Book review: Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart

Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: March 14, 2006
Source: Purchased

At the Manhattan School of Art and Music, where everyone is unique and everyone is ‘different’, Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. It doesn’t help that she’s known as the girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of her favourite superhero, just so she won’t have to talk to anyone. Her best (and only real) friend is there for her, but that’s only if she’s not busy – she’s always busy! 

It’s no surprise that Gretchen isn’t exactly successful in the boy department. Her ex-boyfriend is a cold-fish-sometimes-flirty ex who she can’t stop bumping into. Plus, she has a massive crush on a boy named, Titus but is too scared to make the first move. One minute he seems like a sensitive guy, the next, he’s a completely different person when he’s with his friends. She can’t seem to figure boys out!

Gretchen has one wish: to be a fly on the wall in the boy’s locker room. What are boys really like? What do they talk about?

I can’t review this one without spoilers, sorry.

I’ve had Fly on the Wall on my TBR since it came out thirteen years ago. I never quite know what I’m going to get when I read an E. Lockhart book. There are some books by her that I’ve liked (like her Ruby Oliver series) and others that I really haven’t (like Genuine Fraud). It seems like a lot of her books have really mixed reviews, and Fly on the Wall is no different.

Let me start by saying that this is one of the easiest books that I’ve read in the last few months. It took very little effort to read it, and before I knew it, I was done. I don’t think I spent more than two hours reading the whole thing. There were parts of it that I really liked. The ending, in particular, was very cute. I also liked Titus and the way he stood up for Brat, and everything that happened with Malachy and Katya. All of this is why I gave it two stars and not one.

Everything else, though? Weird at best. Incredibly problematic at worst.

This is where the spoilers really get going.I’m going to be blunt here. You see how, on the cover, it says in big, bold letters, “How one girl saw EVERYTHING” — well, everything is referring to penises. I think it’s really important to just put that out there. A good chunk of this book is made up of the fly version of Gretchen sitting on a locker room wall and ogling her classmates’ penises. She flies up close to one guy to get a good view. She makes comments about penis size and compares her ex to his classmates. It’s all very creepy.

As if that isn’t weird enough, Gretchen also decides to grade all of the boys based on their butts. Like… letter grades. How odd. There are full descriptions of so many butts. It was like being inside Tina Belcher’s mind.

I mean, I don’t really have a problem with teenage girls exploring their sexuality. I think it’s great that this book talks about how Gretchen gets turned on when she sees a naked guy, how it’s a totally different experience than seeing her classmates clothed. Especially in 2006, this wasn’t really a thing in YA books. But let’s be honest here for a second — these guys have no idea that one of their female classmates is creepily staring at them. I could not get over how weird and creepy it was for this girl to be nonchalantly examining her classmates’ penises and butts without their knowledge and not finding anything wrong with it. I would’ve hoped for this to be challenged at least a little bit, but nope. Gretchen just resumes her normal daily activities one day and it’s like none of this ever happened.

Can I also talk for a second about two MAJOR plot points that were never resolved? First, we have Carlo and Xavier who get bullied for taking an African dancing class instead of a sport that the other boys in the grade deem acceptable. I can definitely see this happening. Gretchen witnesses them being made fun of and even beaten up for it, and then… nothing happens. It’s totally forgotten about, despite multiple scenes featuring these characters. I didn’t necessarily need justice, but something would have been nice. And then, my biggest question while reading this book, what exactly was happening to Gretchen’s body while she was a fly? Was she just kind of in a coma? If she wasn’t eating or drinking, how did she stay alive? How did she even become a fly? How did she get turned back into a human? SO MANY QUESTIONS. NO ANSWERS.

One thing that I didn’t really understand was the slang in this book. Literally every character refers to penises as “gherkins” and breasts as “biscuits.” Gherkins… okay, I guess that makes sense. But BISCUITS? It took me some time to figure out what that was referring to. It was just… so weird. What was the point? It was almost like either the author or the publisher was afraid to use any anatomically correct terms (or actual slang words) and had to make up these weird food-related words for an entire school to use.

I don’t know that I can really recommend this one as anything other than a very odd, very fast read.

#killingthetbr: three months on shelf


Have you read Fly on the Wall? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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18 thoughts on “Book review: Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart

  1. Stephanie says:

    Excellent review! It can be so difficult to write a negative review, but this is great. I love seeing specifics of what didn’t work for other readers, and holy crap, the whole fly-on-the-wall-in-a-locker-room thing is seriously creepy. It’s 2006, so I suppose these things were more funny back then and we weren’t so concerned with matters of consent, but this is one of those books that it seems just hasn’t aged well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. indiefan20 says:

    This sounds like one big fat case of double standards, I bet in relatively recent times a book had come out about a guy turning into a fly and perving on girls in the locker room female readers would have a problem with that. The only book I’ve read by this author was ‘We Were Liars’ and although I liked it I didn’t think it quite lived up to the hype either. The first thing that occurred to me when I started reading your review is that a girl eating lunch alone and drawing a bunch of pictures of her favorite superhero sounds fairly different to me! 😛 I guess you have to turn the oddball meter up to succeed in this school.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sara @ The Bibliophagist says:

      You’re completely right! I said the same thing to my boyfriend a couple days ago. This book would have never been published if the genders were reversed, so why is it okay for this teenage girl to be creeping on her male classmates?

      But anyway, I also agree about the superheroes. She really is oddly obsessed with superheroes!

      Liked by 1 person

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