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Review of Genuine Fraud

Genuine Fraud
by E. Lockhart
High School    Delacorte    265 pp.
9/17    978-0-385-74477-5    $18.99
Library ed.  978-0-375-99184-4    $21.99
e-book ed.  978-0-385-39138-2    $10.99

As soon as Lockhart’s latest intoxicating psychological thriller (We Were Liars, rev. 5/14) opens in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, readers will be perversely enamored of eighteen-year-old narrator Jule. She’s cold — sociopathic, even — and in trouble with the law, but a sexy lead. She’s strong and tough enough to defend herself (and then some), intelligent, and intuitive; a feminist who contemplates gender persecution in society and in the hero tales she thinks herself worthy of: “women were rarely the centers of such stories…they were eye candy, arm candy, victims, or love interests…they existed to help the great white hetero hero on his fucking epic journey.” And Jule shows an endearing softness as we learn about her friendship with beautiful, wealthy Imogen, whom Jule misses dearly. To say more would give away too much. However, as chapters descend in numerical order and reverse chronology, it becomes increasingly clear that Jule is an unreliable narrator the deceptive likes of which many readers won’t be prepared for. With each subsequent chapter and new globe-spanning setting, readers get breadcrumb-like pieces to the puzzle of why Jule is running, what happened with Imogen, and what makes the intricately drawn anti-heroine tick. The appended note lists many inspirations for the novel, among them: “Victorian orphan stories,” “superhero comics,” “stories of class mobility,” and a few specific books, including Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Indeed, “particular debt” is owed to Highsmith, but Lockhart’s command of structure, pacing, atmosphere, and character are accomplishments all this author’s own.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is managing editor of The Horn Book Guide.

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