Cartwheel - Jennifer duBois Lily Hayes can best be described as a free spirit. Something not always understood in the more conservative surroundings of Buenos Aires where she has chosen to study abroad for one semester. She shares rooms with Katy Kellers, another exchange student. Lily has quickly become enamoured with Sebastien LeCompte, a very unusual young man living next door. At Lily’s 20th birthday party, held at the bar where she works, Lily and Katy have a personal argument in the ladies room, an argument overheard by coworkers. Twenty-four hours later Katy is dead and Lily is being diligently questioned (in Spanish), eventually tried and jailed for the murder of her roommate.

Sound familiar? This is a fictional work based on the Amanda Knox case that has captivated newsmakers, internet forums and the public in general over the last few years. Ms. DuBois takes the bare bones of the case, changes the setting and the names, alters a few of the circumstances and comes up with a “fictional” book. She creates a prosecutor who is a little more sympathetic, a boyfriend who is a lot more unusual, a host family the girls reside with and a family background for Lily which bears striking similarities and is at the same time very different from that of Amanada Knox. Lily’s parents seemed so consumed by their own tragic past I found it difficult to believe they were at all concerned about Lily’s plight. Anna, as Lily’s unsympathetic sister, ended up causing more harm than good. I felt there was no opportunity to get to know Katy enough to even care about the fact that she was murdered and Ms. Dubois turned Sebastien (the boyfriend) into what can only be described as a cartoon character.

I am sure there are many instances of crimes and news items that never blip on my personal radar that in turn have created the germ of an idea of a work of fiction. I am also quite certain that I have at some time read those fictional books without knowing that they were loosely based on real life events. I am sure I enjoyed those works and quite probably wondered where the writer came up with such a good story idea. Unfortunately, because I am familiar with the case of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito this book just did not work for me. I think it’s too soon for a fictionalized version of Amanda’s story (as I write this review the Italian justice system is in the midst of a retrial in this very case). Ms. DuBois states in her author’s note that there were “central questions I wanted to explore in this novel – questions about how we decide what to believe, and what to keep believing – while also demonstrating part of why I needed a totally fictional realm to do this”. Ms Dubois does change the names, the locale and some key personality traits of the characters but she, quite blatantly, keeps coming back to the actual key events in the Knox case.

She also writes, “And so it is as a person, even more than as an author, that I ask readers to have no doubt as to whose story this is. In the real universe is a girl who never did a cartwheel. This novel is the story of a girl who did.” Maybe so, but it is too thinly veiled for my personal taste. Overall the book seemed muddled … as if the case was too fresh in the mind of Ms. DuBois as well and she could not separate her fictional cast from the actual people involved so, too frequently, kept coming back to the realities of the events in Italy.