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“She believed that the way you speak is often more important than anything you have to say,” Jule. –Genuine Fraud
by E. Lockhart
Imogen, the heiress of a wealthy New York family, has run away from her responsibilities to her family’s mansion on Martha’s vineyard. Jule is her best friend…or so she thinks. Jule is a social chameleon, becoming whoever she wants to be and getting rid of whoever is in her way. But does that include Imogen?
Told backward, Genuine Fraud tells the story of two girls and their intertwining fates as they navigate the adult world that they long to be a part of. However, this is no charming tale of growing up and friendship, but a dark thriller that takes the reader on mysterious twists and turns. The reader never knows who to trust as they delve deeper into the story. At the end of the story, the reader is confused by questions that are never truly answered.
Although the Genuine Fraud has an exciting premise, the story never quite lives up to the promised thrill. Instead of ending with a narrative payoff, the plot feels like it traveled in a circle. Because the main mystery isn’t solved, it doesn’t really matter what happens in between. At the end of the book, there are so many questions that were not answered that the reader will be left wondering why they suffered through to the end.
Fans of We Were Liars will be disappointed with the lack of charm and relatability of all of the characters. Both Jule and Imogen are not sympathetic figures, and they never connect with the audience. Although Imogen is constantly presented as “fun” and “bubbly,” she comes across as a spoiled rich girl running away from minor problems. Instead of creating unique characters, the characterization relies on overdone tropes and stereotypes.
This book is not suitable for younger readers as it is a thriller that uses a fair amount of profanity and violence. The main character Jule is constantly using brute force to get what she wants. This enables several disturbingly gory scenes that may be too much even for older audiences. These factors, combined with a plot that fails to fully draw the reader in, contribute to the overwhelmingly disappointing nature of Genuine Fraud.
- The head soccer coach at Stanford “was a perv… touching all the girls.”
- Jule gets a ride from a bartender named Donovan, and when he suddenly becomes predatory, she wonders, “Was Donovan one of those guys who thinks a girl who wants a favor has to mess around with him?”
- Jule describes herself as “brutal,” but says, “that’s [her] job and you’re uniquely qualified, so it’s sexy.”
- When Jule tried to think of better times, she “remembered the feel of Paolo’s lips on hers.”
- Imogen’s boyfriend, Forrest, is a main character in the novel, and they often kiss.
- When Jule goes to Las Vegas, a woman asks her if she is a “working girl,” and tells her “don’t sell yourself.” Jule is not a prostitute but was just wearing heavy amounts of makeup.
- When Jule was in an arcade, “two boys she knew from school came up behind her and squeezed her boobs. One on each side.”
- When Forrest comes to Jule to find out information about Imogen who is missing, he asks her, “Did you want to sleep with her?”
- Jule tells Forrest that she had three boyfriends during her time at Stanford.
- Imogen thought she was pregnant and spent “all week skipping class and reading people’s abortion stories on the internet. Then one day I finally get my period.” Her boyfriend then broke up with her after she told him the news.
- When confronted with a boy she had once kissed, Jule thinks she “didn’t need a guy, wasn’t sure she liked guys, wasn’t sure she liked ”
- Jule makes out with Paolo. “He kissed her then, under the streetlight… He kissed like he couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else on the planet, because wasn’t this so nice, and didn’t this feel good?”
- Brooke had “a series of boyfriends and one girlfriend, but never love.”
- Imogen “hooked up” with guys while at college, making it hard to hold on to a boyfriend. These events are not described, just referenced.
- Brooke goes to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco with Lupton because she wanted to “get in his pants.”
- Jule gets an email from Vivian that reported, “that she was in love with Isaac Tupperman and she hoped Imogen would understand because there is no controlling the human heart.”
- Jule talks to a couple at a bar who are arguing over the movie Pretty Woman. The woman dislikes the movie because she says, “The perfect girlfriend is a whore who does ya for free. Disgusting.” The couple later discusses how Julia Roberts’s character is a sex worker.
- Jule tells Imogen a story from high school when her track team had a “full-on naked battle, in the showers, three against one.” Imogen remarks that it sounds like a “prison porno movie.”
- Imogen hires an attractive housecleaner named Scott. Imogen’s friend wanted him to “wash my grapes, strip down, and lick my whole body from head to toe.”
- Jule goes to the grocery store and when she comes back, “Imogen and Forrest were naked, wrapped around each other in the swimming pool.”
- Imogen tells Jule a story about when she stayed in London for a summer program and her roommates were “absolutely going at it on the floor of the kitchen one day, like fully nude and yelling. I must have walked in at just a major effing moment, if you know what I mean.”
- Jule sees “a scar wound down her right forearm, jagged, like from a knife, not clean like from an operation” on a woman that she meets and thinks, “There was a story there.”
- Jule believed, “the more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.”
- Jule creates a false origin story about herself in which her eight-year-old self finds her parents “in the grass facedown. Their bodies are crumpled and limp. The blood pools black underneath them. Mama has been shot through the brain. She must have died instantly. Papa is clearly dead, but the only injuries Jule sees are on his arms. He must have bled out from his wounds.” In this story, Jule is shot in the ankle and is taken to a specialized academy to be trained, similar to a spy. This is just a story that she tells about herself, and it isn’t actually true.
- After feeling swindled by Donovan, Jule “brought her forearm up hard, snapped his head back, and punched him in the groin…. Jule grabbed his slick hair and yanked his head back…. He jabbed with one elbow, slamming Jule in the chest…. Donovan kicked out, hitting her in the shin. Jule punched him on the side of the neck and he crumpled forward….Jule grabbed a metal lid from one of the nearby trash cans and banged it on his head twice and he collapsed on a pile of garbage bags, bleeding from the forehead and one eye.”
- Imogen had two marks on her upper right arm that, “the nurse at Vassar told me they were burns. Like from a cigarette.”
- Jule spread a story saying, “Imogen Sokoloff had killed herself in that selfsame river, weighing her pockets with stones and jumping off the Westminster Bridge, leaving a suicide note in her bread box.”
- When Jule was fifteen, two boys squeezed her boobs. In retaliation, she, “elbowed one sharply in his soft stomach, then swung around and stomped hard on the other one’s foot. Then she kneed him in the groin….When that boy bent over, coughing, Jule turned and hit the first one in the face with the heel of her hand.”
- Jule murders Brooke, and it is vividly described. “She swung once, hard, coming down on Brooke’s forehead with a horrid crack…Brooke’s head snapped back….Jule moved forward and hit her again. This time from the side. Blood spurted from Brooke’s head. . . She got Brooke’s legs, which scrabbled on the ground. . . and lurched her up and over [the railing]. . . here was a dull crack as her body hit the tops of the trees, and another as she landed at the bottom of the rocky ravine.”
- When Jule gets drunk, she tells a woman about a boy who threw a slushy in her face. She then, “brought up my knee and caught him in the jaw. Then I swung the shoe…. I brought it right down on the top of his head…. I hit him with the shoe, again and again…. He lay with his mouth hanging open…. Blood out his nose. He looked dead.” She didn’t actually kill him, but did cause serious damage.
- Jule murders Imogen when they are on a boat together and get into an argument. “The paddle end hit Imogen in the skull. Sharp edge first. Immie crumpled…. She brought the board down on that angel face. The nose cracked, and the cheekbones. One of the eyes bulged and gushed. Jule hit a third time and the noise was terrific, loud and somehow final.”
- Scott, Imogen’s housecleaner, kills himself. “He had hanged himself with rope from a beam high up in a neighbor’s barn. He had kicked out a twenty-foot ladder.”
- Jule’s father, “bled himself out, naked in a bathtub.”
- Noa, a private detective hired to find Imogen, discovers Jule at a resort in Mexico. Jule attacks her. “Noa’s head jerked back, and Jule swung the suitcase hard. It hit Noa in the side of the skull, knocking her to the floor… Noa hit the floor and scrambled for Jule’s ankle with her left hand while she reached toward her pant leg with the right…. Jule steadied herself against the wall and kicked Noa in the face.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Jule hangs out at a bar in Mexico where she is staying at a resort and talks to the bartender, Donovan, about the drinks that he makes.
- When walking through José del Cabo, Jule sees many American tourists who were, “all drunk and loud.” Many of them were “getting sloshed after a day of sport fishing.”
- Imogen’s birth mother died by overdosing on meth.
- Imogen’s father, Gil, died of a long-term illness and the characters often discussed how he had to take a lot of pills.
- Jule had dinner in Vegas where she saw “a crowd of drunk guys [who] barged in talking about beer and burgers.”
- Imogen asks Jule about the party scene at Stanford and asks, “With no beer and people being all intellectual?”
- In the story that Jule creates about Imogen killing herself, she writes a suicide letter that says, “By the time you read this, I’ll have taken an overdose of sleeping pills.”
- A drunk girl asks Paolo if he wants to get a drink.
- Brooke’s death is seen as an accident. Paolo tells Jule that, “they think she’d been drinking. She hit her head and nobody found her till this morning… They found her car in the lot with an empty vodka bottle in it.”
- Jule got drunk for the first time at the island of Culebra. “Jule’s drink arrived. She drained it and asked for another. And another.”
- A man that lived on Culebra told Jule that he “had a little marijuana business…. I used to grow it in my walk-in closet with lights and then sell it…. But the cops busted me.”
- When Imogen was in Culebra, she “drank a lot. She had waiters bringing her margaritas poolside.”
- The people who hung out at Imogen’s Martha’s Vineyard house were, “funny and nonathletic, chatty and rather alcoholic, college kids or art students.”
- Jule’s roommate, Lita, had friends that came over, “speaking Polish and smoking cigarettes.”
- Profanity is used frequently throughout the novel. Profanity includes: damn, hell yes, effing, fuck, dick, fucking, fuckload, and shit.
- The hotel that Jule stayed at in Cabo San Lucas was a “bloody great hotel.” Jule frequently used the word “bloody” when she was pretending to be British.
- Jule had, “watched a shit-ton of movies.”
- Imogen calls herself and others an “asshole” a few times.
- God and oh God are used as exclamations a few times.
- Paolo says that it is “hellish” to talk to his mother on the phone.
- Brooke’s roommate “bitched” because Imogen was in their room so early.
- Brooke said that “Vivian was a huge witch to me.”
- Imogen is Jewish and “celebrated all the Jewish holidays and, when she grew up, she had an unorthodox bat mitzvah ceremony in the woods upstate.”
- Shanna tells Jule that she “can have anything if you set your mind to it. You pray and you, like, visualize.”
- A drunk man on a beach sings, “God rest ye merry gentlemen.”
- When Brooke asks Jule if she is Jewish, she responds, “I’m not anything…I don’t celebrate.”