Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Genuine Fraud - E. Lockhart

Genuine Fraud
E. Lockhart
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Honestly, holy shit.

That's really the best, most nuanced reaction I have for you regarding this book.

If you're not familiar, Genuine Fraud is, according to author E. Lockhart, "a thriller about two girls who look enough alike to share a passport."

The book details the stories of Jule West Williams (which honestly sounds like the name of a character in the mafia) and Imogen Sokoloff (whose name I kept wanting to say as Imogen Heap but that's a personal problem).

It's a short book (I read it in one sitting) and if you already know you like E. Lockhart's writing, there's a good chance you'll like this. The only one of her other books I've personally read is We Were Liars (which I loved) and I was excited to read this book and see what other tricks she had up her sleeve.

From the very beginning, the story kinda takes the audience for a ride because it's being told backwards. This was actually my favorite part. Chapters would end and then there would be a jarring shift to a week earlier and I would be so stressed out about whether we'd ever come back to that wild thing that just happened or we'd just infinitely keep going backwards forever until Jule became an infant and the book ended at her birth. This structure did a few things, which all contribute to why I love the book:

It establishes Jule as an unreliable narrator. This is one of my absolute favorite tropes — anyone who has heard me talk about Gone Girl for an hour straight can attest to this — and it was honestly done so well in Genuine Fraud. Right from the start, we know we can't 100% trust her, but because the start is the end, we don't really know how much not to trust her. Which lends itself to the next reason I loved this structure/storytelling.

Because we're seeing where the characters end up without seeing how or why (right away), the audience starts to sympathize and root for them early on, when they're kinda vague, two-dimensional figures. I'm going to try to not give anything away, but this is a thriller/suspense novel and every thriller has a bad guy, so you figure at some point the rug is gonna get pulled out from under you when someone you had one mental version of starts to become someone else.

Writing this way helps build — and keep consistent — the tension, too. The suspense here wasn't necessarily about "who killed who" or "who will be the last one standing" or "solve the mystery" or anything. For me, no matter what I'm reading, I'm always on my toes about any bait and switch possibilities. I know not everyone is as extra as I am, but I think marketing a suspense book with a two-similar-but-different-girls dichotomy is hard without people immediately trying to guess the "twist." Instead of something gimmicky, Genuine Fraud uses this slow burning peeling-away-of-the-layers tactic to really keep the audience engaged and desperate to want to understand what's happening — or rather, what has happened already.

Honestly, just read it. It has murder, some shocking bits, some Not Shocking Parts that still mess with you because of how they're nestled within the book, and most importantly: E. Lockhart's exquisite prose. If you're one of the people who tried to read We Were Liars and couldn't because the writing was too metaphor-laden or poetic, Genuine Fraud features a straightforward third-person POV just for you (I mean the POV isn't sooooo straightforward because I literally just mentioned the unreliable narrator, but the words on the page are metaphor-free). And if you loved the metaphor-laden, poetic writing of We Were Liars (as I did), you will appreciate the beauty of this prose, too.

Basically, you can't go wrong.

Are you more genuine or more fraud?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. I love unreliable narrators. They make a story so much more interesting when you're trying to determine what's really going on. Great review!
    Rebecca @ The Portsmouth Review

  2. I am so in the minority here but I really dislike unreliable narrators. It's one of my very few hard no's (unreliable narrators and magical realism - both are aspects I completely avoid). I love so many people love the uncertainty and the feeling of not being able to fully trust your main character but it's just not for me. So glad this was a big hit for you, though!

  3. I really enjoyed We Were Liars so I may have to pick this one up. Sounds really well done.

  4. I genuinely tried to read this book, but could not deal with the timeline in which it was written. And Jule -- I didn't mind that she was an unreliable narrator, I usually cheer them on. But she was just... sort of flat to me. I expected to love this :(

  5. I have added and removed this book from my TBR several times now because the reviews are so mixed. I'm glad to have read this review though since it points out so many positive aspects of the book. I'm not sure the unreliable narrator will work for me, but everything else sounds great.

  6. I enjoyed We Were Liars I liked that E. Lockhart had a slightly different writing style. I am glad that you enjoyed this book. It sounds great and like the author did a great job keeping you thinking and reading. Great review! I will need to check this one out!