Series: Pretenders #1
Published by Poppy
Published on October 1st 2013
Genres: Adolescence, Family, Fiction, Friendship, Love & Romance, Realistic FIction, Young Adult
It takes place at a high school in New Jersey. Summer is over. Sophomore year begins tomorrow. Outfits are being planned. Lunch buddies are being secured. Texts are flying. All seems normal when…ping! Everyone in the sophomore class gets an email.
SUBJECT: The Phoenix Five: License To Spill.
Attached is a mega document.
A letter from a mysterious student starts the book. It explains that at the end of each year the school yearbook- The Phoenix- names the five most outstanding freshman. She (or he) always suspected that last years’ five (3 girls, 2 boys) were phonies. She (or he) always thought they tried too hard to be popular. But she (or he) never had the proof. Until now. She (or he) stole the secret diaries they were asked to keep by their English teacher. She (or he) has compiled them into a book.
This is that book.
The best way to describe this book: the worst book I have ever read whose sequel I want to read.
Pretenders is a terrible book. Superficial, childish, silly, and annoying. It revolves around the journal entries of 5 of the most popular kids at Noble High, which supposedly is supposed to show how each of the popular kids hide who they really are to become popular and stay that way. It was supposed to show how everyone is a Pretender. I thought this book would provide some level of depth. I was wrong.
Each of the 5 characters annoyed me or frustrated me in some way. Some more than others.
Sheridan is a blonde who is new to Noble High, and wants to make a good impression on everyone. How does she do this? By “channeling different celebrities” every day. So each day, Sheridan takes on the persona of a certain celebrity: Leighton Meester, Reese Witherspoon, and Blake Lively are all examples of celebrities that she “channels”. She doesn’t have a personality, and never appears to school or any other social events as herself. Ugh.
Duffy irritated me the least. He is a blonde, green eyed teenager who plays on the varsity basketball team as a freshman. He’s a good kid, for the most part. There’s no character trait of his that really turns me off. He is a bit bland though, and there is nothing that separates him from other similar people. He’s just your stereotypical boy next door. The only thing that nagged me a bit was that he sent very ambiguous signals to both Sheridan and Lily, which is bound to create catastrophe in the next book. I will admit though, I care about him the most out of all five people.
Lily is a public school first timer. After spending all of her life home schooled, she decides to enter public school to support her gay best friend Blake, as he goes to public school for the first time. It soon becomes more than that though; she develops an attraction- no, an OBSESSION to- Duffy. And Duffy has no idea. Lily’s story is bland- it focuses on Duffy and Duffy only, which is too bad, because she seems like a smart girl with a lot of potential. Bah.
Jagger is a kid with a very dark past. He lives alone because his parents are in jail. We don’t know much about him yet, except that he’s hiding a lot of information from those who are very close to him.
Vanessa makes me want to tear up the book. A self-proclaimed overachiever, she is focused on grades and grades only. She laments the fact that these secret journals are not being graded,but rather, are only being checked for completion by the English teacher. She leaves footnotes in her journal entries (yes, footnotes), commenting on the beauty of her sentences or trivial things that she didn’t want to include in the actual journal entry. She also thinks very highly of herself. In one of the footnotes she says,
I currently have 159 awards (Complete list available upon request). I have served as student council president for three consecutive years. I was captain of the 8th grade track and field team. I have been a Girl Scout for 7 years. I have never received a grade lower than A.
I hate her. And apparently, she tries to get good grades to keep her parents’ marriage from falling apart, but frankly, I don’t care. BONUS: She itches when her parents argue. Yup.
So the superficial storylines continue for a long time. Hitting on girls, hitting on boys, making friends, making enemies, establishing rivalries, all that insubstantial high school stuff. The writing doesn’t help. It is incredibly childish, full of overly immature contractions and slang words, and all in all is on par with the writing level of a twelve year old. Maybe that’s the target audience, and I’m just too old.
But right near the end, something changed. Not the book, but me. I started to get slightly invested in some of the characters. I rapidly tried to remind myself that this book is incredibly stupid and that it is killing my brain cells, but I couldn’t help but care a little bit about the characters, no matter how flawed they were. The climax is, well, climactic. All of the drama intensifies and comes to a boiling point. I got confused somewhere near the end, so I will write down in spoilers what happened, to make sure that I understand what happened. You can skip over this part.
Sheridan: at Octavia’s party after she thought Duffy had stood her up at the fashion show. Octavia has told her to come so that she can see that Logan is not Sheridan’s boyfriend, but Octavia’s own. She gets a call from Duffy and gets her phone stolen from Logan, who she may or may not like. Logan jokes that he is her boyfriend, then hangs up.
Duffy: Humiliated after no one showed up at his party. Now he will be fired, and his basketball career will be over. He calls Sheridan to see if she’s ok, and promptly is told by Logan that Sheridan is his girlfriend, and that she is at his party. Duffy now thinks Sheridan has stood him up. He goes to Lily’s house, opens a locked box using his birthday as the code, and immediately calls the cops.
Lily: Devastated that the fashion show with Duffy was not in fact a date. She goes to the school roof, where Blake is waiting for her. She asks why Blake is not with Vanessa, and he says that she sounded like she needed help in her phone call. They wait on the school roof as police cars pull up.
Jagger: He is now with Audri at Octavia’s party, but she doesn’t know (as we don’t), his true story.
Vanessa: She gets a note from someone saying “I KNEW YOU WERE UP TO SOMETHING. NOW I HAVE PROOF, YOU’RE DONE.” She figures out that Lily likes Blake and that she was deceiving her. Except, of course, she didn’t. She goes to Octavia’s party expecting Blake, but when she gets there, she gets confirmation that Blake has left after receiving a phone call from Lily. She also gets confirmation that they are together. Vanessa, enraged at Lily for something she didn’t do, calls the cops so they can catch Lily trying to hack the school computers.
Sorry about that. Anyway, be warned. This book ends on a major cliffhanger. Nothing is resolved, and the shoe is just about to drop for all of the characters. I am fairly pissed off at the author for manipulating me into reading the next book, but now I have no choice.
Pretenders is a horrible book. Insubstantial, childish, and cringeworthy. The characters are all pretty stupid and flawed, and it is very hard to like many of them. But it is also a quick, light read. And who knows? Maybe you’ll inexplicably get invested in the story. Like I unfortunately did.
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