Pretenders Review
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The high school years are a time of pressures and expectations—of trying to choose between being ourselves and being the person that everyone else expects us to be. And no matter what we might believe at the time, it isn’t really easy for anyone. The Clique author Lisi Harrison demonstrates that point in the dishiest of ways in Pretenders, the first book in her new teen series.

Pretenders introduces readers to the five most interesting freshmen at Noble High—the five kids who were named the smartest, coolest, and most promising students in a school full of smart, cool, and promising students. But, as is often the case, nothing is as it seems. These extraordinary kids are keeping some extraordinary secrets, carefully concealing their hopes, fears, and insecurities.

Instead of sharing their deepest, darkest secrets with their friends, they write them down in their journals. And when their journals are stolen and revealed to their peers, so are their secrets.

Pretenders is the kind of book that every teen should read. In telling the stories of these five seemingly spectacular kids, it shows that no one is as hip, as confident, or as remarkable as he or she may seem. Instead, even the coolest kids in school are struggling with something: dropping grades, problems at home, or some other issue that they’d rather keep quiet.

Their stories, then, help to humanize the it-crowd. These are the kids that everyone else would find intimidating: the sports star, the theater diva, the rocker, the style maven, and the brainiac. Yet their journal entries show that there’s more going on beneath the surface—that they’re just as scared and insecure and stressed out as everyone else. Readers get to know these kids as they really are—flaws and all—and that makes them all the more interesting as characters.

There is, however, a down side to the story—and, unfortunately, it’s a pretty big one. Instead of ending this first book in the series at a comfortable, natural point, the story simply ends. In many series, each book has its own small subplots that are given some kind of resolution in the end—something that will leave readers feeling satisfied yet eager to pick up the next installment. But that’s not the case here. Instead, it builds the characters, drawing readers into the story, only to stop abruptly, leaving all of the ends hanging loose. It’s absolutely maddening—and the more you enjoy the story, the more frustrating the sudden ending will be.

As long as you’re prepared for the abrupt and frustrating conclusion, though, Pretenders is an intriguing first installment in a new series. Young readers will enjoy getting to know the five main characters, and they’ll be eager to read on in the series, to see how their stories work out in the end.

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