani has a nasty bruise on her face from being punched when she pushed off her attacker.
Again the sexual assault goes unreported by anyone in the story.
Two adults have failed TifAni for failing to report the sexual assault as well as the rumors that other teens in the school were being attacked or bullied in such a way that caused a student named Ben attempt suicide. One of the young men that had raped Ani was actually rumored to have raped another girl in a different year of the school, but it was The Bradley School's lack of getting the proper help for their students that lead to its most unfortunate event.
Luckiest Girl Alive tells a harrowing tale to this point about the abuse suffered by TifAni and other students at The Bradley School. Adding to the confusing narrative of young Ani's story is if she was truly befriended by one of the other victims or being groomed as part of the final solution.
It was never really explained how Arthur was bullied, only he was a former friend of Dean, one of the young men that raped TifAni at the beginning of the school year. Arthur explains that he had a falling out with Dean and after there were rumors that circulated about Arthur's sexuality.
Where no one ever comes out and says for sure if Arthur was gay or not, another tormented soul at the school, Ben was pinned to be Arthur's lover and the mean girls of the school say that they saw the boys performing a sex act. Arthur swears it wasn't true and that Ben wasn't actually gay but coupled with the rumors at school and a mean stunt where some of the boys had held down Ben and defecated on him, Ben had finally had enough and attempted to take his own life.
Though Ani never meets Ben during her school year, Arthur tells her the tale and she feels that she knows him from sharing the humiliation at the hands of their cruel classmates. Arthur and Ani start using their hatred for their classmates by writing immature things in the yearbook about their classmates and Arthur even jokes once about taking a gun to school and settling the score, pointing it at Ani as a joke and letting her see it wasn't even loaded.
Months later when Ben has returned to school after a short stay in psychiatric care after his suicide attempt, Ani only explains hearing the shooting and trying to help those around her even though they were the same friends that had made her life a living hell. When Ani finds out that Arthur is also in on the shooting and had been planning this for months with Ben, she puts herself in the way trying to keep Arthur from shooting Dean who has been the one that had hurt Ani the most through the rapes that school year. Ani feels sorry for Dean in that moment and knocks the gun away and actually grabs for a knife and fatally wounds her friend Arthur to end the killing spree.
Ani doesn't realize until later that her fingerprints are on the gun and the old notes she shared with Arthur come into question later and she is possibly the third person involved in this school shooting. Dean's false memory also makes it sound like Ani was trying to have him killed as well.
Strangely the book then skips back to present day and doesn't really explain more than the funerals and the coping so there is a confusing portion of how Ani was actually dismissed from having active involvement with the shooting. Years are skipped ahead and TifAni FaNelli that was known for being a survivor of the terrible events at the prep school is now a magazine writer, a bit of a mean woman styled after those that tormented her in high school, and finally ready to meet those that were still affected by the school shooting.
She is reunited with Dean and he admits that it was rape and that he was sorry. Her relationship with Luke fails as he lacks the empathy to understand what dark places she has been to with the cycle of abuse and pain and Ani in the end is better off for it.
I don't feel though that she ever got herself to a better place by the end of the novel though and I think that is OK as any survivor will tell you this is a lifelong process to work out the demons of such events and you just have to find a way to keep living everyday.
Luckiest Girl Alive is a somber read with huge impact but I wish that it had just a little more bridging what happened between the flashback and the investigation of Ani being involved with the shooting to how she went on to finish college, have her writing career and being almost married in her twenties.
If Ani had to reinvent herself to go the remainder of those years without people realizing she was the TifAni FaNelli of that terrible day at The Bradley School, I would have liked to see a little more about how she hid that information in college and the early adult years when the news was still fresh.
Overall this is a great book with a current event topic that should be read by everyone.