Review Blog

Apr 26 2017

Fly on the wall by E. Lockhart

cover image

Hot Key Books, 2016. ISBN 9781471406041
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Fly on the wall promises all the workings of a cheesy disaster of a teen read. The old Freaky Friday trick as a means to self-revelation seems trite and incredible. But thankfully, E. Lockhart proves us wrong. Gretchen, who is the quirky, insecure but equally hilarious voice of the novel; matures quite credibly after a throw away comment to her best friend traps her in the body of the creature she wished to be.
Gretchen Yee is an outsider for being comparatively normal in a public school designated as a centre for excellence in fine art. Boys baffle her and she is constantly overthinking their behaviour and motivations. Her parents are headed for divorce and her drawing teacher does not respect her signature comic book style - she isn't in a good place.
The half of the novel spent as an insect trapped inside the boys' locker room, is revelatory for Gretchen. To lower secondary students, the frequent focus on male anatomy may be too confronting albeit comical. In her wantonness, it is almost as if Gretchen jumps gender as well as species! The lads behave quite differently behind closed doors whether naked or not, and we witness bullying, insecurity, homophobia and mateship. What she learns during her metamorphosed week, gives Gretchen the confidence to understand that boys are equally clueless about the world, girls or themselves. Titus teaches Gretchen that communication and risk of self-exposure is key if we are ever going to see the good and bad that must co-exist in every person. Fly on the wall doesn't take a lot of unpacking - but it doesn't take a lot of effort either. A light read is sometimes just the ticket. Girls will love reading more yarns from Gretchen Yee's perspective.
Deborah Robins

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