pretendersPretenders (Pretenders #1)
by Lisi Harrison
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, pre-teens
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

When you’re in high school, don’t you hope that everyone else feels like as big of a pretender as you? Don’t you wish that those kids who seem so together and as if they have everything they want secretly believed they were unworthy or a fraud?

Sure you did.

And that’s why Pretenders is such a fun book to read.

Oh, it’s frustrating, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

This is the tale of five freshmen and how they plan to survive their first year of high school. Or at least pretend to do so.

Sheridan is so self-conscious and insecure that the only way she can cope with changing loyalties and apparent betrayals is to pretend to be different celebrities. She dresses like them (Anna Kournikova?) and assimilates their personalities into her own. The problem with this, of course, is that Sheridan can’t see what everyone else can: she has no idea who she really is.

Homeschooled Lily Bader-Huffman convinces her parents to let her go to high school when her best (and gay) friend is sent. Lily’s parents agree, provided she maintains her A+ average. This wouldn’t be a problem, except Lily is besotted with Andrew Duffy, a basketball phenom destined to make varsity as a freshman. But Duffy has his own crosses to bear, and Lily’s appearance in his life registers nary a blip. It’s a good thing she has Vanessa Riley, a gorgeous Vanessa Williams-esque girl whose beauty is only exceeded by her brains. Vanessa’s family is falling apart, and she feels the only thing that can keep them together is her report card.

Finally, there is Jagger, the requisite Bad Boy. He is an emancipated minor living alone in the family home because his parents are in jail. He tells one character that he’s being pursued by a guy bent for vengeance. Can we believe a word he says?

Their lives intersect, as you knew they would. Each character tells his or her own story in a sort of diary format, the source of which – journals they keep for an English class – appear to have been stolen. The book opens with an anonymous declaration that the journals have been “leaked” because everyone is tired of the pretending.

Just as the stories gel – just as we feel we know these characters and understand what motivates them – the book ends. Just … ends. It’s baffling, really, until you consider that Lisi Harrison has a Part 2 coming out in June 2014. Then it makes sense.

If you can put up with the cliffhanger, this is a good choice for young teenage readers. They undoubtedly will find characters with whom they relate, and, in seeing themselves in Sheridan, Lily, Duffy, Vanessa, and Jagger, perhaps they will get the strength of will to stop pretending.


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Filed under teen lit, YA

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