The Novel and Story Behind “The Luckiest Girl in the World”
Ani FaNelli (Mila Kunis) sits in front of the stained glass windows of her old high school, the prestigious and private Bradley School in suburban Philadelphia. She’s on edge, chatting with a freelance documentary filmmaker about a school shooting that took place here two decades ago and the accusations surrounding it.
“You are lucky to have a mother who found you a lawyer and supported you,” the filmmaker told him. “Not everyone has that.”
Ani is silent, recalling a memory of her mother not believing her version of events. “You disgust me,” hissed his mother. “You are not the daughter I raised.”
She returns to the present. “Hmm. Yes. Very lucky,” she replies, barely containing her pain and anger. “Luckiest girl in the world here.”
The luckiest girl in the world, an adaptation of a 2015 book of the same name, hits Netflix on Friday. Its ending has changed, but the powerful core of the story persists.
What you need to know about the novel
Crime novel by author Jessica Knoll The luckiest girl in the world was a smash hit upon its release in 2015, spending four months on bestseller lists and selling over 450,000 copies. Written in the first person, the book itself is mostly fictional. It tells the story of Ani Fanelli, formerly known as TifAni, and her rise and reinvention as a phoenix from the traumatic ashes of her teenage years.
“The knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss Ani as vain and vapid,” Knoll told The New York Times. “But when we reward women for showing all their humanity, the warts and all, when we give weight to their struggles, we allow the possibility that their flaws and their stories can love us, inspire us and move us, just like those of men.”
The novel was less concerned with its protagonist’s sympathy than with its truth, drawing comparisons to Gillian Flynn. missing girl, released three years earlier. As Gone Girl, the luckiest girl in the world dissects crime, gender and class, reassembling femininity through a contemporary lens.
“A woman’s perfect, carefully orchestrated life slowly cracks to reveal a dark underbelly in Knoll’s bestselling debut novel,” read the review in Publishers Weekly. “What sets this novel apart is the author’s ability to ensnare the reader from the first page, setting the tone for a thoroughly engrossing read as the secrets are revealed.”
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Who is Jessica Knoll?
Although the book was fiction, it was also partially based on author Jessica Knoll’s personal experience, a fact that the public didn’t learn about until a year after the book’s release.
In view of the filming of The luckiest girl in the world, Ani is consecutively raped by three separate classmates, which the three boys deny. (Later, her mother rejects this reality as well, making it nearly impossible for Ani to report the crimes.)
In March 2016, Knoll wrote an essay for the online feminist newsletter Lenny Letter, titled What I knowthat Ani’s gang rape was based on her own traumatic experience when she was 15.
“My anger is carbon monoxide, tied to pain, humiliation and hurt, rendering them helpless,” Knoll wrote. “You would never know when you met me how angry I am. Like Ani, sometimes I feel like a mechanical doll. Turn my key and I’ll tell you what you want to hear. I I will smile at the right time. My anger is odorless, colorless and tasteless. It is completely toxic.
In the film, Ani recites these lines almost verbatim, spitting them out as she finally confronts one of her rapists. “Do you know the difference between me and someone like you, Dean?” she asks, seething. “My anger is like carbon monoxide. It’s odorless, tasteless, colorless, and completely poisonous. But only to me. You see, I don’t vent my anger on anyone but myself.
After the trial, readers flooded social media with messages of support and thanks to Knoll for coming forward. Although the author did not directly experience a school shooting, the damning details of the rape scene stemmed from personal pain.
“I was so conditioned not to talk about it that it didn’t even occur to me to be there,” Knoll told The New York Times. “I want people to feel they can talk about it, that they don’t have to be ashamed of it.”
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how the end The luckiest girl in the world part of the novel
The release to share her story encouraged Knoll to adapt the novel into film herself, which isn’t always typical for writers when their work is optional. But the film deviates from the novel in one key place: the ending.
After Ani finally leaves her fiancé – a symbol of the posh upper crust she’s worked so hard to assimilate into – she continues to work for the New York Times Magazine, publishes a Lenny-like essay Letter (although this time in the magazine), and riding the subway, a mode of transportation that once gave him PTSD.
On the subway, she is enveloped by the voices of women’s comments on her essay, seemingly coming from the ordinary people around her on the train. “I was also assaulted by a guy I thought was a friend,” said one of them. “Hearing your story gives me hope that one day I can tell my own too.”
The 28-year-old brings her account to hello america, where she is interviewed about the trial. “I hear from women who have never shared their stories, women who have carried this horrible thing with them alone for 38 years, and I just hope that no one ever has to do it again,” Ani says. “I hope people feel compelled to share their stories, to talk about what happened to them, and to know that you have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“It’s very meta that it’s a fictional story, a fictional character, but there are even more elements inspired by my real life,” Knoll told Entertainment Weekly of the changes made to the adaptation. “I love that we looked at the year after I wrote the book and wrote my essay and the reaction to it and went on a TV show to talk about it.”
While Knoll changed the film’s ending to make it more true to her own life, she was helped to do so by Mila Kunis, who plays Ani with haunting tenacity. The actor and the author worked together to shape the ending into something common.
“I know the ending is polarizing, which is what makes this movie so interesting. It’s not a cookie cutter, and not everyone experiences this movie the same way,” Kunis told Entertainment Weekly.” A lot of people didn’t like it, but I fought so hard to keep him. I’m really glad we won this fight because it’s so powerful.”
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