There are books you just want to read because their synopsis is so catchy. But what if the content isn’t as good as it seems to be? When I first found out about Pretending to be Erica, a while ago, I had the exact same thought, and that’s probably why it took me so long to pick it up. But damn, I’m glad I did, because it was a gripping, original story, from starting, to end.
STEPPING INTO SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES
“I had a feeling there was something wrong with me. I guess I was a mystery even to myself.”
Violet is Erica, Erica is Violet. No. Erica is dead, but no one knows that. Adoptive daughter of a master of con, Sal, Violet has been prepared her whole life for this: stepping into the shoes of Erica, a rich girl living in the suburbs of Las Vegas, daughter of the wealthy Silverman family. She has been trained her whole life for this con: stealing the billion dollars painting owned by this family, and get a whole new life with her adoptive father. But once stepping into someone else’s shoes, where do you begin, and where do you end? How can you be yourself when you’re trying to be someone else? These deep identity struggles are one of the most interesting things about that book. I have to say, from that little blurb, you’re probably expecting a thriller with lots of actions. I certainly did, and, on that aspect, I was a bit disappointed. But Pretending to be Erica choose to tackle more on the identity issue, and character development, and that was very, very interesting.
ERICA, VIOLET, WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU REALLY WANT
“The problem with my life was that it was someone else’s idea.”
So, Erica, or Violet? Right from the first line, we definitely know this is going to be a struggle. Violet knows everything she has to know about Erica, and she even looks like her, damn, she had plastic surgery to look like her. Isn’t that CRAZY, to what extent her adoptive father went for her to do this con right? She has to behave a certain way, to friend certain people, to stay out of trouble, and most certainly, to blend in and not stand out, despite paparazzi hovering around her all the time since her “return”. In the whole story, we really find ourselves Violet’s mind, as she is asking herself those endless questions, of who I really am, what I would do, what Erica would do. She’s constantly torn between her duty, and what she wants to do, and be. If it could be hard to relate to her and her situation, I found Violet to be a character I felt empathy towards. Stepping in Erica’s shoes, she finally knows what it’s like to have friends, a family, people to feel close to, and learns to love and experience life like she never has before. It’s so beautiful to read about that, and I felt pained and wanted to know how everything would turn out. We can see a real evolution of Violet during this story: from the con girl, she’s growing fond of everything, and she really takes ahold of her own decisions, and of what she wants to do, for real, for herself.
A GRIPPING, YET UNEVEN STORY
“I don’t always have to understand the people I love.”
If the story is beyond original and had me hooked from the first page, I wanted more. I loved the relationships and everything that developed around Violet. She was the real main focus of the story: the con, the big thriller and breathtaking action wasn’t, because, to be honest, there weren’t a lot of those, only more towards the end. This book is a huge built-up of a situation we’re all waiting for eagerly, and that doesn’t come. The beginning felt a bit slow, building up with Violet’s character development, personality, and flashbacks to get to know her better and her previous life, forever working towards making us feel empathy and love for that weird character. But the ending felt rushed, sudden, and all-wrapped up too fast. I wouldn’t have minded a few more pages, because I really left this book with a feeling of wanting more.
Who you are, who you want to be: those are the real questions in Pretending to be Erica. A gripping story, right from the start, and until the very end, even if I would have wanted a bit more. You’ll find yourself curious about the characters, the story, and how it all ends. A promising debut, and an author to look out for.
Final rating: 4 drops!
Did you read Pretending to be Erica? Do you want to read it? Do you like thriller/mystery stories? Share your thoughts in comments!
Michelle Painchaud, Pretending to be Erica, Published by Viking Books for Young Readers, July 21st 2015.
We Were Liars meets Heist Society in a riveting debut!
Seventeen-year-old Violet’s entire life has revolved around one thing: becoming Erica Silverman, an heiress kidnapped at age five and never seen again.
Violet’s father, the best con man in Las Vegas, has a plan, chilling in its very specific precision. Violet shares a blood type with Erica; soon, thanks to surgery and blackmail, she has the same face, body, and DNA. She knows every detail of the Silvermans’ lives, as well as the PTSD she will have to fake around them. And then, when the time is right, she “reappears”—Erica Silverman, brought home by some kind of miracle.
But she is also Violet, and she has a job: Stay long enough to steal the Silverman Painting, an Old Master legendary in the Vegas crime world. Walking a razor’s edge, calculating every decision, not sure sometimes who she is or what she is doing it for, Violet is an unforgettable heroine, and Pretending to be Ericais a killer debut.