Thank you so much to MIRA books for having me as a part of the Pretending blog tour and for sending me an ARC of the paperback of this book! Pretending was my first book by Holly Bourne and man, it was really heavy and I had to take quite a few breaks to finish it, just because of how heavy it was and how much trauma April, the main character, was still dealing with, but overall I enjoyed the book.
Pretending 4/5 Stars
Summary from Goodreads:
April is kind, pretty and relatively normal—yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry. Until she realizes that what men are really looking for is Gretel.
Gretel is perfect—beautiful but low maintenance, sweet but never clingy, sexy but not a slut. She’s your regular, everyday Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl-Next-Door with no problems.
When April starts pretending to be Gretel, dating becomes much more fun—especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua. Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?
There were some aspects of Pretending that I was able to relate with really easily- the having a hard time getting past date five or six, dating apps being the worst, guys looking for girls who don’t really seem to care, the whole game aspect of dating these days- but there were definitely a lot of parts of this book that were hard. They were hard to relate to, not because I didn’t understand them, but because they were just really tough, traumatic experiences that we as readers seemed to be watching April try to deal with in ways that didn’t always seem to be the healthiest. Also, before I keep going with my review, this book needs to come with the biggest trigger warnings for sexual assault- I’ve never been assaulted, and this book was still really hard to read in parts because April’s emotions were so raw and what she was going through is something so normal and so many people go through that and have to deal with the recovery. There’s one scene in the book where April is preparing herself to have sex with Joshua for the first time, and after doing what’s seen as the “normal prep” (taking a shower, shaving, exfoliating, etc.), she takes out a bag of vaginal dilators and lidocaine gel so she can ensure that she’s prepared for any sort of penetration and she talks about how after her ex-boyfriend raped her and they broke up, she couldn’t even insert a tampon anymore. That scene felt like a punch to the stomach and I couldn’t read the whole scene (which couldn’t have been more than like a page or a page and a half) at one sitting. I think the way that April did the whole Gretel thing (the whole catfishing (because it totally was catfishing)) as a way to get back at men in general, was kind of sad and it made me feel bad for her. Overall, this book was really powerful and intense, but it was also hard to relate with April after the beginning when it felt like she was just being vindictive and it felt like there was so much unresolved trauma there. I did really enjoy the journey we were taken on throughout the book and how we saw her grow. This was definitely a really good book, but it’s not a light, fun, easy read, so if you’re looking for one of those, for sure look somewhere else.