GENUINE FRAUD by E. Lockhart is a character-driven thriller that is told in reverse chronological order. In essence, the book starts at the end of the story and then works its way backwards, slowly revealing the truth about the protagonist, Jule. Whether this approach is original or not, it works well for this book as it heightens the suspense and tension. I constantly was trying to figure it all out, and though I predicted some moments, there still were enough surprises to keep me on my toes.
Jule was also a refreshing female character. In a lot of young adult novels, the main characters are the kind of girls who don’t know how pretty they are until a male lead helps them realize it. They’re the girls who don’t go out of their way to enhance their appearances and are thrown off when someone finally notices them. Jule, conversely, is someone who likes to wear makeup and isn’t afraid to be feminine. Though she’s not necessarily a girly-girl, she does enjoy disguising herself and the act of becoming another person. The tomboy, dorky, late bloomers are easy to relate to, but it’s nice to finally have someone who is both counterculture to this and able to make feminist commentary. Jule can do a mean smoky eye AND kick someone’s butt. It’s possible to be and do both.
I also liked how the author used contemporary devices, such as YouTube, to enhance setting and really ground the story in this time period. This choice provided a tangibly realistic element in such a mysterious plot. With that being said, the payoff at the end of the story was not quite big enough. Based on how the book is set up, it needed a massive plot twist à la GONE GIRL, something that the audience could not see coming. It also needed stronger motivation for why Jule went crazy. The story didn’t make Jule an anti-hero, or a villain with whom we sympathize, and without any other characters to actually care about, it was hard to finish. In the end, I felt morally disgusted and unsure of Lockhart’s intent.
Overall, GENUINE FRAUD is a good book for those who enjoy character studies and those who like unconventional ways of telling a story. However, the novel, which started off with a lot of potential, ultimately fell short of delivering the final puzzle piece.