The Favourite Sister: Reality TV, secrets, lies and getting to the top of the food chain

The Favourite Sister Book Review

What is this about: The real lives of the women that are part of Goal Diggers — how they claw their way to the top, the lies they tell to make their stories the focus.

What else is this about?: This is about women, the pursuit for fame and the sisterhood. We’re not all going to get on well to get to the top, and we shouldn’t have to. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know how to play the game.

Blurb

Brett and Kelly Courtney are the shining jewels in a New York-based reality TV show called Goal Diggers. One of the most popular shows on American national television, its fiercely competitive cast of five self-made women are defined by their success, beauty and ruthless drive to reach the top by whatever means necessary.

The Courtney sisters’ rivalry goes skin deep despite the blossoming business they have built together that helps disadvantaged women in Morocco. Harbouring bitter jealousies and dark secrets about their manufactured screen lives they’re joined by three other hyper-competitive women who all have their own agendas. And the latest season promises sparks to fly in the quest for even higher ratings.

Vicious backstabbing, scathing social media attacks and finely-tuned scripting draw in the viewing public every week, all orchestrated by the show’s omnipotent producers. But even they don’t know that season 4 will end in murder…

From the author of the bestselling debut novel of 2015 Luckiest Girl Alive comes Jessica Knoll’s new thriller, The Favourite Sister,featuring a pair of competitive and uber-successful sisters whose secrets and lies result in murder.

Stars: 4/5

Goal Diggers is a show about five diverse women in New York who are trying to make their businesses take off, their marriages work and in Brett’s case, help disadvantaged women in Morocco, among other things. On the eve of a new season and when the book begins, we are told that Brett is dead as Kelly begins to weave her story of what she wants the narrative of Brett’s death to be for the show, while the book tells us the reality of what happened.

Reality TV in The Favourite Sister is a game of strategy — what do you have to sacrifice to get to the top, that is remain on the cast. And into this comes Kelly, eager for her own taste of success given how much she’s done the actual work of getting Brett’s yoga studios off the ground.

Brett is the underdog of Goal Diggers, or so she wants to maintain that fiction. The aim of these women’s lives is to be able to give the show its ratings and viewership so that when they reach 34 they don’t get turfed out for the next generation of God Diggers. Brett’s thing was being the underdog, which after a few seasons show and a successful business, she’s clearly more than that.

Brett loves her sister, I think, and she adores Layla, Kelly’s biracial daughter (who by the way, will play great as a recurring cast member on the show) but she resents Kelly too, resented her growing up, resents her now for horning into her domain, where she’s the successful one.

While their relationship is something runs through the undercurrent of this book, it’s never as centre stage as the blurb promises — instead this blurb follows the cast more, and in particular Stephanie, a Black woman,  successful author and nemesis of Brett as the new season unfolds. And in addition, this season, the cast are picking sides, or rather Stephanie and Brett are working to get them on their side for the show — alliances and all that.

This is a viper’s nest of women, eager to get to the top of the cast, so to speak. They are unapologetic about their strategies, about the web of lies they weave in order to get what they want. Jen and Lauren who round out the cast are the followers, the ones Brett and Stephanie need in support of whatever they want to do to the other — and this time, in that way, Brett really is the underdog because when the book begins, they’re on Team Stephanie.

Stephanie is determination personified. She is an accomplished writer, about to talk to a Oscar-nominated director about a movie, and her books are on the top of the lists that count. But she still is afraid of not being enough for the show, so much so that she lies when it counts the most to give her adoring public the story they want, that sells. 

We learn about Brett and Stephanie, their lives outside the show, and their lives within. I was somewhat sympathetic for Stephanie, who has done everything she could to remain on the top, while by all accounts Brett is ready to usurp her crown, without trying too hard.

At it’s heart, this is an exploration of what women will do to get to the top, granted in an exaggerated way. I sympathised with the women, and couldn’t believe what they’ve done — I was exhausted reading about what they’ve done, so I can’t imagine having to live through lives like this on reality tv as we know it. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

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