‘Pretending To Be Erica’ by Michelle Painchaud: YA con-artist story


Rating: 4 1/2 stars

“Pretending To Be Erica” by Michelle Painchaud is an exciting ride with a girl who was raised by a criminal to be a con artist. Her eventual goal? To con a wealthy woman whose daughter, Erica, had been kidnapped when she was four years old. Violet was adopted by her father when she was young, and her whole life has been a prelude to the scam she describes in this novel in first person narrative.

Painchaud handles Violet’s flashbacks very effectively by having them told in third person. Violet’s whole life has been a series of scams and cons. She has learned to hide her emotions and to stay in character when in full “scam mode.” And she’s good at it. The story is more than just action, though. Once Violet gets into the home of the kidnapped daughter and is welcomed back with open arms, she learns what it is to be really loved — the way Erica’s mother loves (who she thinks is) Erica.

There are very thoughtful scenes in the psychologist’s office where Violet decides to let her true feelings out. She has thought it through, and she has been advised not to try to hide anything from the professional, who might see through any attempt at dissimulation. So she decides to let the therapist see Erica’s other side — Violet.

The longer Violet stays as Erica, making friends, being treated as a daughter by a loving mother — all the while trying to find the combination to the safe with the fantastically valuable painting — Violet begins to regret what she is going to do. Painchaud includes other peripheral characters who add to the tense, climactic ending. Twists and turns aplenty keep the reader turning page after page until the very satisfying ending.

Great book for reluctant readers and those who adore the young adult books about teen thieves and scam artists. Touching and with a beautiful turn-around at the end, this book will keep kids thinking long after they’ve closed the book.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Viking Books for Young Readers for review purposes.