Thursday, 31 May 2012

Review: Fly On The Wall, E. Lockhart

Fly On The Wall

E. Lockhart

Corgi, 2008 (2006)

At the Manhattan School for Art and Music, where everyone is "different" and everyone is "special", Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. She's the kind of girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of Spider-Man so she won't have to talk to anyone; who has a crush on Titus but won't do anything about it; who has no one to hang out with when her best (and only real) friend Katya is busy.

One day, Gretchen wishes that she could be a fly on the wall in the boys' locker room - just to learn more about guys. What are they really like? What do they really talk about? Are they really cretins most of the time?

Fly On The Wall is the story of how that wish comes true.

Fly On The Wall could have gone horribly wrong. I was actually reading this at the same time as Meg Cabot's Avalon High, which also has a literary underpinning translated to a high school setting. The Cabot book I am still struggling with. This, on the other hand - a kind of high-schooled Metamorphosis - was a delight.

Gretchen Yee is an ordinary, awkward teenager who attends a prestigious school for the arts in New York, where she pursues one of her big loves: drawing. Except her art teacher isn't very impressed with Gretchen's obsession with comic books, her parents are getting a divorce, her mum is making her throw all her collectibles away, and the boy she likes is far too cool to be thinking about Gretchen. Added to that, Gretchen's best friend is avoiding her, and isn't around to help Gretchen decipher the mysteries of boys (or parents).

I warmed to Gretchen as a character immediately. She's funny and geeky and trying desperately to make sense of things around her, even though she feels increasingly on the outside of everything. Lockhart has a knack for writing believable characters struggling with pretty normal things, without either making everything into a drama or belittling those things that in school seem like the most important things in the world.

The solution to Gretchen's problems lies in a daft, never-quite-explained twist that somehow just works. Don't ask me how, it just does. The middle section of the book is given over to events in the boys' locker room, where Gretchen learns a lot of things about the boys she sees everyday. During this period, Gretchen also re-evaluates her attitude towards a lot of things in her life. Essentially, Fly On The Wall is not only about being yourself, but about being confident to be yourself, and by the end of the book Gretchen starts to take on a much more proactive approach to her life.

This is a short read with lots of funny bits and a brilliant main character that holds together an unconventional but inventive plot. Once again, Lockhart weaves a story around boys and all their complications, whilst keeping the female protagonist front and centre as Gretchen begins to piece herself together.

Overall rating: 7/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

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