As we enter the holiday months – with all the parties, commitments, and celebrations – I wanted to give our book club a lighter read. The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll was our choice. This self-described beach read follows the stories of a group of female reality TV stars who battle for fame, money, and with each other, both on and off camera.
Did you know that reality TV traces its roots back to the 1940s?
The first candid-camera and talent shows from this era began a desire to see real people doing unscripted, natural actions on camera. It was quite popular in England in the 1960s and 1970s; the royal family even allowed cameras into their personal lives in a TV series! Reality TV has many genres and has exploded in popularity since the late 1990s. Now it is as common as any other show; think of all the channels dedicated to reality TV alone, such as Bravo, DIY, or HGTV. Our book club admits to some interest in reality TV but more often than not, it appears less “real” and more scripted.
It seems only natural that this has passed into modern reading, too. In an interview with USA Today, Jessica Knoll admits to an affection for “The Real Housewives” franchise, which helped in developing the book.
The Favorite Sister is told from multiple points of view, including all the cast members of the show “Goal Diggers,” the show that brings all the women together. The cast members are all successful, career-minded women who enjoy breaking societal and professionals expectations of women.
There are two actual sisters, Brett and Kelly; the book begins with the murder of Brett and takes the reader back through the months and years leading to this point.
Who killed Brett? Do the women have anything to do with this? Did the show interfere?
All of these questions and more are answered by different characters in the book. The multiple angles of the same story mimics a reality TV show itself in that every person gets their “moment” behind the scenes to explain her side of the story.
Let’s meet the three main voices in the book:
– Brett, a fan favorite, is an openly gay woman who founded a cycling studio empire. Her business donates bikes back to impoverished nations where women and girls are targeted for sexual assault and abuse. She is engaged to her lawyer girlfriend and works with her sister Kelly, who is new to the show for season 3. Brett seems trustworthy and friendly, yet we learn she has plenty of secrets and errant actions to hide.
– Kelly is Brett’s sister and business partner. Kelly is a single mother to a mixed-race child, which enhances her story line as she enters the cast for season 3. She and Brett have an interesting relationship that plays out on and off camera.
– Stephanie is the longest cast member and bestselling author. She has recently published a memoir about her difficult past, her angle for the new season. She and Brett were best friends, yet no one really knows what drove them apart. The women (and the production team) are happy to speculate and cast suspicion as the season begins taping.
It is challenging to write about this book without giving anything away! Just like a reality TV show, the book and characters slowly reveal secrets and drama with every chapter. It definitely entices you to want to read more.
Yet, our group was not 100% thrilled with the book. It seemed very predictable to some of us; to others, it was not a subject area that peaked their interest.
So just like reality TV, The Favorite Sister is not for everyone. It is an easy, interesting read about the intersecting lives of women on a reality TV show. If you love reality TV, you will be hooked quickly. If you despise it, then this book may not be for you.
I can state this: if novel writing does not work out for the author, Jessica Knoll could have a career in reality TV production. 🙂
Come back next month as we read The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy!