Title: The Pretenders
Author: Lisi Harrison
Genre: Contemporary, YA, High School
Series: Pretenders #1
Published On: October 1st 2013
Source: Netgalley- Received in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: 1 Star
"Three girls, two guys, five secret journals. The five most popular students at Noble High have secrets to hide; secrets they wrote down in their journals. Now one of their own exposes the private entries... I am leaking these because I'm tired and I know you are too. The success bar is too high and pretending has become the only way to reach it. Instagrams are filtered, Facebook profiles are embellished, photos are shopped, reality TV is scripted, body parts get upgraded like software, and even professional athletes are cheating. The things we believe in aren't real. We are pretenders."
The foreword starts off great, and made me eager to read on, but I was quickly disappointed. The foreword set me up to expect a more dramatic story about five journals that get leaked for the school to read, and I assumed we’d be reading a story about how people reacted to the leaked journals, along with the journals themselves, but all we got were the journals, which didn’t leave much of a plot.
It was like reading about five normal (as in normally strange) teenagers facing typical teenager problems. Divorce, dysfunction, crushes, sports, bankruptcy, gossip… nothing too exciting, everything very annoyingly bland.
The only reason I continued reading this book was because the writing was actually interesting. The characters each had their own unique and gripping voice, despite their annoying personalities, and with each entry, there was a sort of cliffhanger that propelled me to read on.
What I absolutely hated, though, was the ending. It just cuts off. No resolution, in any way, not even slightly. No cue that the book was going to end other than the dwindling pages. It just ends abruptly and leaves you confused and eager to know how their stories end. Which I guess is good for the sequel, but mostly it was just annoying and I felt cheated.
The pretenders has five main characters, meaning five perspectives, Lily, Sheridan, Jagger, Duffy, and Vanessa. I normally despise books with more than two point of views, and sometimes avoid books with only two, just because I don’t like the shifting views, however The Pretenders was terrible about this. The book is told from journal entries, but the characters don’t have equal parts. I recall reading from Jagger’s POV maybe four times, while Lily, Duffy, and Vanessa had a ton of screen time, so to speak. What I did like with the multiple POVs is how we got to know the characters through each perspective.
For example, we had Duffy’s and Vanessa’s perspectives on Lily, but we also got to read from Lily’s perspective. I felt like this made it easier to really understand the characters, because with one POV, your view is skewed by that single character, but with three different perspectives on a character, you could determine what was accurate and what was not so accurate.
While I enjoyed being able to see the characters from so many different eyes, I did not actually like the characters much. They weren’t exactly what I was expecting based on the blurb. They all had problems that teenagers their age often face, and I can see how they can be deemed ‘Pretenders’ because none of them put out who they really are, but that’s typical of a high school student. Based on the blurb and the foreword at the beginning of the book, I was expecting students at a really elite high school who are all hiding something… I don’t know, more serious, more mysterious. Instead, they were all very juvenile, which is fine because they’re all fourteen and it’s young adult fiction, but I felt the premise of the book set me up for something different.
Because there’s so many MCs I’ll talk about them individually:
Lily was crazy. Having been homeschooled all of her life up until her freshman year, she’s incredible smart and ahead of everyone academically. However, she’s incredibly slow when it comes to socializing. She starts off her journal with a crazy entry just to trip her parents up if they ever decided to sneak a peek. That’s not the crazy part, though. Her next door neighbor is Duffy, and Lily is in love with him, even though they’ve never talked. He often leaves things outside, and she likes to… steal them. She hides the stuff in her closet, and watches him out her window. Which is incredibly creepy, even though I’m sure a lot of teenager girls have been creepy like this with their crushes before, but the stealing his stuff is a little above and beyond. I felt kind of bad for her though, because Duffy doesn’t return her feelings at all, and barely takes notice to her, and ends up using her much later. She was probably my favorite character, and she was definitely the least annoying, aside from Duffy.
Duffy is a basketball jock, and all of his problems revolve around joining the varsity basketball team. He ends up taking a sketchy job that requires him to wear ridiculous clothes that he hates in order to pay for joining the basketball team. His personality didn’t annoy me as much as Sheridan and Vanessa did, and I wanted Duffy to end up dating Sheridan from pretty much their first meeting, however there’s a lot of miscommunication in this book, and a lot of incidents that always seemed to ruin things for them.
Jagger is… well I honestly don’t think he was in this book enough for me to form a good opinion of him. He lives on his own, his parents are supposedly in jail and he’s now emancipated. He’s mysterious and lives in the back of a pet shop, and his parents are on death row, according to him. I don’t think he was a reliable narrator at all. I can’t say much more without spoiling something.
Sheridan likes to pretend she’s celebrities. She takes their ‘persona.’ She’s fake and annoying, but as the story progresses, I grew to like her more as she started to be herself more. She wants to be an actress, and is always acting or ‘practicing’ which wasn’t too bad, but it could get aggrivating. We don’t see much of her home life, but we do see a lot about her friendship with Audri, who makes a new friend named Octavia, and Sheridan starts to feel left behind.
Vanessa starts off incredibly snobby and I instantly disliked her. She’s an overacheiver and always has to be better than everyone else. She feels like she must be liked by everyone. Which, at first, is an incredibly annoying characteristic, but the more we saw of her homelife, the more it made sense. Her parents are always fighting, and whenever she does well, they go out to dinner, and everything is better between them for a while. So, in her mind, she has to do well in order to keep things at home from going out of control.
This book could have been so much better. I wish it was what I though it was going to be. I was disappointed, and will not be reading the sequel. If you like books about cliques, and teen drama, then you might enjoy this book. It was a quick read, and it was interesting, but it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Not my type of book.