Review: Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud

Title: Pretending to Be Erica
Author: Michelle Painchaud
Publisher: Viking Books
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 254 Pages
Published July 2015

Summary: 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.

Michelle Painchaud was one of our debut authors that we featured last year, and ever since I heard about Pretending to be Erica, I have been absolutely dying to read it. So when I got a bunch of gift cards to Barnes and Noble for Christmas, naturally I couldn't resist picking this one up.

The entire story intrigues me, because it's super creepy and twisted and I can't believe that someone would actually do what Violet did. As the summary explains, Erica Silverman was abducted and murdered years ago, when she was just a child. She came from a very rich family that was harboring a very, very important painting that every criminal in Vegas was dying to get his hands on. So it just so happens that Violet, years later, is being coaxed into an operation to go undercover and pretend to be the returned Erica Silverman, since her body was never found and it could never be confirmed that she was dead. Her mission? Infiltrate the family and steal the million-dollar painting - while pretending to be Erica. 

This entire story was definitely twisted in the best way. I couldn't believe that Violet's adoptive father was so concerned with pulling off this operation that he spent years training her for this -- since the day he adopted her. She even had surgery to get her bones shaved down until she had the exact same facial features as Erica. She also got her eyelids cut to look like hers, and had her bones surgically broken in the same spots Erica once had. All to make her the most flawless Erica that there could ever be. That part definitely gave me shivers and I couldn't get that out of my head. I felt so bad for her and all that she had to endure to set herself up for the bigget scheme of her life.

I really enjoyed this book. Violet herself was a very smart and witty character, and it was great to watch her try to fit into the roll of Erica and solve the mystery of the code to the safe that she needed to steal the painting. I thought Taylor was a riot too, full of wit and humor, and she was definitely super cunning. James was super adorable and great boyfriend material too, I have to say! 

I found it interesting to see how Violet fell into her new life as Erica. Since she had always been a girl on the run and training for the day she could complete this con, she never had a chance to go to a real high school or have real friends or a real boyfriend. So on top of trying to pull off this operation, she had to also get used to having the normal life of an everyday American teenager as well.

(There are some minor spoilers ahead so please skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read this book yet!) There were only two things about this book that irked me a little bit and kept me from giving it a five-star rating. The first was that I felt the ending of the book was way too rushed. Everything happened so fast and Violet had a random burst of emotion and then everything went downhill. I just felt really confused and rushed and was a little thrown off with how quickly the climax popped up and went away. That leads me to my second problem - the ending. (Major spoiler ahead!) When Violet ends up in jail and James visits her and plays the guitar and it just ends with her crying. I wanted to know more! I was left with way too many questions - did she get out of jail eventually? What happens between the two of them? What happens with everyone she left behind? Now that Sal is dead, is she going to have a family when she gets out? What now? 

I was just left with a lot of questions. Being left with a few is alright, but that many is too many. If the ending had been wrapped up a little more and not totally and completely rushed, I would have definitely been a more satisfied reader.

However, that doesn't mean that I'm a dissatisfied one! This book overall was super fast-paced and mysterious and entertaining, and I definitely think that anyone looking for a little bit of an entertaining and gripping read should give this book a try.

All in all, Pretending to Be Erica was a riveting read full of horror, mystery, and maybe even a little bit of love. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the ending yet, but I definitely think that everyone interested in a little mystery should give this book a try, because it was super interesting! I'll definitely be reading more work from Michelle Painchaud in the future. :-)


  1. This one sounds pretty good! I'm really intrigued by the premise, so I may have to check it out!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

  2. This sounds like an intriguing read. Definitely adding it to my tbr! Great review!

    -Poulami @ Daydreaming Books

    1. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoyed the book as much as I did!


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