So. Pretenders by Lisi Harrison and The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine. Let me start off by saying that both these books are…pretenders. They LIE to you! LIES!
Let’s talk about Pretenders (Pretenders #1) (2.5/5 stars) first. Not only does the blurb lie like nobody’s business (‘most popular students’?? They’re freshmen—no one knows who they are!) but it certainly doesn’t live up to its interesting premise. It sounded to me like something fast-paced and gripping, but even Pretty Little Liars is cooler than this. Seriously.
Firstly, as far as I can see having read this book, they aren’t really pretenders. They’re not even that fake, they don’t hide deep, dark secrets. Vanessa works madly to keep her grades up, because the more successful she is, the less her parents fight. Lily works madly to keep her grades up, or else she’ll be pulled out of public school and go back to homeschooling. Sheridan loves acting. Duffy loves basketball. Jagger is…you know what, I don’t know anything except that his parents are going to get the death penalty. So do these kids sound like fakes to you? Didn’t think so.
Vanessa changes her grade to an A with Lily’s help. Lily steals Duffy’s things because she’s obsessed with him. Sheridan is jealous of her best friend’s new best friend, and is upset about not getting the lead role in the school play. Duffy is secretly selling merch to raise money for basketball. And Jagger has a mysterious secret that. We. Know. Nothing. About. Okay, you can keep a secret for long enough to make it exciting, but any longer and I just stop caring. That’s pretty much what happened here, because I do not care about Jagger. I have no emotional attachment to him at all. A good little scandal might’ve had me interested but NO. And not just Jagger; these characters evoke the barest minimum of emotions. Yes, they do have hard lives to some extent, I will admit. But except Vanessa and Jagger, none of them have terrible lives. None of them have interesting secrets! If this book was going to keep my interest, it would have to pay up. These characters do not seem scandalous and edgy in the least, which is what I was expecting. I honestly think this would’ve been a much better concept if we’d seen them as seniors, and all stars in their own fields—that would’ve been so much more believable. This isn’t hard-core. I am so disappointed.
Not to mention that ending. There’s a difference between a good cliffhanger and a bad drop, and this is the latter. There’s no proper rising action in the story either, just pages of diaries whinging about their hard lives. Crank it up a little, I’m saying! And then there’s the random end. When I said, “wait, what?” it wasn’t even in the oh-my-god-this-is-so-exciting-can’t-wait way. It was in the what-just-happened-I-barely-care way. Pretenders is another of those books that promises and doesn’t deliver. Sigh. Maybe it’ll be better as the series progresses but…I don’t think I’ll be sticking around to watch that.
Speaking of promises…
Like the title, I was expecting something, y’know, amazing. And I refused to be put down by its average Goodreads rating—I was determined to like The Promise of Amazing (3/5 stars). Its premise was interesting, because who doesn’t like the trying-to-change good girl and the trying-to-change bad boy? And then they meet each other and learn to change and ride off into the sunset on the unicorn.
Well, not in this one.
I had two chief problems with this book. The first was Grayson. Look, I like bad boys, I really do. But Grayson was just…irritating. I simply couldn’t bring myself to like him, and though I didn’t actively dislike him either, the passive feeling I had for him made his POV just…drab. I was prepared to forgive him choking on a cocktail weenie, but not much else.
Then the insta-love. It’s so overwhelmingly illogical! I guess you could explain away Grayson’s side of it, because Wren saved his life and all, but he’s still so stupid about her. And she’s so stupid about him. They’re both stupid. No wonder Wren didn’t get into her school’s honor society.
The ‘magnetic pull’ between them was so cringe-worthy, and I honestly didn’t care if they got together. If I don’t even care about the romance in a romance novel, then what do I care about?! The entire angle was so boring.
Wren easily forgives Grayson all his stupid, lying-cheating-scum past despite the fact that she was the victim of some of that lying. Why? Because he’s oh-so-good-looking, who can deny him? No. Just no. As a reader, I’m not buying that. As a person, I’m not buying that! There’s more angst-hesitation in This Is What Happy Looks Like, and that is because Graham is a movie star, not a player. Speaking of TIWHLL, I was constantly comparing The Promise of Amazing to it and other Jennifer E. Smith books, because that was what I was expecting from it. I was expecting something cute, and some level of character development beyond the romance. Wren especially was completely swept under the rug by the romance. Her story, her struggle with being ‘quiet’, the fact that she doesn’t know what to do with her life, could have been expanded on so well but that entire plot-line just disappears with the introduction of the romance. What?? It looks like Wren gives up 80% of her life when Grayson shows up, and that’s something I’m entirely not comfortable with.
And Wren being quiet. She’s always irritated when people mention it, but the fact of the matter is that she is quiet. She doesn’t even do anything concrete to change that even though that’s what she wanted! Okay, so her parents’ property suffered some hundreds of dollars in damage because of her. Is that what loud is?! Maybe I should check if all my parents’ things are insured, because I’m loud, so does that mean I might be breaking windows sometime soon? It’s like all YA knows is the two extremes of good girl and rebel. Where does that leave people like me, who aren’t quiet and shy but aren’t outgoing and party-rocker either? This is so irritating and it happens all the time in contemp YA.
Well, it certainly seems like I had more than just two problems with it.
Of course, these are only my opinions of these two books, so hopefully you might enjoy them more than I did!