Book Review: Pretty Things by Janelle Brown

Pretty Things Feature Images

Title: Pretty Things

Author: Janelle Brown

Series? N/A

My Rating: ★★★★½

Genre(s): Fiction, Thriller, Mystery

Age Range: Adult

Publication: 21 April 2020 (Random House)

I received this ARC for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

CW: mental illness, cancer, death of a parent, murder, suicide, vomit

In spite of its title, there ain’t nothing pretty about this book.

A gritty story about wealth, jealousy, and a lot of bad people, it’s hard not to be swept up in the frenzy of Pretty Things. Typically, I’m not big on thriller novels. Most of the time, the subject matter makes me antsy. But Pretty Things is an exception. Despite having little to no violence, it kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. There’s often nothing better than a book that you cannot put down and Pretty Things delivers.

Pretty Things follows two women whose lives become irrevocably intertwined after their mutual haunted past reemerges from the dust. When Nina Ross’ future falls through, she turns to stealing from the rich to pay for her mother’s cancer treatments. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Vanessa Liebling has it all: good looks, lots of money, prestige, and most of all, a fabulous life meticulously documented on social media. But when Vanessa suddenly moves to Lake Tahoe, so does Nina. Where they go, secrets are bound to follow.

Meet our three main characters: Nina, Vanessa, and Lachlan.

Nina Ross is probably the last person you expect to make a living from theft. But she doesn’t just steal from anyone; she steals from the rich, those who, in her eyes, “deserve it.” Nina had a difficult past, particularly involving the wealthy elite, which has influenced her entire outlook on the world. Then, we have Vanessa Liebling. Deeply complex, Vanessa’s social media presence completely contradicts her reality which is plagued with hardship, pain, and loss. Finally, we have Lachlan. I don’t know how I feel about Lachlan. Despite having a rough past, he genuinely cares for Nina’s mom, making him a pretty complex character.

While this novel is about crime and secrets, I think the real message is about the dangers of social media. Vanessa’s whole life is documented online, but none of it is real. It’s a hoax, a carefully constructed facade that reflects Vanessa’s perceived notion of happiness and success. From that, she put forth an image of herself that contradicts what Nina experienced, leaving Nina feeling apathetic and vengeful towards Vanessa.

Furthermore, a huge focus is given to the subject of identities; what they mean in our society, how they are perceived by others, and most importantly, how to forge them. This was a massively important aspect that continued to be reiterated upon in interesting ways throughout the novel.

Nothing is ever as pure as it seems at first glance; there is always something more complicated to be found when you peel back the unmarred surface of pretty things.

Janelle Brown

Trust no bitch.

Without giving away too much, I will say that it’s difficult to trust any characters in this book. Every character is unreliable and their actions very suspicious. It’s hard to determine who you want to believe, what version of the story seems most correct. Even harder to determine is where each character will end up. This story is one twist after the other, the plot constantly winding in new directions. It wasn’t until the last 50 or so pages that I felt confident enough to guess what would happen next and even then, I wasn’t totally correct.

Interestingly, I heard that Nicole Kidman will be producing and starring in a TV adaptation with Amazon, which is very exciting. I hope they can maintain the suspense and intrigue of the novel when transferring it to the screen!

Pretty Things is a fast-paced novel with incredible character development and shocking plot.

Synopsis: Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.

Are you a fan of thriller novels? Let me know in the comments!

Enjoy this review? Check out my other book reviews next!


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