The Favorite Sister follows women on a reality show.
Much in the style of the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo, it features women who are rich, beautiful, and catty. They each fill their stereotypical roles. The health fanatic, the lesbian, the African American, the free spirit, the mom.
Players are expected to stay in their own lanes, not straying too far from the role they’ve been cast to play. Producers text them leading tidbits about each other, reminding them to carry through their squabbles on camera for heightened drama.
We learn early on that one of the cast member, Brett, is dead. While the mystery unravels through the course of the book, we discover how she died through the women’s differing viewpoints. This is a clever trick from Knoll, Just when we think we have someone sized up as a horrible kook, the next chapter switches to her point of view and we see how badly she’s been misunderstood.
Knoll did an interview recently in which she lamented the phenomenon of women simultaneously lifting up and undercutting one another. One person’s success does not belittle another’s. We can all be fabulous at the same time.
Except, not really.
It’s as if there’s a limited space for success, both in life and on the fictional show. When Brett becomes the show’s breakout star, it undermines the work the others are doing. They want the limelight, the adulation.
Knoll is the author of 2015’s smash hit, Luckiest Girl Alive. A common refrain I’ve heard from readers of Luckiest Girl Alive: the book wasn’t very likable because the main character was so supremely unlikable.
It’s understandable. Even at the end, there’s still not a lot to like about Ani Fanelli. And readers of The Favorite Sister will feel much the same. All five of the main women are unlikable.
But isn’t it so much fun? Multilayered and dynamic, these aren’t the pleasing, make-nice people we’re used to. If all we had were flawless heroes and 100% evil protagonists, wouldn’t stories become boring?
I enjoyed Luckiest Girl Alive and The Favorite Sister alike, where women get to be messy and complicated and conflicted and flawed and so damn fascinating to spend time with.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Music credit: http://bensound.com
- The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
- Published May 2018
- Simon & Schuster