Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart – Book Review

Jule isn’t your typical protagonist. Comfortable with lying and cheating her way through life, she’s definitely not someone you’d want to be opposite in a fight. She meets social butterfly Imogen, and the unlikely duo instantly strike up an intense friendship. Before long, Jule is ingratiating herself with the social circles that Imogen is a part of and weaving her web of lies as she meets more people and must maintain the façade that she has created. Jule is a Genuine Fraud. You can’t get away with that forever, surely?

This book is told in reverse chronological order; it starts with the penultimate chapter, then goes backwards from there until the first chapter, then we jump into the present day for the final chapter. This meant that there was more of a focus on the ‘Why?’ as opposed to the ‘Who?’, which goes against the grain of the typical mystery genre formula. This is a really interesting way of storytelling, but often, when I got to the end of a chapter, I wanted it to carry on instead of go back in time again – I wanted to see how a scene panned out or how characters would react to what had just happened. I only realised, once I had finished the book, that the chapters are numbered to demonstrate the order in which they were happening in real time, so I was slightly confused at the beginning (and this is something to bear in mind if you decide to read this book). Conversely, every book with a non-linear structure has that initial stage when you’re working out how the story is going to be told, so that’s not a big negative. When I’m watching a T.V. Show or reading a book, I enjoy the process of coming up with theories throughout, then having them proven very wrong at the end as everything slots into place, and this was the opposite. Maybe it’s just personal preference, but that leads to greater enjoyment and satisfaction for me.

“For anyone who has been taught that good equals small and silent, here is my heart with all its ugly tangles and splendid fury.”

E. Lockhart, Genuine Fraud

Even though the book’s structure sets us up to expect a really in-depth analysis of why Jule is the Jule we have come to know and hate, it doesn’t quite fulfill this. For a character who talks so much about an “origin story”, I felt I, a) didn’t know her origin story, and, b) why that origin story shaped her to be the person that she is. Apparently, the book’s structure and plot plays homage to Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, and although I haven’t read it, I took a look at the synopsis on Wikipedia and noticed that the plot was very similar to that of Genuine Fraud. I think I’ll read it and compare and contrast. There was great potential for Jule to have a substantial background story to make the reader conflicted about whether she’s that bad or not, so it’s a shame that that wasn’t taken advantage of.

A significant part of the novel is devoted to challenging the stereotypes of women in popular culture that we see on our screens and pages today. Jule is muscular, strong, and independent, and likes to see herself as the antithesis of what she calls the “Great white hetero hero”. I am, of course, a strong supporter of shows and books that star a protagonist that is not the archetypal hero that is recycled over and over again, but the issue I had here is with the “hero” part. This novel is not a tale of Jule’s noble endeavours, showing that good can overcome evil, like most superhero stories, but a list of all of the immoral stuff that she’s done over the course of 262 pages, so I find it hard to sympathise with her on the whole “anti-hero” narrative in this particular situation. From the outset of Genuine Fraud, it’s made clear that Jule is dishonest and deceitful, so it’s hard to be shocked when it is revealed that she is, in fact, dishonest and deceitful. She has few interesting flaws (appart from the lying) and complexities, which would have made her a more interesting character to read.

Overall, Genuine Fraud has an engaging premise, and immense promise, but I don’t think that it was executed as well as it could have been, which is a real shame. Let me know down below if you’ve read this book, or We Were Liars (by the same author and has a lot of hype) and what you thought!

Take care, Al

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