While E Lockhart’s book Fly on the Wall explores some controversial and challenging themes, this book is also an easy read with a lot of humour.
Gretchen, a student at arts school in New York, gets her wish and becomes a fly on the wall in the boys’ locker room.
E Lockhart quickly hooks you in to Gretchen’s story. We meet Gretchen and her divorcing parents. We spend time in her school, discovering the difficulties of an ordinary girl in a place where everyone is talented or special. We meet her ex-boyfriend, her new crush and all his mates, and we learn how difficult it is for Gretchen to feel comfortable around any of them. If only she could be a fly on the wall of the boys’ locker room. Then she would know what they were all thinking!
And then Gretchen really does turn into a fly.
The second part of the book is meaty. In more ways than one. As a fly, Gretchen sees ‘things’ in the locker room. And by ‘things’ I mean naked boys. Lots of them. This fact alone will send people flocking to buy this book (and many grown-ups tutting at the thought of it). But E. Lockhart somehow manages to walk the line between being overly anatomical and downright crude and just manages to stay balanced in her descriptions and commentary.
Ultimately, the initial shock of seeing the boys naked gives way to the more subtle – and interesting – things that Gretchen learns about the boys. She learns that everyone has hang-ups about their body or has issues going on in their lives. She learns that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a great way of understanding their actions. And she learns that sometimes the only person who is going to stand up for you, is you.
Fly on the Wall is full of fascinating themes about objectification of the body. For example, if Gretchen’s character had been a boy spending time in a girls’ changing room, how would we feel about that? Or is it OK for Gretchen, bored by all the nakedness after a few days of being a fly, to grade the bodies she sees from A+ to D? Thought provoking and challenging.
However, there are swear words and references to sex. There are gay relationships and some pretty heavy bullying issues. For older readers, these are all handled well and are great points for discussion starters. The appropriate age range for this book is open to discussion, but don’t expect to find this in a primary school library. Gretchen is sixteen.
Fly on the Wall is definitely one for the older reader. Definitely worth a read.