Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud: Review


When I found this gem, nestled safely among the throws of the other hardbacks the cover spoke to me. Mostly because I was thinking that I could absolutely rock that skirt, but also because I’m a sucker for anything that looks remotely typographic.

If you are looking for a novel to cause warm fuzzies to burst forth from your guts–this is not your tribute. However, if you are a fan of a light crime novel heavy on high school melodrama—you have found your mark.

Con artists, kidnappings, plastic surgeons, private detectives, house staff, and the melodrama mammoth…high school.


The Silverman family has had more heartbreak than any family should. They lost a daughter–kidnapping. A wife lost her husband—insanity, two fake Ericas—imposters. Finally they get the call. There’s emphatic, irrefutable DNA evidence proving that she is home. Except Erica isn’t really Erica anymore, she’s been replaced by Violet who has quite literally been groomed for this job. Don’t worry, you cannot get past page three before reading one of my favorite lines from Violet (again—she’s not Erica).

“Dear God, forgive me of my sins. I’m pretending to be a girl who went missing thirteen years ago. A girl who’s rich. A girl who’s dead. “

Violet (Not Erica) has to—because her adopted father Sal is an infamous Con Artist who has groomed her perfectly. So perfectly, that her plastic surgery scares even herself at how eerily similar she looks to the computer generated image of Erica at the projected age of sixteen. She knows the script, has the plan in her mind of how to steal the Silverman’s billion dollar painting and exactly how to escape. What Violet has that her ConDad lacks, however, is empathy. As a reader you find yourself wanting to find Violet inherently good. That’s a hard accomplishment for someone who has set out to destroy the lives of those who couldn’t deserve it less.


Pretending to be Erica is not only a very intriguing read, but it is full of moral complexity that you don’t see very often in such a genre. Violet is an incredibly complex character. The book reads almost as though she has a personality disorder causing her to wage a constant war inside of herself. In fact, the majority of the book deals with Violet/Erica truly coming to term with the “job” she has been groomed for, and the morality complex she has given herself.

There’s a part of me that wishes I had to figure out the con as a reader. Half of the fun in a thriller is trying to figure out whodunit, right? Michelle Painchaud quite literally lays it all on the first few pages. This story is not so much focused on the crime itself, but on the girl behind it.

A huge thing that stuck out to me was that romance was so subtle, it was almost non existent…and I loved that! Violet never had boyfriends, girlfriends, or real parents so watching her forge fake relationships as the first “real” bonds she has ever been able to was pretty heartbreaking. It also helped keep me as a reader very aware that while Violet was committing a very adult crime, she is still every sixteen year old girl. From the girls at the lunch table like Merril and Cass. Really, Cass won my heart with her description of PMS.


“If by ‘cramps’ you mean ‘end-of-the-world tornadoes in my ovaraies’,then yeah.”

Taylor is by far my favorite take away from the novel. Going to raves, casually taking three shots in a row, having a Dad with organized  crime connections, refusing to nark that she knew about the con the whole time…really she’s quite perfect. I think that James described her best when saying,

“She knows he’ll bail her out of anything, so she does everything.”

Okay, James may be pretty amazing in his own right. He is everyone with social anxiety and honestly…high school… when asking Erica on a date.

“You can say no if you want; it’s up to you. I won’t get offended or anything. I’ll probably crawl in a corner and question everything I’ve done in my life up until now, but it’ll be fine.

James. You. Are. Me.

I really liked this book, and the supporting cast of characters couldn’t make for a more endearing read.




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