It is a truth universally not acknowledged, that all people harbor a bit of the petty in their heart, mind, and soul. Here is a hint of my petty, I am wildly unforgiving to fictional characters. For instance, a character has exactly one time to tell me about their awesome boobs, or their perfectly bee stung lips, or how their milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, or really repeatedly humble brag about any aspect of their physicality. The second time is just annoying, and by the third time I feel we are venturing into a place that caters to wish fulfillment, but that could just be my petty rising to the surface. What does any of this have to do with E. Lockhart's exceptionally good Genuine Fraud? It has nothing to do with this book, or We Were Liars, and that's all I have to say about that. On an unrelated note how many allusions can I fit into this one review.
I'm not sure how to review this book without giving too much away. The book opens with mystery, intrigue, and adventure. From the first sentence the game is afoot. Genuine Fraud is unceasing in its pace and as you read the need to say "what" or "oh my" or "jeez" never ends. We have two protagonists:
* Imogen - she reads like she walked right out of a CW TV show about pretty young things living their best life with their parents' money. There are moments where she teeters on the edge of becoming a Mary Sue, but Lockhart is adept enough to tarnish her just enough at just the right time.
* Jule - she reads like bagged chaos, but there is a hole in the bag and all within is about to come racing toward you. You aren't sure if you want to run away from an impending whirlwind or hide behind a bush and watch what promises to be pure insanity.
Those are the characters, but what's the story. It's the story of having a crap life and wanting a different one. It's the story of living a fantasy. It's the story of stealing a fantasy. It's the story of how ugly friendship can be. It's the story of how beautiful and how ugly human nature can be. It's a story meant to burrow deep into your mind until you finally close the cover and sit wondering what you just read and what just happened.
Genuine Fraud is the kind of book where I can't say I liked it or that I loved it, but I can say that it got to me in the best way. It left me thinking and restless. It left me with questions and I feel compelled to fill in those blanks or even to construct a "What Happens Next" in my mind. Lockhart doesn't write to let the reader empathize with the characters. She holds us at arms length. The reader is literally a fly buzzing and stumbling in the background flitting from one safe place to land to another. I think that's why this story works. It is cerebral and a study of the human as animal - all instinct, reaction, and desire. It is hedonism at its worst. It is hedonism that does harm to satisfy the relentless Id. I really dig this book. I can already see myself putting this into the hands of my eager and reluctant readers.
School officially starts tomorrow and I'm excited for a new year. This is the first year I've moved with my students, so while there may be some new faces in my classroom many of the seats will be taken by those I've taught before. It feels good. They know me, my expectations, my demands, my pet peeves, my sense of humor and I know them and all their deliciously quirky, crazy, and so uncool they might be cool middle school ways. I'm sure a 7th grader is just like a 6th grader only turned up to 11 because the hormones are strong with them, but the frontal lobe is not.
I'm starting my 2017-18 book talks with Mackenzi Lee's The Gentleman's Guide to Vice & Virtue, but this is a strong contender for #2 because nothing captures the attention of a middle schooler quite like secrets, lies, drama, murder, mistaken identity, and a final twist.