Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown Book Review. (Mindscape Reviews!)

Hi Readers! I’m pretty sure I am back in the reading game now, after having suffered this entire month. After reading books like The Water Dancer & A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor, my reading speed deteriorated drastically. But then I picked up the book that I have been meaning to read since a LONG TIME! Finally Pretty Things by Janelle Brown took me out of my reading slump! (I’m pretty sure!) I read this 498-page book in 3 days and thankfully I loved it!


Don’t judge the book by its name, because Pretty Things is an amazing Thriller. It is the story of TWO WOMEN. Nina Ross is a con artist and has been doing that for 3 years. But, she is an ethical con artist. She only steals from extremely rich people who won’t notice a few things are missing in their huge mansions. On the other hand, we have Vanessa Liebling who is born into money but also into a complicated family. This story weaves a mutual hatred between these women based on decade-old issues caused by their respective families. They also both carry a self-blame for those decade-old issues when in fact, they were not to blame at all. The story sometimes mirrors these characters so well despite their differences & that is what got me hooked into this book.



NINA ROSS introduces us to the book & wins us head over heels. She is brilliant but won’t accept that she can do great things. She has so much empathy & kindness, even when she is acting as a thief. She has an ethical/moral compass which she checks often. More so, she comes ALIVE in the book. You feel the thrill when she accomplishes a theft. You feel loss for her while reading about her mother’s cancer. It is impossible to read the entire book without feeling all the emotions that Nina feels.

VANESSA LIEBLING initially comes off as a brat, just another Instagram Influencer with no real life purpose. But, when we get to the chapters with her point of view, everything shifts. We get to know her from an entirely different angle. She has been through SO MUCH and she is still standing. With her mother’s suicide, father’s death & brother’s schizophrenia case, she is the one with immense strength. A beauty with bravery, if not brains. You feel for her too. Probably not as much as for Nina, but definitely a fair share worth.

BENJAMIN LIEBLING AKA BENNY is Vanessa’s younger brother. He is the most innocent one in the story. He and Nina were together when they were kids until everything went downhill. Even the grown-up Benny is self-aware & smart.

LACHLAN is Nina’s crime partner. From being a tiny part of the story, he later goes to dominate the story. I never liked him from the beginning. He seems too matter-of-fact. He can easily switch to other personalities and other names. He is basically a professional thief, with no morals or ethics whatsoever.


Narrative / Writing Style

When I started the book, on page 1, I understood why this book was so highly rated. I loved the writing style immediately. It was captivating, intriguing & it was impossible to keep the book down. That particular writing style was designed only for when Nina is doing a crime. It was the perfect way to start the novel.

And, then there is the other narrative which is written for most of the novel, that is, the two point of views. After reading about 30% of the book, I understood that the book is divided into chapters for Nina & Vanessa & that each involves huge chunk of the story before handing it over to the other. When I read Nina’s chapters, I was so into her character already. And, so when Vanessa came in, it was hard to concentrate on her & totally ignore Nina. Then when I read further, I understood that the story is told by both the characters once in Nina’s chapters & then in Vanessa’s. To tell you the truth, when I understood this theme, I was not so glad. Because, who wants to read the same story twice, right? But, then I realized how it was not the same story at all! When I finally got that gist, I fell for it even more, if that’s possible!

I could predict a bit of what Vanessa was thinking in Nina’s chapters & vice versa, but when I came to Vanessa’s chapters I understood how my thoughts were just the tip of the iceberg. I cannot state how amazing it feels when the plot is unpredictable. That leaves me to the next point!


Unpredictable Plot

In Pretty Things, you will not be able to predict what happens next unless you are only 50 pages or so behind the ‘next’. You cannot start this book & correctly predict how it will end. I predicted what will surely not happen, but so can many other people. I knew that Ashley & Michael’s plan when they go to Stonehaven would not work out, which was obvious. I predicted either Vanessa & Ashley OR Vanessa & Michael will get together & I was right about that. I thought about how these two ladies have such similar stories & I wanted them to unite (Women Power and everything) against Lachlan. But, obviously I predicted this very late when it was more obvious. The thing with the cops was shocking. Nina’s mother’s cancer reveal toward the end was another WHAAAAATTT moment. There was so much scheming in this novel which I totally enjoyed. For once, it was awesome to not know what would happen!

Character Growth

I always love me some good character growth in novels! Knowing how they start out, watching them change, either for better or for worse, and then finally becoming something different within a span of 500 pages or less is really remarkable! Young Nina was the one who cared too much & loved too much. Then, because of the self-blame she somehow matured. Though she had good prospects, she didn’t really explore those. Instead she decided to do something she liked, even if it had no job prospects. Nina started out as a woman who got into crime to pay her mother’s cancer bills. From hating a woman for a decade to saving her, she really grew. Whatever situation was thrown at her, she reacted perfectly to it, which I loved about her!

As for Vanessa, I think her character arc is more of ups & downs. Young Vanessa was resilient & empathetic towards people. That changed when her mother died & her brother started to show schizophrenia symptoms. She blamed herself for both those things until she finally knew better. Her relationship with Benny is so pure & treasured throughout the novel. Sometimes she seems shallow. Sometimes she seems like a person who has gone through too much & yet she is still smiling. Sometimes she makes stupid decisions like marrying a stranger. But, toward the end, she finally has it right.


After reading this book halfway, I sort of had an epiphany. I realized that I am reading the story of two crazy women who are after each other’s lives because they both think that the other’s family destroyed theirs, while all these years they blamed themselves for things their parents were responsible for! This is why I thought once they had a heart-to-heart, they would understand that all this time they were the victims and then become friends. Some version of this happened, but in a different sense. They did become friends because what connected them was something bigger.

I loved the ups and downs in the story & there were so many of them too! I rated Pretty Things at 4/5 & I definitely think you should read it. It may not be the kind of thriller you expect to read. It is more of a softcore thriller with a slow burn as you keep reading it. And, that experience is simply amazing!

Until next time,

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