Monday, October 09, 2006

Fly on the Wall

You people are sooooooo lucky I had yesterday off and read all those books. Instead of turning this blog into another silly-links record (today's would have been Flight of the Hamster, in case you're interested), I have something bloggable! I make no promises for next week, though . . .

Book: Fly on the Wall
Author: E. Lockhart
Published: 2006

Gretchen Yee's got it rough these days. Her parents are getting a divorce, her best friend never has time to hang out, her drawing teacher thinks she's a derivitive hack, and the boy she adores doesn't seem to know she exists. (Do they ever?) All she's got are her Spidey comics and her fantasies of being someone who can change the world. Unfortunately, she's just boring ol' Gretchen, invisible in spite of her dyed red hair. Frustrated with trying to understand any members of the human race (including herself), she focuses on the most mysterious segment and wishes to be a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room.

Now she's about to find out why "Be careful what you wish for" is such a cliche.

This extremely fast little read is written in a mix of first-person and stream-of-consciousness that somehow makes it perfectly logical that a sixteen-year-old girl would turn into a fly (or if not logical, at least acceptable). Lockhart never attempts to explain the transformation and that's good, because she can concentrate on Gretchen's discoveries about the boys in the locker room. Some are obvious for the situation (she makes a hilariously frank and impartial catalogue of male attributes), and others are less so. As the no-longer-proverbial fly on the wall, Gretchen stands silent witness to the petty cruelties, raging insecurities, and terribly human flaws that drive the boys in her school.

Like the artwork that features near the end, Lockhart draws a merciless, warts-and-all portrait of teenage boys that turns out strangely beautiful. Armed with the knowledge that the Teenage Boy is no mysterious creature, but as human as herself, Gretchen is able to return to her own body with the courage to reach out across chasms she never would have braved before.

The debt to Kafka's Metamorphosis is obvious--Lockhart even makes a point of having Gretchen read it in lit class. Having never read it myself, I can't make a comparison. But don't worry about that--Gretchen's and Lockhart's story stands on its own.

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