Review: Fly on the Wall

by Gurpreet Sihat

Back in January, I wrote a five star review of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. I recall writing about the ‘finely crafted narrative’ and the ‘ending [being] sad yet strangely beautiful’. I had loved it. It was one of my favourite books of the year. In fact, I was so enamoured by We Were Liars, that when I saw Fly on the Wall in a bookshop a few weeks ago, I picked it up without a second thought. After all, how could I go wrong with the author of We Were Liars, especially when John Green gave it such a great review.

It’s safe to say, a week after having finished it, that I still have no bloody clue whether I liked it or not.

I laughed. I frowned. I smiled. I groaned.

Split into three parts, the book follows Gretchen Yee, a teenager who doesn’t fit in with the ‘quirky’ students of Manhattan School of Art and Music. She’s crazy about one of the boys in her class but she can’t seem to figure out the opposite sex and, as a result, is terrible with them. Her best friend seems to be drifting away from her and she doesn’t understand why. Jokingly, Gretchen wishes she could be a fly on the wall in the boys locker room of the school and, in a weird twist of fate, her wish comes true.

Part two of the novel follows this Kafkaesque storyline. This section is funny in parts but was, over-all, immature as she spent the majority of it rating boys bottoms and describing their gentiles (which she calls gherkins). There wasn’t as much drama in the boys locker room as there could have been and when there was, it was stuck between naked teenagers you grew tired of seeing (well, reading about).

And then comes the third and final part, which is much shorter than the previous two and has Gretchen turning human again. She uses the things she’s discovered as a fly and tries to change her life and win back her best friend and the boy she’s falling for.

For me, Gretchen Yee is not a sympathetic character. Perhaps I’m getting a little too old to relate to sixteen-year-olds (is nine years too long ago?) but I found her annoying, even as a fly! It was all ‘me, me, me’ and that infuriated me.

Suited better to a younger audience, it did have one brilliant quality: how the moral, that you can’t judge a book by its cover, was presented. Gretchen had a distorted image of the people around her but, when she was pulled away from that perspective, she finally realised that there was a lot more to their stories than what she saw on the surface. It’s a lesson that everyone needs to learn.

I took one sitting of two and a half hours to finish Fly On The Wall. It wasn’t too bad, but it was particularly good either. One thing’s for sure, it was nowhere near as good as We Were Liars. My search for an E. Lockhart book that matches it is still on.

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