The Pretenders


An ARC was provided by Net Galley in exchange for fair review


Three girls, two guys, five secret journals.
The five most popular students at Noble High have secrets to hide; secrets they wrote down in their journals. Now one of their own exposes the private entries…
I am leaking these because I’m tired and I know you are too. The success bar is too high and pretending has become the only way to reach it. Instagrams are filtered, Facebook profiles are embellished, photos are shopped, reality TV is scripted, body parts get upgraded like software, and even professional athletes are cheating. The things we believe in aren’t real.
We are pretenders.


The Pretenders is a contemporary YA novel set at a high school in New Jersey. The story revolves around “The Phoenix Five,” students are supposed to be the absolute best of the best, such high achievers at a school for high achievers that their winning this award is supposed to get them scouted as a sophomore.They’ve all been keeping journals as part of an English project. The journals are stolen by a disgruntled member of this elite group and published for the school to see.

You can pretty much ignore the fact that these kids, or their high school, is supposed to be special because none of them are. There is nothing about the high school that suggests it is anything other than your average high school in an affluent area and the students themselves are more or less your standard archetypes: you have the jock (Duffy), the outcast who is trying to fit in and become popular (Lily), the drama student (Sheridan) and the two kids with troubled home lives: Vanessa (who is so stressed out by her parents all-but-certain-yet-not-announced divorce that she breaks out in hives) and Jagger (one name only; an emancipated minor).

On the face, it’s a solidly written book and I was on my way to giving it a “Borrow It” rating. Aside from the story not quite living up to the premise, the characters felt real enough to be recognizable. But then, unfortunately, there were a combination of things that occurred that made me bump this down. No one thing was responsible, but together they were too much to ignore.

  1. Jagger being (allegedly, I don’t know how much I trust this kid) emancipated is absolutely idiotic. His parents are imprisoned for beating up on a bully who was bullying him so now he’s on his own and living in the back room of a pet shop. At 14. I’m still hoping that one of the revelations in the second book is that he’s really just a runaway. It’d make a hell of a lot more sense, because emancipation is serious and no one would emancipate a kid because “he can’t run to the jail every time a permission slip needs to be signed.” No relatives could take him in? Why didn’t the state send him to a foster home? If what he’s saying is true, it’s beyond stupid.
  2. The author name drops a reference to another series she has written. Then she proceeds to have Sheridan fangirl said series and even provide a recap of one of the plot points from that series. Seriously? It’s either gross self-promotion, laziness, or both. It doesn’t occupy much of the book, but it still felt crass. Someone as popular as her (she’s also behind the popular YA series The Alphas and Monster High) doesn’t need to stoop to that, and if it’s because she couldn’t think of another example, she’s just not trying very hard.
  3. The is no ending. Like. At all. Seriously, Carnival of Souls, which I put on my worst-of-2013 list, in part for its abrupt ending, still had more resolution than this book. Revelations start to occur, people start to panic and then BOOM. End of book. Not a single storyline was resolve. Not. One. Carnival of Souls abrupt resolution annoyed me. This actually offended me. This practice is simply unacceptable and I can’t recommend a book that it does it.

Summation: A otherwise decent light read ruined by the insulting non-climax.

Rating: Skip It

Availability: Available Now


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