Pretenders by Lisi Harrison Review

Monday, October 21, 2013

Title: Pretenders
Author: Lisi Harrison (Twitter)
Publisher: Poppy
Publish Date: October 1, 2013
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

My picture is on page eighteen of Noble High's Phoenix yearbook. I am one of the Phoenix Five. You nominated me. You thought I was one of the most outstanding students in our freshman class. You were wrong.

Still, I accepted my award. I acted special. But I couldn't help wondering what it was like to be that way for real. So I broke into Ms. Silver's safe in the faculty lounge and stole all five of our journals. I'm not exposing them out of jealousy or anger. I'm doing this because I am tired of the lies. The bar is too high, and cheating is the only way to reach it. Instagrams are filtered, Facebook profiles are embellished, photos are shopped, Manti T'eo's girlfriend was a anything real anymore?

I found the answer in our journals. These are 100 percent real and 100 percent unedited. The proof is in the pages: We're all pretenders.
The Phoenix Five are the elite...the best of the best...the most likely to succeed in everything in life. Awarded and revered, they are untouchable; until now. Stolen journals of the Phoenix Five reveal that nothing is real and everything the students - and the town - have seen is a lie. TO attain perfection, one must create the illusion of perfection; but if they leave a trace, it's bound to be found. And now, the truth is out there for everyone to see.

Offering readers the age-old premise of the truth behind the lie, Pretenders will have a solid base of readers and fans based on premise alone. The evocative hook is alluring, offering us a peek behind the mask of perfection - something I'm certain I'm not the only one who covets. Author, Lisi Harrison, has written a story that whittles five picture-perfect teens down to the truth behind the facade and give us the real, hard truth. Rife with spice, intrigue, drama and plenty of reveals, Pretenders is a rollercoaster read.

I mean it when I say with utter certainty that Pretenders has all the makings of a great first book in what could be a captivating new series. Ms. Harrison paints her characters, at first, in extremes - perfect and glossy. As the novel begins to peel back the layers though, the gray areas and the festering underbelly of their perfection is exposed. All these things make such an expose like that of Pretenders pack a powerful punch. Unfortunately, I had some qualms with the ultimate execution of much of the story. We are given five different POVs in this novel, and each is actually in diary form. Three girls and two boys pour their innermost feelings onto the pages, and I can honestly say that, at times, I couldn't remember which character I was reading about because each one seemed so dang similar to the last. They were immature, snotty, pretentious and fake - all of which I could forgive if I got to see a vulnerability to their characters that made them more accessible. That wasn't provided though. I think that, had the book been about 200 pages longer, this could have worked because the petty, shallow natures played well into the story. I just wanted much more progression than we actually got in the end. Furthermore, as this book is just the first installment in a new series, I was left with a lot of nagging questions about motives, events and even the characters themselves as we're thrust into a pretty massive cliffhanger, which felt more like being dropped off a cliff than anything else.

Overall, Pretenders was not a bad book, but it felt a bit lackluster for having given readers such an excellent premise. I wish there had been perhaps two fewer characters and a few more answers, both of which would have kept me invested in the series. I give it a 3 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary stories and mysteries.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. That is SUCH an intriguing premise, even if the execution was not quite as good as you were hoping. Thanks for the review!

  2. I was just thinking focusing on 5 people would be confusing and then you said it in your next sentence, lol! I wonder if it would've worked better to take a couple of the students and make the story about them and then have the next books focus on the other characters. Hmm...This does sound like a very interesting and original plot, and I do love mysteries, but I think I'd be confused and wouldn't remember which character is which at times, too. Wonderful review, Melissa! :)

  3. Multiple POVs hardly ever work for me. 5 characters is a lot to keep track of and I'm not surprised at all that you kept confusing some of the characters. I'd probably forget the first one's name by the time I read the 3rd one.
    I've been hearing a lot of mixed reviews about this book. It's a shame because it does have an interesting premise.
    I personally don't think this is for me, but thanks for the lovely honest review, Melissa!

  4. I think this one sound so fascinating and it's just brimming with potential, but I know I couldn't handle a novel in with many perspectives sound the same or similar. I'm not a fan of that trope, so I think I'll be skipping this after all. Thanks for the honest review, Melissa!

  5. I think I was so disappointed that this one didn't live up to the premise that I just DNFed it. Plus, the five POVs just about did me in. Oh well!

  6. Wow I've never heard of this before but after reading your review, I feel like I need to read this. Especially while I'm on my mystery thriller phase.

    Fantastic review as always, Melissa! <33

  7. Haven't heard of this before but you are right, the premise sounds really intriguing. Too bad the ultimate execution wasn't done too well. That's the problem I have with many YA books (amongst other problems lol) great ideas, but just not done well. Great review Mel!


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