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Psst! Yr Fly Is Open!

A review of Fly On the Wall by E. Lockhart, a super awesome mix of comics, YA and bits 'n' pieces.

Psst! Yr Fly Is Open!

BOOK REPORT for Fly On the Wall by E. Lockhart

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit
Bonus Factors: Fine Arts High School, Comics, Asian Collectible Toys, Nuddy Pants
Relationship Status: Girl Crush

The Deal:

Y'all know that one of my major goals in life is to attend a high school for the arts, NEVER MIND the fact that I'm over 30 years old (hey, if Drew Barrymore can pass for a teenager, so can I.). But if Gretchen Yee ever found out about my not-so-secret passion, she'd probably roll her eyes, call me a crazy pants and then return to drawing a totally sweet pic of Spider-Man. See, at the Manhattan High School for the Arts (Ma-Ha), girls are still mean, boys are still obnoxious, and fitting in is still all that matters (the only difference is that conformity at Ma-Ha involves hot pink hair and combat boots). Even in a school full of outsiders, Gretchen is a loner, especially since her one friend, Katya, is constantly babysitting her zillions of siblings, and Shane, the boy who was maybe kinda sorta her boyfriend, turned out to be a Total Dick. And just when she thought her main problem was being invisible to Titus Antonakos, the heroin chic hottie in her drawing class, Gretchen's parents slay her with the news of their impending divorce. It just so happens that, in the midst of this angst, Gretchen is reading Kafka's The Metamorphosis, and so when she impulsively wishes she was a fly on the wall of the boy's locker room... well, I think you know what's coming. MALE NUDITY!!!

BFF Charm: Yay!

Gretchen Yee, don't let those haters get you down, cos girl you are THE COOLEST. I mean, not only can you draw comics like a freaking John Cassady, you also combine fire hydrant red hair with the curmudgeonly attitude of an old man, which is a highly underrated quality in a teenager. At the same time, you're not like the superheroes you draw-- you're prickly and insecure and you really need a friend to remind you of yr awesomeness. And that's where I come in! I'll totally let you grouch and rant as much as you want, and then we can make it all better with a trip to the comic store to buy the latest issue of Fables. I like you so much, I'll even hang out in yr nasty-ass room so we can order take-out for dinner and spazz about how totally AMAZING it was when Titus asked you, "What's up?" and you replied, "With me? The usual. Random acts of violence, media saturation, teenage angst, utter mayhem." I mean, like Peter Parker would EVER be able to say something that cool to Mary Jane.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

It's rather fitting that a YA book heavily featuring the male anatomy isn't super swoony. Because that's kind of the point. When Gretchen as a fly catches her first glimpse of a boy's bits 'n' pieces, she experiences something to which we can all relate-- "Wait, that's it?!" So even though this book doesn't really bring on the le sighs, it's a healthy acknowledgment of the fact that yes, teenage girls get horny, and YES, IT'S OK. IN FACT IT'S HEALTHY.

Still, there's a few sweet moments with Titus, who btw wins the FYA award for the GREATEST CRUSH NAME OF ALL TIME. Try to say it without feeling at least a little smitten: TITUS! ANTONAKOS!

Talky Talk: 2 Legit 2 Quit

If you've read any of E. Lockhart's other books, you already know that she is a MASTER of clever yet believable convos and inner dialogue. She effortlessly weaves tiny quirks and sparkles of charm into the every day, adding just enough magic to make a regular story extraordinary (while keeping it real). I always get a kick out of her lingo, specifically in this book the use of "biscuits" as a euphemism for boobs. Hello, insta-entry in the FYA lexicon! Fly On the Wall is definitely shorter than Lockhart's other books (in fact it's what we like to call "Lisbeth thin") but the length is absolutely perfect for the plot and pacing of the story.

Bonus Factor: Fine Arts High School

In spite of Gretchen's experience, I still think fine arts high schools are THE SHIZZ. Everyone's all creative and weird and unique and people spontaneously break into dance/song in the middle of class because THE TEACHER ASKED THEM TO and homework involves, like, sketching sculptures at the MoMA and smoking too many cigarettes at the 24 hour diner while discussing the latest Mamet. And the best part? NO ONE HAS TO TAKE PHYSICS. Those lucky art bastards.

Bonus Factor: Comics

I honestly have no idea why Gretchen is single, because if she walked into my local comic store, I guarantee she would have five cutely geeky guys begging to trade their first edition New X-Men #114 for her phone number. Because girls who love comics are unfortunately rare, thereby rendering Gretchen, and, by extension, this book, some major badassery. My only complaint is the absence of Y the Last Man in Gretchen's collection, because any teenager who enjoys graphic novels would GO BANANAS over Agent 355 and Ampersand.

Bonus Factor: Asian Collectible Toys

Gretchen's dad is Chinese American and owns a small toy company, which means LOTS OF COLLECTIBLE CRAY CRAY. Who doesn't love bread with faces and adorable pink bears that gut people with their claws? Lockhart even invents her own brand, the squee-worthy Bean Curd Babies.

Bonus Factor: Nuddy Pants

There's so much nekkidness in this book, and IT MUST BE CELEBRATED!!! Esp. because Gretchen's take on man parts is HILARIOUS. I particularly enjoyed her usage of terms such as "staff of life" and "pink trombone."

Casting Call:

Well, I haven't seen Scott Pilgrim yet, but I have seen some promo shots featuring Ellen Wong sporting punk rock blue hair, so based on that alone, I'm gonna let her have a go at Gretchen:

Ellen Wong as Gretchen

As for Titus, I had a hard time coming up with someone waifish enough, but in terms of dreaminess, I think Lucas will do.

Lucas Till as Titus

Relationship Status: Girl Crush

This book is definitely one of the coolest girls in school, and I totally want to be friends with it. I also kinda sorta wanna be it. I mean, we're into so many of the same things, like comics and art, and there's something incredibly bold and fearless about the way this book expresses itself. It champions feminism and tackles homophobia like a freaking superhero, and it's not afraid to go against the grain and be a little bit weird. I'm working up the nerve to ask it to be my partner in health class, because there's no way I'll survive the coach's lectures on reproductive organs without its awesomeness by my side.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).