Saturday, March 04, 2006

Fly On The Wall

Fly on the Wall : How One Girl Saw Everything by E. Lockhart

The Plot: Gretchen Kaufman Yee goes to a New York City high school that specializes in the arts. She's an only child, rather fierce in her individuality and independence; her preferred art form is comics, her preferred character Spider-Man, and she's not about to let teachers tell her that that comics and graphic novels are not art. Gretchen is not comfortable around the opposite sex; to her, they are a different species entirely, not quite trustworthy. One day she wishes that she could be "a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room," just to find out what the guys really talk about. And the next thing she knows... she is. A fly. On the wall of the locker room.

The Good: Y'know, if more people watched Buffy, there would be less wishing going on. I'm just saying. Sometimes TV imparts very valuable life lessons. Be careful what you wish for; and it's all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out.

I PROMISE that since this doesn't come out until March 16th, I will not give any spoilers. But let me tell you -- it's difficult. Because I see myself as more of a book discusser than a book reviewer; which means, sometimes discussing the ending or resolution of a book -- hence, a spoiler. From the title, it's no spoiler that Gretchen becomes a fly.

I love Gretchen, who is a bit prickly. She's her own person -- but like many teens (and many adults!) she doesn't realize how she comes across to others; how others see her.

Her wish to listen in on the boys is originally selfish -- what are they saying about me? But after she becomes "a fly on the wall," she goes from listening in order to hear what the boys say about her to listening to what the boys say about themselves. They stop being "the other." She also finds out what others think about her -- and Gretchen ends up being surprised at the impact she has on the lives of others.

Gretchen's background is a mother who is Jewish, a father who is Chinese American. What works really well is that this is part of who Gretchen is; but just a part, no more or less than being a Spider-Man fangirl or a love of graphic art. Meaning, this isn't an "issue" book about Gretchen's ethnic/racial identity; it's a book about a girl, and that girl happens to be part Jewish and part Chinese American and a hundred percent funny.

OK anything else is way too spoilerish. Pick up this book, it's a quick, fun read and it'll make you think.

Links: Lockhart also wrote The Boyfriend List. The Cynsations Author Interview by Cynthia Leitich Smith. Poll at Lockhart's website. Lockhart's MySpace. Real life NYC high school for the arts.

And I cannot help it. Spider-Man moment. My 3 year old nephew, L, is a total fanboy about Spider-Man right now: watches the old cartoons, has the toys, has various items of clothes with Spider-Man, heck, even L's teddy bear has a Spider-Man outfit.

So here's the cute story: My mother is going thru a box of old family photos, and after L's initial interest in baby pictures of his mother (which he insists is himself) his attention turned elsewhere, until my mother held out an old black-and-white photo to me and said, "this is my mom and Mary Parker."

L: "Mary Parker? Mary PARKER?" In a long lost friend voice. Needless to say, Mary Parker died years before L was born; and she's not a relative we really chat about.

M: "Yes", staring at the excited boy.

L: "Does she know Peter Parker?"

M, glances at me as I whisper who PP is, then answers: "Yes, L, it's his mother."

At which point L took the photo and kept it as his own. Poor kid, if we're not careful, he'll go to kindergarten in a few years insisting he has a photo of Spider-Man's mother. (And as fans know, it just so happens that PP's mother is named Mary. But, I assure you, we are not related to and do not own a photo of PP's mother.)


Disco Mermaids said...

Even though I'm male, I enjoyed Lockhart's The Boyfriend List and couldn't wait to see what she was working on next. I saw this book mentioned in PW and thought she was definitely an author who could pull off the I'm glad to hear that she did. It is now officially on my "to read" list.

- Jay

Kelly said...

It's on mine too how, Liz! Can you contribute this one to YA reviews?

Funny Spiderman story! Kids, I tell 'ya.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Hm. Or perhaps you really are related to Peter Parker and simply tossing this out to lead us off the trail of his nearest and dearest so we don't kidnap you all in an effort to lure him to his doom. Oh, wait. I'm a good guy. Never mind. :)