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.
What I hoped for from Genuine Fraud was another We Were Liars — a contemporary with a twist that still amazes me. I know a lot of people have mixed opinions about We Were Liars, and I think the same result will occur from Genuine Fraud. While I didn’t dislike E. Lockhart’s new novel, it wasn’t quite what I expected. I went in expecting a thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat and characters who I simultaneously connected with and couldn’t trust, but instead it was a much more muted version of that. It was just a book to pass the time—nothing overly spectacular or noteworthy about it.
My favourite aspect of Genuine Fraud was the intrigue and wanting to know how things all began. As this novel is told backwards, it takes quite a while to even form an idea about what had happened, and while that made me want to keep reading, it also made me supremely confused a lot of the time. I struggle to keep track of the murders and leads in thrillers told linearly at the best of times, so being expected to keep up with this backwards narration was near impossible for me. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t try. Some parts were really grabbing and I wanted to know more, but every time I thought I was closer to figuring something out, everything I thought I knew was snatched away from me. So that was frustrating at times.
One thing I loved about Genuine Fraud was how well-written it was, which is what I expected from E. Lockhart. Even if I’m not the greatest fan of all of her books, besides We Were Liars, there’s no doubt that they’re all exceptionally written. Even though this novel is pretty short, there was so much packed into so few pages and I genuinely appreciated that side of the reading experience. However, it would have been improved if I could understand what was going on more than 40% of the time and connected to the characters more than I did. I just didn’t feel for any of the characters as much as I should have, and they didn’t make me want to find out what happened in the end. They were just there, being exceptionally meh.
So yes! Genuine Fraud was quite underwhelming, and although I didn’t dislike it, it wasn’t as glorious as I had hoped from E. Lockhart. It was hard to follow at times, I didn’t connect with the characters enough to care about them all that much, and the thriller aspect was more confusing than intriguing. I wouldn’t rush into reading it again anytime soon, but it was suitable for something to fill the time. In summary: meh.
A Q&A with E. Lockhart!
Sarah R. Hatch: One of the most interesting aspects of Genuine Fraud was the non-linear timeline. What was it like to write your novel in this way? Did you have to plot extensively?
E. Lockhart: Thank you. It’s backwards! I lay out all the major events of the novel in advance, and then reversed them, and worked from that reverse outline – but I let the nuances of scenes and characters unfold in the writing process.
S: I absolutely love the unreliable characters in your novels, especially in Genuine Fraud. Did your characters come to you before the plot did, or did you figure out the plot before the characters appeared?
E: I wanted to write about two young women who look enough alike to share a passport, both of whom are running away from their families of origin and trying to reinvent their lives. I had that basic idea, and the idea of the plot and its structure — but I didn’t know Jule and Immie as human beings until I was really writing. I often write dialogue to try and get to know my characters. If I write it fast enough I can be surprised by what they say.
S: Take us through your writing routine. What time of the day do you most like to write in? Do you listen to music while writing? Do you prefer to work in a particular space, such as an office or in a cafe?
E: I’d like to wake up and write for about three hours in the small of the morning, but the reality involves children and housework and errands and administrative work and a significant amount of work-related travel, so I write on airplanes, and in cafes, and in train stations. No routine – just a commitment to making the book.
S: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever Googled for a part of your research?
E: Only last week I Googled arsenic face cream. For Genuine Fraud I Googled the interior décor of many high-end hotels.
S: For those that loved Genuine Fraud, what are some other YA thrillers that you would recommend?
E: There are a lot of exciting thrillers out there right now. Try The Leaving by Tara Altebrando or My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier. I’m psyched to read: Allegedlyby Tiffany D. Jackson and Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid.
Have you read Genuine Fraud yet? Do you enjoy E. Lockhart’s novels? Have you read We Were Liars? What’s the best YA thriller you’ve ever read? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!