Fly on the Wall

Posted October 25, 2012 by Tara in Review /// 8 Comments

You know I love a pink book.

Fly On The Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything
by E. Lockhart
Library book from PermaBound
[#62 in my 75 book challenge]

It’s like Kafka’s The Metamorphosis for teenage girls.

Okay, not exactly. But Gretchen Lee, our protagonist, is reading Kafka in her English class at the artsy Manhattan School for Art and Music. Gretchen worries about boys, her increasingly distant BFF, the disapproving critiques from her art teacher, and her parent’s recently-announced divorce. She’s an enigma to her classmates. All Gretchen wants is a boyfriend…and to become a comic-book artist.

Until one morning when she awakens as a fly in the boys locker room.

No explanation is ever given for why Gretchen wakes up as a fly, but she does, and she sees everything. At first she just does the things we would all do — she watches the boys undress, inspects their bodies, and listens in on their conversations. However, she ends up using the experience for some self-actualization as she realizes what really happens behind locker room doors and what insecurities the boys are hiding under their macho exteriors.

Fly on the Wall is a little more obvious about the feminism in parts (there are specific references to Title IX), but more subtle and realistic in others. It’s a book that celebrates the messy awkwardness of being a teenager and the relationships teens build as they navigate the awkwardness.

FINAL GRADE:  B+ I love a good E. Lockhart book, and I picked this one because it’s the only one I haven’t read yet. E. Lockhart is my favorite feminist author for teens. I recommend Fly on the Wall to fan of Lockhart’s other works, though this is the weakest of her novels (but still awesome!). Younger teens would enjoy it, but older teens might not take the premise seriously. For English teachers, it would an awesome read paired with Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Be aware that there are lots of descriptions of male genitalia, naked bodies, sex, homosexuality, and violence in the story — though all are done well. Overall, it’s a short read (120 pages?), well written, with a good message.

Where would you want to be if you could be a fly on the wall?


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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8 responses to “Fly on the Wall

  1. I really need to read an E. Lockhart book – everyone seems to love her works! And she’s a YA feminist author?! This sounds like such an interesting book – I mean, who can’t relate to the idea of being a fly on the wall and wanting to hear what other people do and think sometimes? Perhaps I should start with another one of Lockhart’s books, however, like The Disreputable History…

  2. ratridevi

    I haven’t read any of her books yet, but the fact that she’s both a YA and a feminist author makes me really interested in checking her out. I just stumbled across your site today. Will definitely be following. Thank you for the excellent review! 🙂

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