GENUINE FRAUD, the latest from E. Lockhart, is dark and twisty, but it may feel a bit familiar to mystery fans.
We Were Liars author E. Lockhart is back in the deception game with Genuine Fraud, the story of two close friends headed down a destructive path.
Jule West Williams survived a rough upbringing and is finding her place in the world. Imogen Sokoloff is an heiress rebelling against her responsibilities. Together they lead a charmed life: Avoiding college, traveling, relaxing by the beach or pool, living in luxury. Their friendship is an intense one that most don’t understand, a folie à deux that no one possibly could understand. But as their story unravels through Jule’s eyes, readers realize that there’s much more to their mischief than meets the eye.
This review starts with a theory: This new novel is actually a Young Adult retelling of another popular book, but it doesn’t advertise itself as such due to the mystery/thriller nature of the story. I won’t name the book as not to spoil it, but if you want to find out, someone else has probably spilled the beans on the Internet. I didn’t realize this going in and had the initial shock of “Oh wow, this is a lot like Book X.” It jolted me a bit as I read. However, Lockhart thanks the original tale and author in her acknowledgements and certainly isn’t shying away from comparisons, so it seems this was her intention all along. I think knowing this, at least to some degree, will help you have a better reading experience than I did.
Genuine Fraud feels sharp and intriguing, but not at all in the usual ways. To start, you don’t really root for the characters, even as you’re obsessively working to figure out what’s going on in their lives. They come from a place of privilege and self-indulgence that isn’t going to be relatable to most people, but you know their story is twisty and dark and dammit, you need answers! You see their flaws and feel a certain edge from them, particularly the narrator, Jule. You know the characters are presenting a front at times, but you never know just how deep it goes. They’re really not likable, but damn, they’re intriguing.
The storytelling method itself will be hit-or-miss for readers. Jule’s journey is told from end-to-beginning, then hops back to the end in the final chapter. I found it pretty easy to follow and thought it added an extra layer of depth to the mystery, but I can see how it might be confusing to others. Thankfully, the bulk of the action isn’t condensed into the end of the timeline, so there’s plenty of questions and thrills to feast on as you’re riding in reverse.
Genuine Fraud dabbles in a romantic side story but never fully commits to making the love interest a meaningful part of the plot. It left me wishing that the interludes into attraction were either beefed up or stripped from the plot completely. It had some cute moments, but didn’t really add anything overall.
It’s possible that this book could be considered a bit of a genre outcast. The main characters are college aged and living fairly independent lives off of family wealth, making things feels more New Adult than Young Adult. However, the book isn’t too sexualized, which seems to be a hallmark of the NA genre. It’s not particularly gory or lusty, but it is psychologically wild and dark, so I would definitely suggest it to the older side of the YA crowd.
If you loved We Were Liars, you’ll be down for this journey that takes you back to Martha’s Vineyard (and contains a few fun references for this New Englander, though I’m definitely not a Vineyard girl) and around the world for more deception and unexpected turns.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
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.