Book Review: The Favorite Sister

THE FAVORITE SISTER | Jessica Knoll
05.15.2018 | Simon & Schuster
Rating: 3/5 stars

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Goal Diggers is a reality TV show about five ultra successful women living in New York. While the show is based on the premise of highlighting how these women were able to accomplish so much in their young lives, the producers know that the audience is there for the drama. When each woman is pushed to the brink of distrust and revenge, the results are bound to end with murder.

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Welcome to reality TV, where duplicity is not just encouraged, but a survival skill.

The cast is made up of:

Fan favorite, Brett, who is decked out in tattoos and running a highly successful spin studio whose mission is to help African girls avoid rape by donating proceeds towards buying them electric bikes. She is also portrayed as a beacon for the LGBTQ community and this season will be highlighting her engagement to her girlfriend.

Kelly, Brett’s older sister and single mom to soon-to-be teenager, Layla, is quickly seen as mooching off of her sister’s fame. No woman on the show has ever been a mother before and the other women are scorned when they start to think Layla is could steal their screen time.

Stephanie, highlighted for being the first black cast member, works as a successful author who is about to release a tell-all memoir exposing her rough upbringing and her struggles through domestic abuse. Brett was once her best friend, but this season is focusing on their current rift, of which the cause has yet to be fully revealed.

Lauren, the once successful dating app creator has taken a nosedive into alcoholism. She’s bound to be this season’s comeback queen.

And Jen, the all-natural, organic, hippie who made her money selling women on her vegan food line as a way of being healthy and skinny. The persona she has built neatly tucks away her true self, but this season is all about revelations and her truth isn’t what it seems.

Just how far will producers push the limits this season?

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The real version and the TV version. Already, in my mind, the TV version is threatening to replace the one that happened. That’s how it goes with the show too, you say something enough time and it buries the real. It doesn’t erase it entirely, but it makes it very, very faint, like in the movies when the bad guy takes down a message on a pad of paper, and the good guy comes and shades the page with a pencil to reveal the time and location that the bomb will detonate. An impression of the truth. That’s what you’re left with.

THE FAVORITE SISTER directly transports the reader on set of the reality TV show Goal Diggers through the perspectives of Brett, Kelly, and Stephanie. Immediately you know that someone isn’t making it until the end of the season and you know the who, but not the how or why. Knolls backs up the book to pre-production and walks the reader through the murder and the after effects. While this process is intriguing in it’s revelation and details about the women of the show, it does start to feel slow and falls too much in the minutiae that you lose focus on the fact that this is all building towards a murder at some point. I think the premise was a bit lost on me since I’m not a reality TV fan, but I could see it working perfectly for those who are. I wouldn’t categorize this one as a thriller or necessarily a mystery, but I would say it qualifies as women’s fiction. I love that Knolls has so many sections where she focuses on the way society views women, their success, and how we then sell that through reality TV. I would recommend this one to fans of reality TV and a slower read. For those looking for something more fast-paced, I would say to pick up Knolls’ first novel, LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE.

And guess what? It’s okay that we do not get along. It is a dangerous thing to conflate feminism with liking all women. It limits women to being one thing, likeable, when feminism is about allowing women to be all shades of all things, even if that thing is a snake oil saleswoman.

A special thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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