"You don't really know who you are, or what you're capable of, until you meet the right people."
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.
Pretending to be Erica was certainly one of the most interesting books I read this year- perhaps because it's my first time reading about a child con-artist. I was really amazed by the lengths to which they go to train children to be fit and crafty enough to pull a con such as the one in this book. If you're interested already, read no more- go get the book!
Violet has been brought up to be the most immaculate con-artist. From the time she was chosen from foster care, her adoptive father, Sal, has groomed her to be the perfect Erica- a rich heiress from a wealthy and opulent family in Las Vegas who has gone missing at age five. Violet has been brought up since that age, to be everything Erica was and everything Erica would have been if she had lived- Vi knows that Erica, the real Erica has been killed and buried somewhere. Erica's parents hope that she's still alive and well and this is what gives Violet the opening that she needs to enter their lives as their long-lost daughter. Violet's only goal is to gain their trust enough to somehow get the security code needed to steal a valuable painting and disappear.
"I am Goldilocks in a suburban forest, eating the most complicated porridge ever."
Things start turning complicated as Violet starts forming attachments with people in Erica's life. The characters in this book were a huge plus point. Violet was a very compelling MC, and what's scary is that she is truly two people in one- she is Violet and she is Erica. Kind of like a multiple personality disorder because when she's Erica, damn, SHE IS ERICA. The way she thinks, feels, behaves, it's all different when she's Erica. She had a very strong voice throughout the book, and while I hated the way she went along with the plan despite the lives she knew she was affecting, I was rooting for her all along and am I glad I did.
"Smile a lot; be pleasant. This friend thing doesn't seem so hard. It's like conning, but without the lure of scoring money."
Violet didn't have a loving family, friends, or anything that could even remotely resemble a normal childhood, so it's difficult to begrudge her the relationships she formed as Erica. But still, I found myself being unable to fully forgive her because of the way she played with the the Silvermans' grief. The relationships she had with various characters were portrayed really well, and the author should be lauded for this. Her relationships with James and Taylor were heart-warming, and it felt good to see her making friends for the first time in life. I particularly loved the relationship that she formed with Mrs. Silverman- another reason why I found myself unable to forgive what she did even though she kind of redeemed herself at the end.
"This time the tears are real. But they aren't mine. They are clearly Erica's. Violet knows this."
As the story continues, it becomes evident to both the reader and Violet herself that she's been greatly deindividualized by Erica's character. The line between Erica and Violet becomes blurred and Violet struggles to maintain her façade. There is an internal war between the two identities and I loved how we were made to feel it. The book was less of a thriller since it had a deeply psychological side to it- one reason I liked it as much as I did. Michelle Painchaud has dealt out an awesome YA debut- well-detailed, surprising, yet very plausible. I honestly believed Violet would be able to pull off the con of a lifetime, and this made the final quarter of the book very interesting since I had absolutely no idea how it would all turn out- and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was hoping Violet would indeed turn out to be the real Erica. That didn't happen of course.
Looks like a sure-shot five-star read, doesn't it? But no. What made me rate this book less than that is the pacing- it felt a bit off- and try as I might, I couldn't really connect to the story. The ending had a few loose knots which was quite frustrating for a person who loves a good solid ending as me. There's potential for a sequel and I do hope the author goes ahead with it because I, for one, would surely read it!
The realization of the story: 4/5
The characters: 4/5
The cover: 4/5
Enjoy factor: 3/5