The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge. Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat. Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. A bad romance, or maybe three. Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her. A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.
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.
This is my first book by E. Lockhart and boy did it stress me out! Told in reverse, I flipped through pages to discover the mystery behind the characters that I wish to never cross.
What I Liked:
I can't remember the last time (if ever) that I read a book in a backwards timeline. It's so unusual, but I liked it! I wanted to reach the end of the book to know how everything happens and what made the main character land in a run-down motel in Baja California, Mexico (so close to me!). And whoa, quite a disturbing ride! Without spoiling much, what I can say is that one of the main characters is the kind of person I never want to cross paths with. The kind of character who gives me the chills and why I stray far away from thrillers/mysteries. She is a social chameleon alright, who must always get what she wants from you and be LOVED by you if you want to stay safe. Super creepy yet interesting to read about. Sort of.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I tried really hard to care for the characters in this book, but I couldn't. Sometimes, there wasn't even enough time for me to start liking them when the main characters would take them out of their lives. Often cold heartedly. And the main characters weren't likeable enough for some obvious reasons so at the end, I was left without a character to hold on to.
The end of Genuine Fraud left me a bit frustrated as well since there really wasn't any big reveal/plot twist to surprise me. It turned out to be predictable and the character doesn't seem to act any differently throughout the novel. It's not that I was expecting a redeeming arc, but I was expecting something more.
Genuine Fraud is certain to appeal to fans of mysteries with its backwards timeline and creepy characters. This is the type of read I kind of wish to erase from my mind, but I cannot deny it had me reading non-stop to get to the bottom of it all!