This girl is not on a train, nor is she gone. She is the Luckiest Girl Alive
After reading Girl on the Train and lamenting the death of the domestic noir genre, I immediately started reading another one.
The Luckiest Girl Alive instantly grabs the reader’s attention with the striking cover, and within the first two pages it attacks with a bite that Girl on the Train simply didn’t have.
We are presented with Ani, the main character, choosing her wedding list, and she is contemplating taking the knife she is looking at and sliding it into her husband-to-be’s gut.
Immediately, there is a sense of tension, of danger, that Girl on the Train lacked. A few pages later and it becomes clear that Ani is not a particularly likeable character, but she doesn’t come across as unreliable.
The book alternates between Ani in her late twenties and Ani – then known as TifAni in her – as a fourteen year old and transferring to a new school.
It is clear that something horrific has happened at the school, specifically something horrific happened to Ani at the school, but it is not immediately revealed. What is clear from the beginning is that whatever it was had a big impact on Ani.
Fourteen year old TifAni is not the same as grown-up Ani, and it is finding out exactly what changed her that keeps the pages turning in this thriller.
Ani isn’t a particularly nice person and it is hard to side with her, or relate to her inner conflict about whether to marry Luke or not – I found myself not caring whether she did or not, but the ending is the ending that Ani deserves, and does give some hope that she might become a likeable character.
That is what this genre is seemingly all about – if the benchmark is Gone Girl, a novel which presents us with a host of unlikeable characters, that we are fascinated by, then the writer above all else needs to concentrate on that.
Perhaps that was the problem with Girl on a Train. While I didn’t particularly like the main character, I did pity her, and she was very much the victim. Ani, on the other hand actually IS a victim, but there’s not much time for pitying her.
I still think the domestic noir genre has peaked and will settle down into just another strand of thrillers. Before that happens, though, we will get a whole avalanche of Luckiest Gone Girl Alive on a Train type books. Luckiest Girl Alive deserves to stand out as one of the better examples.