cover image The Favorite Sister

The Favorite Sister

Jessica Knoll. Simon & Schuster, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5011-5319-8

Knoll (Luckiest Girl Alive) explores the blurry line between a reality show and real life—and the duplicity of family ties and friendship—in this razor-sharp, darkly comic thriller. The grisly murder of spin and yoga studio entrepreneur Brett is revealed at the outset of this briskly paced whodunit; the narrative then flashes back, unfolding the complex how and why from the perspectives of narrators Brett, the overweight “least-loved sibling”; her thin and pretty sister Kelly, who abandoned a high-profile career path to be a single mom and run Brett’s growing business empire; and bestselling author Stephanie. All three are contestants on the reality show Goal Diggers, which hypes the accomplishments of “unmothers and unwives” and is run by conniving and high-profile network executive Jesse. The characters compete for prominence, audience popularity, and social media buzz. It’s off-screen where things take a dark turn: Brett’s “enigmatic gay millennial” persona comes apart and Stephanie’s bestselling memoir is exposed as anything but true. Though the mystery is engrossing enough in its own right, Knoll’s novel is most notable as a potent takedown of a reality-show-obsessed culture that seeks out the spotlight rather than harder truths. (May)