Erica Silverman was abducted at the age of four. She was snatched outside of her kindergarten and never seen again. Violet was adopted by her con artist father for a single purpose: to become the long-lost heiress of the mythical Silverman painting. Violet has only ever been groomed for this moment. But what Violet doesn’t count on is how much she comes to care about the Silvermans, as well as the friends she’s made under false pretense. 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 Erica is a killer debut.
Pretending to be EricaFeaturedHot
But in a twisted and con artist-ish way, Erica lives on through Violet. Erica's six-year-old character has been studied by Violet for several years. Violet knows every quirk, every habit, every smile, every frown, every trait, and everything about Erica. (Violet knows Erica better than the readers themselves.)
The more Violet dives into Erica, the more she loses herself. Remember what I said about opposites? Well, Violet's confusion blurs the line between Erica and Violet. The Violet persona tries to jump out while the Erica persona is in control at almost all times. An internal war is formed between the two identities, and I love how much Violet loves her new and wonderful life as Erica. But she isn't Erica. She has a job to do.
The con is to get the Silverman Painting. It is worth a lot of money, and Violet will be set for life if she successfully nicks it. Violet wants to steal it to please her father figure, but she also likes Erica's mother and hates to hurt her. It is a tough call. Will Violet pick the good or bad option? Duh, duh, duh. The conflict is mostly internal, and throughout the book, Violet starts seeing the holes in her life as Violet.
Interestingly, even though the story is wonderful and amazing, I can't find an emotional connection to Violet or the story. The book's plot goes by quickly from the beginning to the end, but there is no emotional payoff (for me, at least).
The ending closes up almost all of the loose ends. Michelle Painchaud also provides a lot of opportunity for a sequel, and I will probably read it if it comes out.
Overall, PRETENDING TO BE ERICA is a quick read. It has an attractive synopsis, a main character with moral issues, and a sweet romance, and I bet fans of Ally Carter's THE GALLAGHER GIRL series will love this book. Best recommended for 12 and up.
Rating: Three out of Five
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
When I saw that this book was supposed to be We Were Liars meets Heist Society, I was really excited to read it. I did enjoy it but with that comparison, I think I was expecting something different than what the story actually was about. I was expecting a big mind-bending mystery or tension-filled heist but instead, it was more a character journey for Violet.
Violet was an intriguing character. It was a struggle for her the whole time she was pretending to be Erica, having to keep her Violet thoughts and reactions a secret. I felt for her because she was raised most of her life to become this other person so she was always very conscious of how this other person would reaction, whether she was Violet or pretending to be Erica. She could be very judgmental of the people who had been in Erica’s life and who were trying to help Erica now that she had returned. If Erica was soft and spoiled, then Violet was hardened and street-smart.
The concept was really interesting and I could see Violet slowly starting to care about the people who loved Erica. The longer she lived Erica’s life, the more she knew she would end up hurting these people who were so nice to her. Each character was unique, from popular girls Cass and Merryl, Mrs Silverman was such an amazing mother who was trying to balance between letting Violet/Erica be herself and wanting to never let her out of her sight again. My favourite side characters were Taylor and James. There were a lot of snark and sarcasm flowing back and forth between them and Violet/Erica, and some light romance between her and James. It was interactions with these characters that showed Violet was a caring girl instead of a heartless criminal.
The actual heist-related parts of the book were quite light. There were some flashbacks of young Violet’s training and mentions of how Sal, her father figure/trainer came about certain information and planned the whole heist, but it never went into a whole lot of detail. It wasn’t a huge Ocean’s 11-esque crime even though it took them years to prepare Violet for her role.
I would say the book was definitely more character-journey oriented than heist-driven but there was a lot of action, especially near the end of the book. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting but it was a good read.