BookBrowse Reviews Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart

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Genuine Fraud

by E Lockhart

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart X
Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2017, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2019, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves?

Do we ever really know who our friends are? Or what the truth is? After all, truth, like beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, but whose gaze are we meant to trust? Those are only a few of the questions that E. Lockhart asks her readers to grapple with in her thriller, Genuine Fraud.

When we meet Jule, she is an international nomad, obviously keeping to herself, and on the run – though we don't know who she is, why she is in trouble, or where she is going. All we do know is that there were two people in her life who gave her a sense of security, and one of those people was Imogen. At first we think that Imogene was perhaps a sister, or a mentor who took a parental role in Jule's life, but as the narrative unfolds in reverse, we start to question the true nature of this relationship. By the time we hear Imogene speak in her own voice at all, well, we are left wondering who, exactly, is Jule?

The novel's narrative is absolutely driven by Jule's character, and how she wields stories about herself and her relationships. There is something deliciously pathological in her manipulation – we recognize it, the need to control and manage an image and tell a certain story. The effect is unsettling, but just enough to keep us guessing at what the truth is, and whether or not we will ever know it. Because the narrative unfolds backwards and nonlinearly, the reader is destabilized within the text; usually a reader becomes more invested in the character as the plot unfolds, but here, the more we learn about Jule the less we want to support her.

Each scene removes another layer of the persona we were first introduced to, and what we begin to see is something that we cannot define but have to nonetheless question. Is this simply someone so desperate to change her circumstances she will become anyone and anything as needed? Is there something deeper, more pathological at work? This is never answered, but, perhaps it doesn't need to be. What matters most is that Jule is willing to do anything to keep the world she constructed intact, and as the bodies fall, the truth becomes much darker than any of the fantasies. Also important is how plausible the unplausible becomes through this text; while the odds of befriending a carefree billionaire heiress are miniscule, it is easy to see how and why Jules is so successful at cozying up to someone and stepping into their lives. The niggling feeling that this could happen in the world outside the text gives this thriller its strength.

Readers will fly through Lockhart's snappy prose; though the plot structure unfolds nontraditionally, the pacing facilitates understanding and makes each revelation manageable to follow. The dialogue, as well as Jule's internal monologue, walk the very narrow line of being formulaic, and in places does cross over into the patterns that genre fiction and thrillers are known for. But because it is tough to anticipate the plot of this story, we are still left coming out on the other side feeling like we've read something unique. Though classified as a young adult novel, Genuine Fraud will thrill all readers and force us all to question some of the darker sides of human nature.

This review was originally published in September 2017, and has been updated for the May 2019 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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