This isn't the kind of thriller where there's a lot of sneaking around lasers to avoid triggering alarms or running from cops. Pretending to Be Erica is a more introspective thriller focused on Violet's job of being Erica versus her conflict with that job as she plays the part she was raised to by her adoptive father. It all boils down to the question of "will she actually do it?" and that curiosity about if she'll go through with the con is what will keep readers in the seats. There's no predictable ending here, and the ending readers do get is a solid one.
Violet's voice is a vivid one too, and her characterization is the most on-point element of the entire novel. She's been so thoroughly conditioned to be Erica that she refers to herself--to Violet--in the third person when her own urges try to overpower what she knows she has to do as Erica. We all have our masks we put on when we go out in public or go somewhere we don't feel comfortable being 100% ourselves, but Violet has to wear that mask constantly. If she doesn't, nothing good is in store for her considering her father's associates. Violet's dilemmas will make you want to sweep her up in your arms and keep her safe.
What Left Me Wanting:
There are also a few side remarks that may make Jewish and/or bisexual readers especially uncomfortable. On one page, Violet's love interest James says "I'm not a music Nazi" and may bother readers who dislike casual uses of the word "Nazi" in such ways; later, Violet lies and says she's gay to cover up why she's buying LGBT magazines that Sal communicates with her through--and she says this to a PI that already knows she's interested in a guy. A small moment of bi erasure even though Violet is only hetereosexual. While the author did reach out to me in order to apologize for those remarks and say she'd do better in the future, they did still make it into the final copy of the book and microaggressions like these may mean more to some readers. It feels right to warn readers of them in case current events have them a bit on edge.
Pretending to Be Erica isn't quite memorable either. It's an entertaining read that will keep your attention as you're reading, but now that I'm trying to review it, there isn't an awful lot I remember outside what notes I took. I give myself a little time between reading a book and reviewing it to give me a better judgment of how much a book will "stick" and this isn't one of the books that sticks very well.
For all its flaws, Pretending to Be Erica is a fun read perfect for passing the time on a long road trip or keeping you occupied on a rainy day. I'm eager to see what else Painchaud will write and if she'll live up to her promise that she'll do better for her readers in the future.
*strong narrative voice
*easy to read all in one go