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Genuine Fraud

Book review by
Rachel Sarah, Common Sense Media
Genuine Fraud Book Poster Image
Absorbing thriller unfolds in reverse-chronological order.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers get a feel for resort lifestyles, how to live under a fake identity, and East Coast prep schools and colleges.

Positive Messages

Find out who are in life, go after your dreams even if they're not what your parents aspire for you, and stand up for yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Part murder mystery, part thriller, it's sometimes graphically violent, in a shocking way.


Implied sex and rape, without graphic details (i.e., "The two of them looked so awkward, humping around."


Swearing is infrequent but there are mentions of "f--k," "f-king," and leave me the f-k alone


Most brands mentioned used for scene or character setting, including mentions of prestigious colleges such as Yale, Penn, Harvard, Brown, Stanford, etc.; drinks ordered such as Coke and Diet Coke, Kahlua; foods such as M&Ms, Hula Hoops, Swedish Fish.




Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage and adult drinking and drunkenness, and comments such as, "People were stupid when they drank." Marijuana is mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Genuine Fraud is a dark thriller that includes murder, drinking, kissing, and mild sex. One of the main characters, a petite teen with a secretive past, clearly enjoys how strong she feels when she fights. ("To be a physically powerful woman -- it was something. You could go anywhere, do anything, if you were difficult to hurt.") There's a fair amount of violence and plenty of scenes describing what it's like to live in privileged glamour. Occasional swearing includes "f--k" and its variations.

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What's the story?

GENUINE FRAUD opens with Jule West Williams, a white 18-year-old without a family who's staying at a luxurious resort in Mexico, spending her days swimming and studying Spanish. She's strong-willed, secretive, and always on guard. This story moves "forward" in reverse, a tribute to Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. Readers quickly find out that Jule's best friend, Imogen Sokoloff, is dead. Immie is wealthy and captivatin, and she hangs out on Martha’s Vineyard when she's not in college. As the story unfolds, readers ask themselves how many times you can really reinvent yourself.  

Is it any good?

The language in this dark mystery is absorbing and he plot moves along at a brisk pace, but it's not straightforward. It takes takes extra work to follow the story's reverse-chronological order. Also, while the settings are captivating, neither Jule nor Imogen are very likeable. ("I am the center of the story now," Jule said to herself. "I don't have to weigh very little, wear very little, or have my teeth fixed. I am the center.") Still, the themes of the novel -- holding onto your secrets and finding out who you are -- keep the reader guessing until the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how class and privilege are portrayed in Genuine Fraud. Imogen was adopted into money, and Jule was not. What challenges does this difference present?

  • Genuine Fraud explores the desire to leave the past behind and start a new life somewhere else. Why do you think this theme is popular in books, movies, and TV shows?

  • How far would you go to protect your secrets? How honest are you with your family about important things going on in your life? Where do you think the line is between regular privacy and keeping secrets?

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