Review : Pretending to be Erica, Michelle Painchaud

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.



“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.



“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.



“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.

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21 thoughts on “Review : Pretending to be Erica, Michelle Painchaud

  1. Oh yes, I have been wanting to read this book for some time now. Looks like I have to pick it soon enough. Loved your review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to admit, this book confuses me so much. I haven’t read it, but whenever I see a review/someone talking about it, I get even more confused. The synopsis just really puzzles me too, but I want to read it anyway! There’s nothing I love more in a book than having to work things out, and plot twists, so I think I will love this. Thriller isn’t my usual genre, but this really intrigues me. I hope I get to read it soon!

    Thank you for sharing this book with me! I’m glad you enjoyed it 😀
    Denise | The Bibliolater

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I’m sorry to hear you feel so confused, the whole story and identity switch is kind of confusing in the story, too. Basically, Violet is taking Erica’s place, but thorough the whole story, she’s struggling between what she really is, Violet, the con artist, and what she would LOVE to REALLY be, Erica, the missing girl living with her mother, making friends, etc etc 🙂 It’s really such an intriguing book, I loved the whole identity quest, and the twist at the end. I really hope you’ll get to read it soon, and please let me know what you think about it 😀
      Thank you so much Denise!! ❤


  3. Well you have successfully added another book to my TBR pile, it’s one I’ll pick up next month for sure during my YA Contemporary month!
    I completely agree with you the blurb does sound intriguing, and I’m glad you’ve already read and liked it so I know it won’t be a disappointment like the last book I read :/
    I’m also interested in the fact that it focuses more on the character of Violet/Erica and the identity issue. I feel like in a book like this it can be easy to forget about character development to give more space for the heist and the thrill, if that makes sense, I’m glad that’s not the case in Pretending to be Erica.
    It sounds great, and your review has only made me more excited to get started on this book 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh YES I’m so happy to hear that! I was hooked and completely intrigued from page one. I was expecting something with a lot more action, but like you perfectly said, it really focuses on character development, and it’s SO interesting in that kind of book. The struggle feels real, it’s really great. I’m so excited you want to read it! 😀

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      1. It does sound really good! And even though it wasn’t action-focused there was some right? I don’t imagine you’d have rated it so high if there was no real plot that interested you. Also from the sounds of it it’s a book which could have easily let the character development fall in the wayside, especially with Violet pretending to be a completely different person, that must be a struggle to pull off in a book.
        But yeah hopefully I’ll be able to get around to it next month but I really am excited to start it!

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      2. Oh yes of course there’s action, during the whole story you can feel the tension building up a bit, as the con is closing and Violet is trying to accomplish her mission. It’s focused on character development, and there’s a little less breath-taking action than I would have imagined, but it’s all for the best, it was certainly a pleasant surprise, and a book about identity and finding yourself, really,with a good intrigue! 🙂

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      3. That is good to know 🙂 I have read some good stories where the plot takes a bit of a backseat to the characters but I prefer it when the plot and the characters are engaging! Kind of the best of both worlds. I imagine this is a book where they have to build up the characters just because of the situation. I’ll definitely have to pick it up.

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      4. I’m sorry, reading “the best of both worlds” just made me think about that Hannah Montana song. WHY, haha, it’s going to get stuck in my head 😛 I really prefer it when both are engaging, too, but I have to say, I love a great shaped character, when they are well-done, they make me care so, so much about the whole book!

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      5. I didn’t notice that until you mentioned it, but now I have that song stuck in my head too, well, those five words anyways 😀 it’s a very catchy tune!
        Well you’ve definitely made me want to pick up this book, I’ll have to see if I can find it for my Kindle!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Haha, it is, and it reminds me of being younger…ah, nostalgia, ahah!
        I hope you’ll find it! I didn’t know whether to buy it or not, at first, because it was a bit more expensive than the other books I wanted to get, but I’ve wanted to read it for so long… I’m glad I did. Hopefully you will be, too 😀

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  4. Mysteries aren’t really my thing usually. :3 But I’m so glad this lived up to your expectations and followed the premise well. You probably haven’t seen this but it reminds me of a Asian ghost drama called Master’s Sun. There’s a mystery plot with a character with dual lives. 😛 Awesome review, Marie!

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