Review: The Favorite Sister
The Favorite Sister, Jessica Knoll
Published May 15, 2018
4 out of 5 Stars
I enjoyed Luckiest Girl Alive, so I was excited to get my hands on an early copy of The Favorite Sister a few months ago. I meant to post this review on the pub date, but better late than never!
I don’t watch much reality TV outside of Great British Bake Off and Fixer Upper because polite bakers and charming decor is much more my jam than any content filled with vicious comparison games or the kind of one upmanship where everyone loses.
However, I’m familiar enough with the Real Housewives brand to know what was up in this book.
This story shows all the ways that feminism feels doomed to fail if A. it’s not truly intersectional, B. if it’s trying to flourish or even operate in a system that’s still designed and supported by patriarchal systems.
At first I was worried while reading Stephanie’s inner thoughts in particular that maybe Jessica Knoll doesn’t believe in feminism, that she believes that all aspects of true wellness and the body positive movement are lip service and trends that will never create actual change.
Instead, I came to believe (or hope?) that instead she sees all the ways that kind of real change is hard when so many people are still trying to be liked and popular above all else, that the rules are still rigged against women in general, and women of color in particular in a society that are expected to act a certain way, and to play that game, you have to still fit within some pretty binary, black and white rules.
The main characters of the book: the ladies of “Goal Diggers” were sold as the antithesis to the standard reality TV fodder where women could only be entertaining if they were pitted against each other. The show was meant to showcase women who were “doing it for themselves” and supporting each other through all their amazing goals. But that story doesn’t sell the way drama does and soon the cast is facing all the same BS, having their fears and flaws exploited for the sake of good TV.
Peppered within the story are some real truths and even those are fairly uncomfortable to face head on, like disservices done to abused women, and the sadness of women who believe that all the ways that they restrict themselves and strive to make themselves smaller is the most interesting thing about them.
There are a lot of layers to this story, more than the superficial drama that is the boiled down, drama concentrate of “bitchy” women. It explores a lot of women who have deeply rooted issues of self-worth who don’t want to look too closely at why they feel the way they do, why they act the way they do, why they have their addictions and labels. And then some of the layers also come from reveal after reveal of just how deep the various deceptions go.
Overall I felt like the book ended a little abruptly (though more recent Goodreads reviews seem to indicate that the published book ends differently than the ARC), but the revelations of the last few chapters show how easy it is to wallow in hypocrisy and also delivered one hell of an ironic punch.