Published by Delacorte Press on September 5th 2017
Pages: 288 •Goodreads
The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat. Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. A bad romance, or maybe three.Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.
I think everyone in the book blogging community knows that We Were Liars was an extremely divisive book- bloggers either LOVED it or HATED it. It was my first foray into E. Lockhart’s writing, and I fell firmly into the camp of those who adored it- it was eerie and haunting and the writing was almost otherworldly. So I knew without a doubt that I would be reading Genuine Fraud once I learned of its release. While lacking the mysterious prose style of We Were Liars, it delivered on E. Lockhart’s talent to create a fleshed out mystery in under 300 pages that manages to subvert all of your expectations and leave you with literary whiplash from the plot twist.
As Genuine Fraud is a thriller, there’s a lot I won’t be able to talk about in this review. However, one thing worth noting is the unique formatting of this novel. It’s told backwards chronologically, which while at times was confusing, was an oddly satisfying way of reading a mystery, seeing bit by bit what led to each major event, how the tensions built, how a story seemingly so far fetched and with so much deception came to be. There’s actually a tongue in cheek moment in the narrative when Jule is discussing the work of The Stranger by Camus, and mentions how the reader knows everything that happens from the beginning of the story- Lockhart’s writing it full of clever little nods like that which I appreciated as it added a bit of levity to an otherwise unexpectedly brutal story.
Amidst the plot twists, body count, and all around twisted nature that story takes as you progress backwards through it, there was an interesting theme of feminism running through it. Jule and Imogen both embrace both their femininity and feminism in very different ways, but Jule especially is focused on honing and training her body not to look attractive, but to be strong- strong enough to go anywhere, be anyone, without the looming threat of being overpowered by someone larger or stronger than her.
They lived their lives surrounded by all that glitter and neon, happily assuming that small, cute women were harmless. -Kindle Edition, 22%
To be a physically powerful woman—it was something. You could go anywhere, do anything, if you were difficult to hurt.– Kindle Edition, 22%
Whether her actions were for the right or wrong reasons, it can’t be denied that Jules’ actions defy the stereotype of what women, especially petite women, are capable of, the power one can take in one’s body so it can’t be used against oneself. It’s an usual thread to weave throughout a thriller but I appreciated the added depth that it brought to the story.
Like the cover art, Genuine Fraud is a story about transformation, and about the identities that we all wear and act out depending on who our audiences are. While this theme is blatantly obvious in certain circumstances, (such as the beginning of the book when Jule is living at a lavish resort under a fake identity and obviously running from someone/something), it’s also presented in a more subtle way, especially through Imogen, who is something different to everyone who meets her: A prized adopted daughter living the American Dream for her parents, a college drop out without a high brow education or pedigree to her boyfriend, a beacon of perfection to aspire to for her friends such as Jule. The characters in this novel constantly shed their personality “skins” like snakes, making everyone an unreliable narrator and everyone highly suspicious yet fascinating for it.
“The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”-Kindle Edition, 86%
Overall: Though the manipulation and brutality of the story left me feeling like I needed to scrub myself of the thoughts and actions of the appalling characters, Genuine Fraud was an addicting, unsettling read that managed to feel much longer and fleshed out than is typical with an under 300 page YA novel. While there are the twists and turns necessary to the thriller genre, there are also many other underlying themes and social commentary that provides an added layer to ruminate upon aside from just how the mystery pans out. While I do miss Lockhart’s prose style from We Were Liars, Geuine Fraud is a solid read.