The Favorite Sister
by Jessica Knoll
Genre: Mystery / Suspense
Length: 375 pages
Published: May 15th, 2018
Blurb via GoodReads:
When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…
Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her cast mates.
Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.
Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.
Lauren, the start-up world’s darling whose drinking has gotten out of control, is Goal Diggers’ recovery narrative—everyone loves a comeback story.
And Jen, made rich and famous through her cultishly popular vegan food line plays a holistic hippie for the cameras, but is perhaps the most ruthless of them all when the cameras are off.
The Favorite Sister hinges on the scandal and secrecy of reality TV stars, but also, weirdly, on feminism. Specifically, it hinges on shallow, cheapened, commercialized feminism, used as a fish lure to draw in viewers under the guise of “supporting women.” I thought Knoll’s exploration of the exploitation of feminism was, in a lot of ways, more interesting than the actual story.
The show’s producer is the most obvious example of this; she has promoted her show revolving around successful women as something positive and uplifting. Meanwhile, she’s peddling the exact same reality TV show cat fights that virtually every female-centric reality show provides. I won’t go into details, as I’d like to keep this review spoiler-free, but the producer is far from the only character using social justice issues for shameless self promotion.
I’m showing young girls that you don’t have to be beautiful to matter. The thinking that women of all shapes and sizes can be beautiful is still hugely problematic, because it is predicated on the idea that the most important thing a woman has to offer the world is her appearance.
The tone matches the theme of the novel; the chapters are like confessionals of some of the show participants, and give the overall impression of a girlfriend dishing gossip directly to the reader over a glass of wine. In audio book format, which is how I read this book, this worked fairly well. In a print book, I can imagine it might be grating.
The story itself was nothing earth-shattering. It was entertaining, as I believe was intended, in the same way reality TV is entertaining. You’re meant to soak up the drama as these women tear each other apart, reveling in the scandal… and feeling just a bit ashamed about enjoying it.
Jessica Knoll is also the author of Luckiest Girl Alive, released May 12, 2015.
Ani, has good looks, a glamorous New York City job, and a wealthy fiance, everything she could possibly need. However, her perfectly put together life is thinly concealing Ani’s unresolved trauma from her teenage years, which is brought bubbling to the surface by her participation in a documentary about the event. Can Ani maintain her carefully constructed facade?