I would just like to take a moment to announce that yesterday, I turned in my first revision of Paper Valentine!
Soon (possibly very soon), I’ll get a second revision letter, after which I will probably disappear in a puff of smoke and go into hiding and eat only beef jerky and popcorn, and bake pies in the middle of the night.
But for now, we should have a week or two-ish of relative normalcy. I plan to get back on schedule (mostly meaning the official return of the high school posts) and in short, Be A Better Blogger.
But that’s next week.
Right now, I’m here to tell you about the third and final book in my Books-Brenna-Would-Have-Loved-in-High-School-Had-They-Existed series.
Pretty much anyone who hangs out with me, either on the internet or in real-life, has probably heard me talk about how much I love E. Lockhart. When YA readers ask me what smart, romantic contemporaries I’d recommend, I invariably point them toward the Ruby Oliver books . When professor-friends ask me for YA books to put on reading lists involving sociology or feminism or Marxist strong-containment models (or-or-or), I rave about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks.
However—while each of these books is smart, hilarious, and wonderful, and while they are all inarguably excellent books for many, many people to read—there’s still this one book that I tend to keep to myself. Because it is weird and hard to explain. Because it is bizarre and uncomfortable and kind of abrasive. Because it is my favorite.
That book is Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything.
Reasons this is the best* book in the world:
- Random, unexplained magic that is really a metaphor.
- Boys. Real boys, without censors or filters (sometimes without clothes), afflicted with faults and insecurities and terrible, stupid defense mechanisms and crushing vulnerabilities and social hierarchies and everything that makes boys real, live people.
- Frank, realistic discussion of physical attraction. Not sex. Not love. Not even necessarily kissing. (Although yes, sometimes.)
What this book is about:
- A girl named Gretchen Yee, who is half-Jewish, half-Chinese, and the lone comic book enthusiast in an arts-intensive NYC high school where all her teachers want her to draw “real” things.
- A girl named Gretchen Yee, who is secretly kind of a badass and doesn’t even know it.
- A girl named Gretchen Yee, who, through a very Kafkaesque turn of events, is transformed into a house fly and spends the rest of the week trapped in the boys’ locker room.
See? This is why Fly on the Wall is a very hard story to talk about.
This is also exactly why it would have been seventeen-year-old Brenna’s Most Important Book.
In high school, I was just as passive, just as intellectually prickly, and just as desperate to understand people as Gretchen is. And I wanted so, so much for a book to magically come along and tell me about boys—not a book to tell me what it thought I wanted to hear, but to tell me the truth, in precise, unerring detail.
Fly on the Wall has that. Fly on the Wall is that!
Lockhart does an amazing job of exploring all these tricky, interconnected ideas, like how to be a good friend (by listening, communicating, being honest), how to talk to boys (like they are people), how sometimes an unspoken infatuation can kind of start to edge into awkward voyeurism, and maybe most importantly, how the way you feel inside is not what other people see—because most of the time, people only see what you show them.
Which was something that at seventeen, I had absolutely no concrete understanding of, and would have pretty much willingly died a thousand deaths for any book that could actually kickstart that conversation.
(Also, sometimes I still don’t.)
(Have an understanding.)
(But I try.)
*In my head, I have like 20 Best Books at any given time. This is always one of them.