Overview: With the exception of a gauche last name, Manhattanite Ani FaNelli seemingly has it all. She has snagged a sweet writing gig at a famous women’s magazine, she’s got a rockin’ body (thanks to anorexia), and her handsome fiancé will give her the Waspy last name she desires, as well as a plush spending account. Beneath this surface good fortune, however, Ani harbours a secret, one so ugly it just might explain (perhaps even excuse?) her obsession with perfection, her combination of self-loathing and adoration, and her searingly bitter (and hidden) attitude toward just about every person in her life -fiancé included (heck, the novel opens with Ani simultaneously registry shopping and fantasizing about stabbing her betrothed with a good Williams Sonoma knife). Narrated by a decidedly unlikeable narrator, the story unfolds – err, unravels – in ways that are alternately fascinating and disturbing, and always unexpected. The reader will find herself absorbed in the twists and turns Ani’s life has taken, empathizing with Ani even as she is disgusted by her.
Novel type: anthropological study of New York WASPs -cum-thriller
My rating: 7.5/10
My review:I’m not gonna lie: I couldn’t put this book down. For the two nice summery days we’ve had this June (damn you, Wisco), I spent the afternoon lounging in my backyard, munching frozen grapes, and whipping through this juicy summer read. While I found myself turned off by Ani in the same way that I was the narrators of Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, I was also taken by her charismatic sarcasm and acutely observant nature. I found the plot twists interesting, and Ani’s detailed reflection on her prep school years (circa 2003) – her school’s fancy foyer, her clunky Steve Madden clogs and Victoria’s secret built-in-bra tank tops, the Abercrombie and Fitch cargo pants craze – brought back memories, some painful, from my own teenage years. While this book offers nothing earth shattering (and I’d recommend Girl on a Train first), it’s a great summer read. Pull out your beach chair, don your straw hat, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade and pass the afternoon with this book in hand.
Read if you like:
books with preps gone bad: Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld ; The Secret History by Donna Tarrt; The Goldfinch by Donna Tarrt; Special Topics in Calamity Physics* by Marisha Pessl; The Headmaster’s Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene
*if you’re going to read one or the other, read Special Topics; it’s unambiguously great.