Before I begin, there will be spoilers in this post as I’m discussing a broader concept within a genre as opposed to writing a book review. Reader beware.
Hear me out.
I appreciate Gillian Flynn’s writing style and dark, complicated female characters. Yes, the twist in Gone Girl was fun. The movie was a fantastic adaptation by Flynn; she expunged the unnecessary to maintain the tone and mystery. (I point you in the direction of Sharp Objects and Dark Places which I believe are stronger novels due to their terseness.)
I understand the publishing industry wants to use Gone Girl’s success as a jumping off point for the books they market and referencing the title or author is a shorthand for Lookie here – if you liked that, you’ll LOVE this!
But not every subsequent book about a woman who is complicated and kind of dark in which a mystery unfolds is another Gone Girl. And that is a disservice to the authors.
I recently read The Good Girl by Mary Kubica and Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll because I had heard good things about them – thriller/mystery, good pacing, strong characterization. It wasn’t until I bought the books that I saw the quotes on their covers with references to either Gone Girl or Gillian Flynn.
Are there similarities? Sure.
The Good Girl has multiple points of view, a missing woman and a twist (although at the very end).
Luckiest Girl Alive has a strong first person female protagonist who is manipulative and intelligent and broken.
There are also many distinct characteristics about each book that make them excellent reads in their own right.
The Good Girl has three points of view – the missing woman’s mother Eve, the lead detective Gabe Hoffman and the kidnapper Colin. Each chapter is a different point of view and delineated as Before or After (as in, before Mia is found and after she is found). The differences between the voices get stronger as the book progresses, with the kidnapper’s chapters being particularly engaging as he is the one with Mia. Eve struggles with her maternal abilities and choices. Colin struggles with his changing feelings. Detective Hoffman struggles with his emotional attachment to the case and those involved.
The questions raised – Was I a good mother? Can I be a good mother now? Am I a good person? Can I become a good person? – are big and universal and woven throughout the plot without becoming heavy handed.
Sadly, because of the reference to Gone Girl, the twist at the end was not a surprise. It might have been if the cover hadn’t screamed about the similarity or maybe I still would have guessed it due to the option Gone Girl put on the table about one’s involvement in schemes. Guessing the twist didn’t ruin it for me because the character struggles were engaging.
Luckiest Girl Alive has a charismatic voice that leaps from the page. I’m not saying I liked Ani FaNelli but I had to keep listening to her. After having achieved all her life goals – great career, perfect fiancé, wealth – Ani’s past pushes into her life. Over the course of flashbacks, we learn about a group rape when she was in high school. We also learn Ani is participating in a documentary about ‘that time’. Thanks to the POV and careful doling out of information, it is ultimately revealed that the documentary is about an even worse incident that does tie to the rape thanks to those involved. She wants to set the record straight about her role that fateful day at the high school.
What is most fascinating about Ani is that even as she falsely accepts apologies in order to get good film, she does change by the end of the book. There’s no way to know if the change is permanent but her recognition that her life is not heading in the direction she wants, and the action taken to make changes, is an interesting ending.
I’d recommend both these books as excellent thrillers with complicated characters who will keep you engaged and wanting to know what happens next.
Are they like Gone Girl? Kinda.
Does it matter? No.