Fly on the Wall

Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart


At the Manhattan School of Art and Music, where everyone is unique and everyone is 'different', Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. It doesn't help that she's known as the girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of her favourite superhero, just so she won't have to talk to anyone. Her best (and only real) friend is there for her, but that's only if she's not busy - she's always busy!
It's no surprise that Gretchen isn't exactly successful in the boy department. Her ex-boyfriend is a cold-fish-sometimes-flirty ex who she can't stop bumping into. Plus, she has a massive crush on a boy named, Titus but is too scared to make the first move. One minute he seems like a sensitive guy, the next, he's a completely different person when he's with his friends. She can't seem to figure boys out! 
Gretchen has one wish: to be a fly on the wall in the boy's locker room. What are boys really like? What do they talk about?
This is the story of how one girl's wish came true.


and he'll say, "Hey, it was fun and all, but let's cool it now, yeah?"
and "You know we'll always be friends, right? Excellent. Let's hang out sometime, Gretchen, that would be great,"
only not with kissing,
and not with it meaning anything, 
and then, when it comes down to it, never actually hanging out,
and never being friends again, unless people ask and then we both say:
"Yeah, we had a thing going for a few weeks there, but then we both decided we would just be friends."
Only he's the one who decided.

I actually hadn't planned on reading this book yesterday – I wanted to read the next book in the Sherlock Holmes series but I was traveling and after brief consideration … 
well, I chose this one – and I honestly wasn't sure what I expected but it wasn't what I got, in the best way possible.

The white realtor lady asks if I'm adopted – like that's some legitimate, socially appropriate question to ask – and is halfway through a gushy story about her friend's new baby from Korea when I say, "Haven't you ever heard of interracial marriage? It's all the rage in civilized countries," and she shuts up and purses her lips.

Before I go into more details, I wanted to generally state how much I liked the style of this book. I liked the difference between "thoughts" and "narration" ("narration" is definitely the wrong term - screams the literary student within me - but I don't know what else to call it), I liked how the sentences were often drawn out, and how sentence parts were separated onto different lines (see above) which gave her thoughts a somewhat comic-book-ish feel. What I did not like was the repetition of some words. Like, everyone in that school apparently calls breasts "biscuits" and penises "gherkins"? Really?

Fly on the Wall is split in three parts and I was extremely surprised by the first because I kinda, stereotypically, expected something more shallow, more focused on boys. The truth is, sure, Gretchen is very confused by the inner workings of the male species but it isn't just "I like that guy and I don't know whether he likes me back" but also "what's up with my dad?", moreover, it also focuses on her relationship with other females, like: "what's up with my mom because of dad?" (and vice-versa), "what's up with my best friend who seems to blow me off constantly?" (a struggle I, personally, related to very much and which is done quite excellently, I think), etc. There are so many layers of confusion she has to deal with, which makes her both an imperfect protagonist (which I loved because she clearly has some stuff to work through) but also a very honest and real feeling one (again: I loved that).

As for the second part: I was surprised by that one, too. Where the first part was confusing and rather sad the second one suddenly became funny. I was snort-giggling every other page, which is definitely a good sign. But then, while Gretchen's narrative continues to be rather light-hearted, the story takes a serious turn because, obviously, boys also have to deal with their fair share of problems and stuff. It was wonderful how we were never fed what Gretchen actually learns while being a fly (sure, she mentions some things but most of the time we observe together with her and realize the same things without stating the obvious) – it's very show and not tell.

Hey, maybe I should try these wings.
They're here. On my back. I mean, I may be trapped in a nightmare, but I do have wings.
And that should mean I can fly, right?
I stretch them wide, the move them up and down, I mend my knees (all six) and

Flutter, flutter,
Bzzz bzzz bzzz
I'm flying! I. Am. FLYING!
can't think and fly at the same time

Attention! From this point on I want to talk spoilers (at least a little bit), so if you haven't read the book yet, here's the short version of what I thought about the ending: At first I was kinda disappointed with something but, ultimately, I did feel satisfied. Sure, you can't solve all problems in the world and I wished Lockhard had addressed a couple more problems Gretchen faced in the second part but I'm fine with forgetting about them, for now. 
You have been warned.

The third part was, probably, the weakest, in a sense, because the development was all done after the second part and everything that came after was purely resolution. However, while it being the weakest one, I do think that it was rather satisfying.
While reading the first part of the book I was kind of starting to hope that she would simply stay a fly (you know, like in Kafka where everything falls apart and stuff) but during the second part I realized that something like that wouldn't happen. And it didn't, which I was bummed out for a bit but I came to realize that it was okay, too. Frankly, I don't really see how this is supposed to be the equivalent of Kafka in YA because it has nothing to do with him, except that someone is turned into an insect at some point, so I guess that's what was misleading me a bit.
Generally, I liked most resolutions (especially the Brat and Titus ones were really sweet – duh) but I was pretty disappointed that Gretchen/Lockhart just forgot about Carlo and Xavier. 


I don't know how clear I've made this in my review: but I was really, positively, surprised by this book. It was smart and insightful and respectful (even though butts and "gherkins" were thoroughly inspected in a rather objectifying way) and I fell in love with the story as quick as it was unexpected. Hence: 4.5/5 stars.


Name: Fly on the Wall
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 182
Where?: Amazon


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