Pretty Things May Steal Your Heart

When a body goes down in Lake Tahoe, they say, it does not rise again.

How far would you go for a person you love? Depending on who you ask, the answers could range from not very far at all to murder.

For Nina, when her mother’s cancer refuses to go into remission, she’s forced to go back to her scamming ways to fund the treatments. And who else would be a better target than Vanessa Liebling, the rich heiress who just moved into her family’s vacation home, up in the mountains? Their history goes back far further than she cares to admit, but Nina knows that locked away in that vacation home is a few million dollars in cold hard cash. And with her mother’s life on the line, Nina can only hope that Vanessa doesn’t recognise her.

Pretty Things came recommended to me through BookTok of all places but I was hooked on the premise the moment I heard it. I have a serious love for heist media; I grew up watching Leverage and I adore Ocean’s 8, so this book is definitely up my alley. It did sit on my To-Read list for a while before I was able to get around to it, but when I did, I promise this book is so hard is put down.

The twists in the novel are never ending, with red herrings being revealed with each new arc as the con becomes increasingly complex. And by the time the story comes to an end, it has gone into a completely different direction from what I had anticipated.

There’s also a lot of backstory that is built into Pretty Things; and the novel is told from both Nina’s and Vanessa’s view point, slowly unravelling the story of the two women’s know each other, how exactly Nina started conning others in the first place and why Vanessa had moved back home in the first place.

One complaint I have is that I found Vanessa to be pretty annoying. That’s not on Janelle Brown, she is meant to be annoying in the first place, which is why Nina choses her as a target for her scam. But I found her to be so privileged, that even when she discussed her family struggles, I couldn’t find an ounce of sympathy for her.

Regardless, even in the moments where I got irritated with Vanessa, Brown is a talented enough writer that I’m able to overlook it. And her backstory is so integral to the plot that I spent those moments looking for the hints about what was really going on. Nina also more than carries the story when Vanessa cannot.

If you are a fan of heist stories with dark undertones, Pretty Things by Janelle Brown is the novel for you this spooky season. But be warned, there are candid discussions of suicide and mental illness within its pages.

Rating: 4/5

This review first appeared on The Reader Who Came In from the Heat. Subscribe for more reviews in your inbox.




Hui Ying is an undergraduate working on her debut poetry collection and novel. Find them on Twitter at @distanceofio.

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Hui Ying

Hui Ying

Hui Ying is an undergraduate working on her debut poetry collection and novel. Find them on Twitter at @distanceofio.

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