Author Jessica Knoll has revealed that the harrowing gang rape scene in her best-selling novel “Luckiest Girl Alive” was actually based on her traumatic experiences as a 15-year-old girl.
“I’m scared people won’t call what happened to me rape because for a long time, no one did. But as I gear up for my paperback tour, and as I brace myself for the women who ask me, in nervous, brave tones, what I meant by my dedication, What do I know? I’ve come to a simple, powerful revelation: everyone is calling it rape now,” she continued.
“There’s no reason to cover my head. There’s no reason I shouldn’t say what I know.”
Published by Simon & Schuster, “Luckiest Girl Alive” is Knoll’s debut novel and tells the story of TifAni FaNelli, 28, who seemingly has it all: the perfect job, the perfect man, the perfect life. But through flashbacks, Ani’s traumatic teenage past is revealed, including a horrifying night at a party when three guys from her high school gang-rape her.
Knoll says that many readers had been asked about the book’s dedication which reads: “To all the TifAni FaNellis of the world, I know,” prompting her to share the truth about her own past.
“It means I know what it’s like to not belong, I waffle in response to readers, usually women whose albatrosses I can sense, just as they sense mine,” she said. “What I don’t add: I know what it’s like to shut down and power through, to have no other choice than to pretend to be OK. I am a savant of survivor mode.”
The author’s own experiences dramatically reflect that of her lead character in that she attended a party as a teen, drank too much and flirted with a boy she had a crush on, and then passed out [perhaps from being drugged] and awoke with “a Different Boy’s head between my legs. I remember A Different Boy from a flare of coherence earlier, trying to help me walk when my anesthetized legs failed me,” she said.
“I know that the pain is what woke me next. That I was moaning Ow, over and over, before even opening my eyes.”
She was later bullied and shamed at high school for being a slut — but “no one called it rape,” she said.
“Like Ani, the only way I knew to survive was to laugh loudly at my rapists’ jokes, speak softly to the mean girls, and focus on chiseling my tunnel out of there,” Knoll wrote.
Drawing comparisons to bestseller-turned-blockbuster movie “Gone Girl,” the rights to “Luckiest Girl Alive” were acquired by Lionsgate in April of last year. Reese Witherspoon will produce with her Pacific Standard partner Bruna Papandrea.
“‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ is the kind of book that grabs you and doesn’t let go. The hero of the book is a wily, intelligent, complex narrator,” Witherspoon, who produced Oscar nominee “Wild,” said in a statement last year when the deal was announced.
“This character and the thrilling narrative that she drives are exactly the kind of story our company, Pacific Standard Films, wants to produce. We are thrilled to be collaborating with Jessica and Lionsgate to bring her debut novel to the screen.”