Friday, February 14, 2020

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

You all know that I don't give books five star ratings unless I really, really loved it. PRETTY THINGS wrested all five of those stars from my miserly fingers, kicking and screaming like a woman in a bar fight telling you to "lay off her man." The title is really clever because while one of the heroines (there are two) makes it her business to steal pretty things, both of them are "pretty things": young woman who, in their own way, have been done dirty by society and are trying to find their way back.

Our first heroine is Nina, the daughter of a con-artist and a bit of a con herself. With the help of a much older boyfriend, she runs her own version of THE BLING RING: she uses Instagram to see which local minor celebrities are flashing cash, and then she worms her way into their lives and robs them. Her latest target is a woman named Vanessa who comes from old money, but acts like your typical nouveau riche influencer jet-setter, vapid, and shallow, and utterly materialistic. Which is annoying, of course, but Nina's interest is much more-- shall we say-- personal.

Vanessa, as I said before, comes from money, but more money means more problems. Vanessa has a lot of problems. Messed-up family, all kinds of personal issues, and an almost pathological desire to be adored. She's tried to fill that void with all sorts of things and the young married couple who comes to rent her summer cabin-- artsy and bohemian in a sanitized, clean way that is very much non-threatening to her aristobrat aesthetic-- seems like it might be just the thing.

But it's not. And just when you start to think you have everything figured out, Janelle Brown throws curveball after curveball in your direction until you can't help but wonder: who's conning who?

So obviously I loved this book. Any book that reminds me of Gillian Flynn is a clear win, and Janelle Brown's morally gray protagonists are some of the clearest parallels I've encountered in a while. They were both doing very bad things, but you could totally understand where they were coming from and why they were doing the things they were doing, even if you didn't agree. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and I felt like each woman stood out as a separate entity, whereas far too often in multi-POV stories, they end up sounding like facsimiles of the same individual (i.e. the author).

You know it's going to be an intense story from the very beginning-- it literally opens up with a body in the lake-- but honestly, despite having read hundreds of mysteries in my thirty-so years of being, I didn't know what was going to happen in the book until the very end. And that was a delight. I love being surprised. I love it even more if it doesn't feel like a cheap "out" to make me feel surprised. Anyone who likes morally gray protagonists or Gillian Flynn is going to love this book. I would definitely read more from this author in a heartbeat, especially if she writes more "poor little rich girl" stories about elite drama and dirty family secrets. Please, and thank you.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

5 out of 5 stars

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