For Gretchen Yee life as an artificial redhead is anything but glamorous. A student at the Manhattan High School for the Arts (New Yorkers think: La Guardia) with girls wearing unitards or saris and cliques like the Art Rats, Gretchen feels too ordinary to belong. She stands out not because she’s special or unique but because she’s ordinary save for her stop-sign-red hair.
Gretchen is also lonely and confused. Her best friend is more and more distant and the boys at her school–like her crush the fantastically amazing and artistic and offbeat Titus? Well, they don’t make any sense either.
Then Gretchen makes an idle wish to spend one week as a fly on the wall of the boy’s locker room not expecting much to change.* But sometimes, wishes don’t like to stay idle. Sometimes they like to come true.
Life as a vermin isn’t much more glamorous than life as an artificial redhead. But it’s certainly more informative. Gretchen gets to observe the boys as they come and go for each gym class. Lower classmen, acquaintances, friends, and even her crush, are all available to scrutinize. Instead of just learning, as she had expected, about what the boys really look like under those baggy jeans and t-shirts and what they really think and say behind closed doors–Gretchen also gets a chance to find out how she fits into the school.
When the week is over Gretchen might have even learned enough to live life not as an artificial redhead or a vermin but as a superhero.
I like Gretchen a lot as a character. She is also a comic book fan which almost always makes a character fun to read about. Excuse the pun, but after being a fly, Gretchen’s metamorphosis from insecure to empowered girl really starts.
At times Lockhart’s language seemed a little . . . unique. (You can tell me what you think after reading her segment on “gherkins.”) I don’t know if it’s that she’s using slang that I find weird and this is therefore only my problem, but it just made me hyper-aware that I was reading a book at certain points in the story.
As for the plot, it’s a classic problem-resolution kind of story. Which I like. If you need to pick up something light and fun after a sad book I’d recommend this. Finally, even though you think the book is about a girl turning into a fly which is a fair assumption, it’s really about more than that too. Specifically, it’s about a girl learning to go after what she wants.
*Basically, Fly on the Wall takes Franz Kafka’s plot from The Metamorphosis and brings it into the modern world and into a book that would appeal to teenage girls. And, for that reason, I almost didn’t read it. I hated reading The Metamorphosis in high school and, to be honest, I still strongly dislike the book and avoid Kafka at all costs because of it. BUT, I am happy to say that the similarity to Kafka’s novel begins and ends with Gretchen turning into a fly.
Possible Pairings: Girl Overboard by Justina Chen, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson, Fly on the Wall by Lisa Moore, The Superhero Handbook by Michael Powell, The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Cloudwish by Fiona Wood, The Fly (movie)