ARC Review ~ Pretending to be Erica

Author: Michelle Painchaud 
Genre: YA Thriller
Page Length: 272 Pages
Publication Date: July 21st, 2015
Publisher: Viking Books
Source: ARC via publisher (Thanks Penguin!)

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 Erica is a killer debut.

Conning apprentice Violet has spent her whole life training for the ultimate heist, stealing an expensive piece of art. She must pretend to be Erica, a girl who was stolen at four years old and two fake Ericas have been caught already. She must fool everyone and keep her head clear in order to pull off the con and not get caught. Infiltrating the house, she needs to get the code and steal the painting.

I absolutely loved the idea of the protagonist(s). Violet is the con artist, she is bold, perceptive sharp-tongued. Erica is the sweet, intelligent girl who aims to please everyone. Violet struggles to be Erica and feels she's losing a bit of herself in the mix. I love the inner dialogue between the two, Erica and Violet. We see what Violet wants to say and do warring with what Erica wants to say and do. It's such a fascinating dynamic, and it was done superbly. 

It's so fitting that the setting is Las Vegas. It's the ultimate place to pull cons, with people throwing money left and right. I loved the secondary characters and their great personalities. Taylor is the brash and blunt bad girl that everyone stays away from. James is the smart and soulful musician. Cass and Merrill are Erica's friends from long ago, who's bubbly personalities and kindness give this book a lightness. 

The intricate relationships in this book are so well developed. Erica's relationship with her mother is so genuine and sweet, I loved it!! Erica/Violet forms an attachment with someone from school, and we all know it can't end the way she wants it too. It was fascinating to see the struggle as Violet started to love Erica's life and not want to leave. She started falling for her friends and family and started have a conflict of interests. Also there's Violet's complicated relationship with her conning adopted father, Sal. He was always tough on her yet treated her like his own. Their relationship is so tricky because it's not one of a doting father, nor is it one of an abusive father. It's a strange kind of love, yet it works somehow. 

The writing is sophisticated and wonderful. It has a dangerous and poetic edge to it that really worked well with the story. The plot wasn't predictable, and I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next. The book dragged a bit in the middle, but I kept reading, anxious to know if Violet could pull it off. The use of flashbacks were well incorporated and helped give us a bit more background without wasting our time or giving too much or too little away. The pacing was pretty good, although the book slowed a bit in the middle.

Overall Pretending to be Erica was strong on all fronts and I can definitely say this is one of my favorite thriller novels.


  1. I'm glad this one turned out to be good! Pretending to be Erica has been on my radar every since I saw the comparison to Heist Society, so I'm really excited to read it. Now I'm especially looking forward to see the relationships between the different characters. Great review!

  2. I loved Heist Society so I'll have to pick this up.

  3. I've not heard of this one, but it looks like you enjoyed it! It doesn't seem like an Alyssa book, but I'm glad you liked it :D Excellent review, Rachel!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  4. Great review, Rachel! This looks like an intriguing read. :)
    New GFC follower
    Jess @Little Book Heaven

  5. Really love the concept of this one (and the cover!) Sounds like it is worth picking up - Great review!

  6. I'm so exited for this book! Loved your review!

  7. What a unique concept for a thriller! I haven't heard of this one before, but definitely pretending to be Erica with such a different personality would be interesting, along with the pulling of cons and stuff! Thanks for the review Rachel.

  8. Thanks for the review, Rachel! It's interesting that the protagonist in this book is a con artist -- I always love unreliable narrators and/or protagonists who aren't clearly on the "good" side, that can be super intriguing if executed properly. Getting too caught up with the friends and family of another person sounds heartbreaking, although I must say not particularly relatable to the average non-criminal reader xD Nevertheless, looks like a thrilling read! I'll be sure to check it out~

    - Connie @ The YA Book Thief

  9. I'm normally very iffy when it comes to books about becoming other people, but this sounds like it could be fantastic, especially considering how the protagonist actually gets the surgeries and things. Great review, Rachel! <3

  10. So glad you liked this! Great writing and character relationships. You really made me more excited for this one! Great review, Rachel! :)

    czai @ the Blacksheep Project

  11. This is the first I've heard of this one but it's immediately going on the TBR! Who doesn't love a setting based around Las Vegas? So fun. Plus I'm loving the con aspect and the sound of the relationship dynamics. A little nervous with it being promoted as We Were Liars meets Heist Society because I wasn't a huge fan of the former. Nice review!

  12. I've heard about this so, so many times but its the cover and the blurb that I especially love! And a con-artist in Vegas pretending to be a missing girl?! FANTASTIC is an understatement! I haven't read We Were Liars but I'm really excited about reading this one! Great review, Rachel :D

    Rhea @ Rhea's Neon Journal

  13. This actually sounds REALLY good. I was iffy on it, because heist-y stuff isn't usually my thing, but wow. I love the psychological aspect of trying to BE someone else. And I assume there are all kinds of questions raised for Violet as it goes along too. Plus, VEGAS! This sounds awesome, I am adding it to my wishlist! Great review :)

    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

  14. Glad you liked this! It sounds really good and i think i'll be buying it soon to take on vacation!


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