Pretending to be Erica

Author: Michelle Painchaud
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

First off, I have to comment on the marketing strategy for this novel.  We Were Liars meets Heist Society?  I wish publishing companies would STOP DOING THAT.  Either you hated one or the other novel and thus automatically by association have no interest in this one, or it puts the put on an unreachable pedestal.  Myself, I love the Heist Society.  It is one of my guilty pleasure reads, and I could see how Pretending to be Erica could have a similar feel.  So of course I started this novel with an over-inflated expectation, and – as expected – Painchaud fails to deliver in this respect.

If you are going to write a young adult novel about a teenage girl raised as a con artist, you need to do one of two things: either make it a light hearted story that doesn’t take itself seriously (a la Heist Society) or you really need to sell it (a la Pretending to be Erica).  And while the plot is well done and the story does carry the potential, Painchaud fails to sell it through Erica by means of Violet.  The only card Painchaud seems to have in her literary deck is to have Violet constantly remind us that she is, indeed, a con artist.  Over and over again, you see this internal struggle of Violet versus Erica.  In a way, at times it feels more like I’m reading a novel about a schizophrenic teenager than about a young girl trying to pull off the biggest heist that Las Vegas has seen.  It gets to the point where it is not only tiring, but annoying at times, making me want to skim read.

Overall, however, I like the plot.  The writing could have been better and the plot could have been developed better (this book clocks in at only 254 pages), but it is definitely an interesting read if you can get past Violet’s annoying traits as a narrator.  As you may have guessed by now, I’m a sucker for the teenage con artist stories, and I think the ending is true to the Violet/Erica duality that develops during the story.  Still, this story falls short of greatness and won’t make its way into my private library.  There is nothing too memorable about the characters, and apart from Violet they are all rather one dimensional.  Fortunately, it doesn’t really deter much from the plot though it doesn’t do much to help develop it either.

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