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Luckiest Girl Alive Review: A No-Longer Novel Idea

The trailer for the new Netflix movie Luckiest Girl Alive caught my attention. Mila Kunis is a favorite of mine, and a suspenseful drama is usually up my alley, so I did what I always do and picked up the book first. Better to start on the page, paint my own mental picture, and go from there.

Jessica Knoll published the book in 2015, which doesn’t seem so long ago in theory, but was an eternity ago from a news perspective. Because her book, which should come with trigger warnings on all kinds of topics, must have felt cutting edge and evocative at the time. Alas, in today’s reality, the book almost felt contrived.

Gun violence in schools has become such a normal part of our everyday lives that the novelization of it didn’t have the same bite to it. Instead of feeling the rush of emotions that comes with such a violent and gripping story, my well-honed numbness settled in. It isn’t that I don’t care; quite the opposite. It’s that I get enough reading about terrible violence in schools without having to turn to it for entertainment and suspense.

The book is well-written. The protagonist is complex and biting, a strange combination of pitiable and ruthless. Knoll shines in her ability to manipulate how you feel about certain characters, to employ empathy before showing something ugly, to help focus the reader into thinking about the world in the same way that Ani does, even while judging her for it. But I couldn’t help but feel stuck with the settings. It isn’t that we’ve moved on from this perspective in our everyday lives. It’s that we haven’t moved on at all. In fact, it feels like we’ve learned exactly nothing about how to live in a world where gun violence is an expected, normal part of life. And that wasn’t fun to experience.

I haven’t watched the movie yet, even though that’s where I started all this. Maybe I’ll get to it someday. But at the moment, no amount of talent, whether it be Knoll’s or Kunis’, makes this feel like a good use of time.


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