Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything

Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything

4.1 49
by E. Lockhart

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"I think this might be the best YA novel . . . I've ever read." John Green

From E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars—the New York Times bestselling phenomenon—and the uproarious and heartwarming Ruby Oliver books, comes a fast-paced and hysterically funny novel that answers the question:


"I think this might be the best YA novel . . . I've ever read." John Green

From E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars—the New York Times bestselling phenomenon—and the uproarious and heartwarming Ruby Oliver books, comes a fast-paced and hysterically funny novel that answers the question: What would it be like to be a fly on the wall in the boy's locker room?

At the Manhattan School for Art and Music, where everyone is “different” and everyone is “special,” Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. She’s the kind of girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of Spider-Man, so she won’t have to talk to anyone; who has a crush on Titus but won’t do anything about it; who has no one to hang out with when her best (and only real) friend Katya is busy.

One day, Gretchen wishes that she could be a fly on the wall in the boys’ locker room–just to learn more about guys. What are they really like? What do they really talk about? Are they really cretins most of the time?

Fly on the Wall is the story of how that wish comes true.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Narrator Gretchen Yee will grab readers from the first page with her snappy commentary. Even at her Manhattan arts high school, she's a misfit. But the comic-book obsessed artist gets an unexpected chance to live as an alter ego when, for a week, she turns into a literal fly on the wall, trapped inside the boys' locker room. Lockhart (The Boyfriend List) sets up a clever parallel by making Gretchen's class read The Metamorphosis, and-like Kafka's protagonist-it is unclear what caused Gretchen's change (she suspects a philosophical old man she met on the subway, or a strange soda she drank on the way to school, among other things). Her sense of humor offsets her generally negative outlook, and the pace picks up during her time as a fly. As Gretchen buzzes around hundreds of naked bodies, she witnesses a lot of locker room drama, and worries about the morality of spying even as she categorizes their bums or describes an uncircumcised penis. She also realizes how insecure boys can be (she even learns that confidence is not always what makes someone sexy-sometimes, as in the case of her crush-its just the opposite). The conclusion wraps a bit neatly (and without much introspection), but readers will find enough thoughtful material here to keep buzzing through the pages. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2006: Paying homage to both Kafka and Spider-Man, Lockhart's latest answers the question that most teenage girls ask: What do guys really do in the locker room? Gretchen Yee is an ordinary girl in a school for extraordinary students, the Manhattan School for Art and Music. She's mostly a loner whose love for comics is evident in her artwork, much to the dismay of her art teacher. Gretchen tries to stretch her wings, but she's tied down by everything else going on in her life--her crush on the boy who doesn't notice her, her best friend's constant busyness, and most of all, the separation of her parents. Part One: Life as an Artificial Redhead is the story of Gretchen the outsider whose father has moved out and whose mother takes off for a trip. Part Two: Life as a Vermin is the story of Gretchen, the fly who is trapped in the boys' locker room where she sees everything (yes, everything), and finally starts to understand the social hierarchy of the male species. In Part Three: Life as a Super Hero, Gretchen wakes up as herself, but better, and suddenly life looks a lot different. A fun and fast read, Fly on the Wall gives readers a peek behind the closed doors of male adolescence. Age Range: Ages 12 to 18. REVIEWER: Michele Winship (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Children's Literature
At Manhattan High School for the Arts, where everyone prides themself on being different, Gretchen feels ordinary. The most radical thing she has ever done was dye her hair red. Then she wishes she could be a fly on the wall of the boy's locker room. The next morning, she wakes up with her wish granted. For one week, Gretchen is privy to all that goes on in the boy's locker room. At first she sees this as the opportunity of a lifetime: to check out all the boys naked. Nevertheless, as this becomes old she begins to observe the social politics of boys when there are no girls or teachers around. She learns an immense amount about the various boys she knows, boys in general, and about herself. While Lockhart has an interesting plot premise, great style, and a very engaging narrator, her basic story execution is sloppy. Gretchen is a very interesting character, but two-thirds of the book is her observing, not doing. Lockhart also ignores a fundamental rule of fantasy: it must make sense. When Gretchen turns into a fly for a week, neither her parents or the school (a small one, at that) seem particularly concerned. Gretchen is never concerned about turning back into a girl and does not even mention what she eats as a fly. The story is interesting, nevertheless, especially for girls who always wonder what boys DO, do in the locker room. 2006, Delacorte Press/Random House, Ages 12 up.
—Amie Rose Rotruck
Kafka serves as muse in Lockhart's newest effort that shares only some of the themes in common with Metamorphosis. Instead Lockhart takes a swat at comedy when student artist Gretchen Yee magically transforms into a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room in the private Manhattan school for the arts which she attends. While morphed, Gretchen analyzes and compares the various gherkins present-and she certainly is not talking about pickles-for nearly a third of the book. Thankfully Gretchen experiences a metamorphosis of her own. Lockhart examines the theme of individuality through Gretchen's revelation that it is still possible to express herself within the comic style of drawing that she loves so much; of tolerance when Titus, Gretchen's love interest, announces that his dad is gay; of family duty when Gretchen gains the wisdom to accept her parents' divorce; and of courage when Gretchen finally asks Titus out on a date. Although entertaining at first, the humor wears thin after about ten pages. Frank dialogue and witty food metaphors in place of actual body-part names-biscuits for breasts for example-provide a chuckle here and there. The occasional use of profanity rings true coming from students in an urban high school. Lockhart obviously intends to target older high school teens, as evidenced by her allusion to Kafka, and while certainly an interesting tribute to him, this work of chick lit may create slightly less of a buzz. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Delacorte, 182p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—Erin K. Kilby
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Gretchen Yee, 16, feels painfully ordinary in a school where everyone is an overachiever. Teachers at The Manhattan School for Art and Music don't appreciate her artistic skill, and she feels like she doesn't fit in with the students. She longs to understand what others think of her, and her wish to be a fly on the wall of the boys' locker room comes true. She spends a week there observing her classmates, learning and seeing more than she ever expected. In addition to humorously discovering the mysteries of male anatomy, the teen sees the casual cruelty of her ex-boyfriend, and that her best friend sacrifices her own happiness to keep from upsetting her. She also discovers that there are boys who like her and some who are hiding painful secrets. With this knowledge, Gretchen gains confidence, which ultimately allows her to be a better person. When the insect character emerges, Lockhart's writing style moves from prose to near poetry as she weaves in and out of Gretchen's mind. This technique allows readers to know what the protagonist is thinking, keeps the pace of the quickly moving story, and suspends disbelief with the very absurd concept. Although containing some strong language and mature situations, this novel is a good choice for teens who are unsure of their place in the world, including reluctant readers.-Stephanie L. Petruso, Anne Arundel County Public Library, Odenton, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
While many kids may feel ignored and invisible, Gretchen actually becomes a fly and spends her insect life in the locker room of the boys' gym. Fortunately for readers, the first section of the story introduces her so-called normal life as an art student at Manhattan High School for the Arts. Coming from a blended family that is rapidly disintegrating into separate quarters for each parent, Gretchen finds comfort in her drawings of comics, especially Spidey. She suffers from a crush on Titus, another Art Rat, and her homework assignment of Kafka's "Metamorphosis." Time spent as a fly watching boys change into and out of gym clothes gives Gretchen a perspective that no other girl has on the boys' real characters, their hairy behinds and the nitty-gritty of certain puzzles, such as Titus's self-consciousness about his gay parents. Rather than focusing on the hocus-pocus of being an insect, it's all about the new point of view. Unresolved are the issues from when two boys get beat up by a bully, but Gretchen emerges to make some changes in herself and her world as a result of her new perspective. Fine fun for fans of both Kafka and Spiderman. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
Praise for fly on the wall:
“I think this might be the best YA novel…I’ve ever read. It’s hilarious, and it’s so very smart. I mean, I’m serious…It’s really amazing.”—John Green, author of the New York Times bestseller The Fault in Our Stars
“A super-smart, super-sweet, and super-fantastic read.”—Sarah Mlynowski, author of Don’t Even Think About It
“With an appropriate nod and wink to Kafka, this unexpectedly sharp comedy charts its own metamorphosis.”—The Horn Book Magazine
“Fast-paced, hysterically funny, and a pleasure to read.”—
“Fine fun for fans of both Kafka and Spider-Man.”—Kirkus Reviews

IRA Young Adult Book Choice

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.63(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.70(d)
850L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Fly on the Wall

By E. Lockhart

Random House

E. Lockhart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0385732813

Chapter One

I am eating alone in the lunchroom.


Ever since Katya started smoking cigarettes, she's hanging out back by the garbage cans, lighting up with the Art Rats. She bags her lunch, so she takes it out there and eats potato chips in a haze of nicotine.
I hate smoking, and the Art Rats make me nervous. So here I am: in my favorite corner of the lunchroom, sitting on the floor with my back against the wall. I'm eating fries off a tray and drawing my own stuff-not anything for class.

Quadriceps. Quadriceps.


Calf muscle.

Dull point; must sharpen pencil.

Hell! Pencil dust in fries.

Whatever. They still taste okay.

Calf muscle.



KA-POW! Spider-Man smacks Doctor Octopus off the edge of the building with a swift kick to the jaw. Ock's face contorts as he falls backward, his metal tentacles flailing with hysterical fear. He has an eighty-story fall beneath him, and-
Spidey has a great physique. Built, but not too built. Even if I did draw him myself.

I think I made his butt too small.


I wish I had my pink eraser, I don't like this white one.



Connecting to: leg . . . and . . . quadriceps.

There. A finished Spidey outline. I have to add the suit. And some shadowing. Andthe details of the building. Then fill in the rest of Doc Ock as he hurtles off the edge.

Mmmm. French fries.

Hell again! Ketchup on Spidey.

Lick it off.

Cammie Holmes is staring at me like I'm some lower form of life.
"What are you looking at?" I mutter.


"Then. Stop. Staring," I say, sharpening my pencil again, though it doesn't need it.

This Cammie is all biscuits. She's stacked like a character in a comic book. Cantaloupes are strapped to her chest.

Her only redeeming quality.

"Why are you licking your Superman drawing?" Cammie tips her nose up. "That's so kinky. I mean, I've heard of licking a centerfold, but licking Superman?"




"Whatever. Get a life, Gretchen."

She's gone. From across the lunchroom comes her nasal voice: "Taffy, get this: I just caught Gretchen Yee giving oral to some Superman drawing she made."

Spider. Spider. Spider-Man.

"She would." Taffy Johnson. Stupid tinkly laugh.

Superman is a big meathead. I'd never draw Superman. Much less give him oral.

I haven't given anybody oral, anyway.

I hate those girls.

Taffy is doing splits in the middle of the lunchroom floor, which is just gross. Who wants to see her crotch like that? Though of course everybody does, and even if they didn't, she wouldn't care because she's such a unique spirit or whatever.

I hate those girls, and I hate this place: the Manhattan High School for the Arts. Also known as Ma-Ha.

Supposedly, it's a magnet high school for students talented in drawing, painting, sculpture or photography. You have to submit a portfolio to get in, and when I did mine (which was all filled with inks of comic-book characters I taught myself to draw in junior high) and when I finally got my acceptance letter, my parents were really excited. But once you're here, it's nothing but an old, ugly New York public school building, with angry teachers and crap facilities like any other city public school-except I've got drawing class every day, painting once a week and art history twice. I'm in the drawing program.

Socially, Ma-Ha is like the terrible opposite of the schools you see on television, where everyone wants to be the same as everyone else. On TV, if you don't conform and wear what the popular kids are wearing, and talk like they talk, and act like they do-then you're a pariah.
Here, everyone wants to be different.

People have mohawks and dreadlocks and outrageous thrift-store clothes; no one would be caught dead in ordinary jeans and a T-shirt, because they're all so into expressing their individuality. A girl from the sculpture program wears a sari every day, even though her family's Scandinavian. There's that kid who's always got that Pink Panther doll sticking out of her jacket pocket; the boy who smokes using a cigarette holder like they did in forties movies; a girl who's shaved her head and pierced her cheeks; Taffy, who does Martha Graham-technique modern dance and wears her leotard and sweats all day; and Cammie, who squeezes herself into tight goth outfits and paints her lips vampire red.

They all fit in here, or take pride in not fitting in, if that makes any sense-and if you're an ordinary person you've got to do something at least, like dye your hair a strange color, because nothing is scorned so much as normalcy. Everyone's a budding genius of the art scene; everyone's on the verge of a breakthrough. If you're a regular-looking person with regular likes and dislikes and regular clothes,
and you can draw so it looks like the art in a comic book,
but you can't "express your interior life on the page," according to Kensington (my drawing teacher),
and if you can't "draw what you see, rather than imitate what's in that third-rate trash you like to read" (Kensington again),
then you're nothing at Ma-Ha.

Nothing. That's me.

Gretchen Kaufman Yee. Ordinary girl.

Two months ago I capitulated to nonconformity-conformity and had my hair bleached white and then dyed stop-sign red. It cost sixty dollars and it pissed off my mother, but it didn't work.

I'm still ordinary.

Excerpted from Fly on the Wall by E. Lockhart Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

E. Lockhart is the author of the highly acclaimed New York Times bestseller We Were Liars and the Ruby Oliver quartet (The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends), as well as Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, and How to Be Bad (the last with Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle). Her novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was a Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book, a finalist for the National Book Award, and winner of a Cybils Award for Best Young Adult Novel. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gretchen is a very relatable character that readers will fall in love with. E. Lockhart did an amazing job. This was my first book I read by her and it was well writen. I would say that is actually 4.5 stars and for readers Grade 8 and up. Overall, it was a great read.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
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 Headley, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, The Superhero Handbook by Michael Powell, Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan, The Fly (movie)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
yeah, wow. e. lockhart, i already know, is an awesome author. this was the only published book by her i haven't yet read. i REALLY liked it. the length surprised me (roughly 200 pages although you can easily find that out yourself) but despite it being quick, you still really get involved with the characters. gretchen is relateable, witty and artsy--my kind of girl! i'd recommend this to anyone, especially a girl, who isn't intimidated by too cool people. ;) because i kinda wish i were gretchen sometimes, especially at the end where she realized that her life really isn't so bad. i liked it a lot!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would highly recommend this book to a friend that is in middle or high school or for kids that have parents going through relationship problems..What made me like was it had alot of,emotion,vocabulary that you wouldnt see in a regular book I mostly liked the detail in the book. I liked this author so much I think I might read another book by her called the boyfriend list,I herd I got good reviews,and five stars. Theirs nothing i didn't liked about this book, i liked this book from beginning till end.I`m really glad i chose this book for my summer reading project.
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