Simon & Schuster: 5/15/18
eBook review copy; 384 pages
The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll is a recommended thriller for fans of reality based TV. We know from the start that season 4 of Goal Diggers, the New York City based reality series that showcases entrepreneurial woman, results in murder. The question is why was Brett Courtney murdered and who did it?
On Goal Diggers all five of the female cast members compete with each other for audience popularity and a greater share of social media hype to stay on the show. Brett, the youngest cast member, is the owner of a spin studio franchise and quick to make it clear that being skinny does not mean being healthy. She's moving in with her girlfriend this season, which will surely up ratings. Returning cast members include: Stephanie Simmons, the oldest, is a bestselling author of erotic novels and the first black cast member; Jen Greenberg, the vegan owner of a juice bar line and health food guru; Lauren Bunn, a dating website creator and known as Lauren Fun! on the show. The latest addition to the show is Brett's older sister, Kelly, a single mother who runs Brett's ever expanding business empire. Jesse is the network executive who controls the focus of the series and what will be highlighted. The focus for season four will be on the rift and resentment that is growing between Stephanie and Brett, former best friends.
The narrative is told through alternating first person accounts of what happened before and during the production of season 4. Excerpts from Jesse's interview with Kelly after Brett's murder open and close the book, and are also included a few times in-between the first person accounts. This clearly demonstrates how muddy the line between truth and fiction is in the reality TV show and real life.
The start is slow as we are introduced to the woman, their lives, and getting a glimpse into what they are thinking or scheming. You will need to keep track of who is talking in each chapter until you get a grip on the characters. As events unfold with secrets revealed and lies exposed, it becomes clear that the tension is going to boil over and something bad is going to happen. There are humorous moments in The Favorite Sister and Knoll does manage a message about the reality TV obsession - the striving for a few more minutes of public fame, and the need to appear to be young and relevant in order to stay in the public spotlight.
While very well-written, the problem with The Favorite Sister for me is that I simple couldn't muster the capacity to care about these women. They all seemed like caricatures of a type rather than real people. Perhaps it is because I don't watch reality TV shows and don't care about them. Also my lack of following pop culture, etc could have influenced how I related to the book. Knoll's gets points for the writing, the message she was trying to get across, and the ending, which was a surprise. I have a feeling that this novel will do much better with a younger reader (20s or 30s) and anyone who loves to watch reality shows like real housewives and... I can't even name any.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster via Netgalley
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