"Pretty Revenge" By Emily Liebert
When I was a little girl, I had a Fisher Price wedding cake.
Composed of rigid plastic instead of moist, spongy red velvet or chocolate or — as I would later have at my own wedding — mint chocolate chip, it broke apart into pieces, each topped with its own layer of inelastic plastic frosting.
At the time, obviously, I never really thought about how odd the existence of this type of toy is.
A plastic pastry.
But not just any benign pastry.
A towering castle of cake the likes of which you have only once: on your wedding day.
With these synthetic sweets and child-sized billowing gowns, little girls everywhere pretend themselves married off.
Encouraged by deeply ingrained societal gender roles or just naturally inclined — that’s a debate for another day — many little girls think about, dream of, and even sometimes actively plan for their weddings from freakin’ toddlerhood.
What lesson do I take from this knowledge?
If you want to get back at someone, fucking with a wedding is a wonderful way to do it.
Fortunately, I don't have any grudges.
No vendettas to seek.
One of the dual protagonists in Pretty Revenge, however, does.
Kerrie O’Malley is at a low point in her life.
Recently dismissed from a job and now subsisting on a steady diet of vodka and reality TV, Kerrie is simply existing. She’s enabled by her not-really-boyfriend, a man with whom she shares an apartment and, occasionally, a bed. Not propelled by any aspirations, Kerrie would be content(ish) to continue in this state of suspended animation indefinitely.
But then, she sees her.
While watching a trash TV program, Kerrie instantly recognizes a woman from her distant past.
The woman, once the troubled and needy teen that Kerrie knew as Jordan, has now reinvented herself as polished and perfect Jordana Pierson, a successful wedding concierge living in New York City.
Kerrie has long thought of the last encounter she had with the woman who is now Jordana.
It would have been hard to forget, after all, because — as Kerrie sees it — Jordana’s actions on that fateful night completed derailed Kerrie’s life.
Now determined to get the revenge she had so long hungered for but, to this point, had no ability to acquire, Kerrie decides to move to New York City and apply for a position working for Jordana.
To be successful in this quest, however, Kerrie has to follow in Jordana’s footsteps and transform herself into someone impressive.
Someone worthy of the job.
And, most importantly, someone Jordana won’t recognize.
Sinking every resource she has into the transformation, Kerrie becomes Olivia Lewis, just the type of high heeled, highlighted, high society lady that Jordana would want to serve as her co-pilot.
Her reinvention complete, Kerrie — now Olivia — lands the job and puts herself in the perfect position to do what she’s so-long desired: destroy the girl who ruined her life.
It will be simple, she thinks. She just needs to sabotage the career-makingly-large wedding — think, Kim K and Kanye level — that Jordana is in the process of planning.
But no plan is ever as simple as it seems on paper.
Unfortunately for Olivia, once she’s earned entry into Jordana’s world her resolve fades as she finds her work professionally fulfilling. Further complicating matters, Olivia starts to develop feelings for William, the groom whose wedding she is actively seeking to ruin.
Too often I find that, in an effort to move the plot forward at the breakneck pace that many thriller readers demand, authors fail to spend any time on character development.
That was not the case here.
Liebert smartly invested time in developing both of these protagonists, adding layers of depth to their personalities and building authentic and intriguing backstories that made them seem more like real people who you really give a shit about.
Another strength of this novel was the fact that, instead of setting up a good/bad, black/white dichotomy the author dealt in shades of gray.
Doing this requires some courage and finesse.
It is certainly a lot easier to clearly establish one character as almost supernaturally good and the other as inarguably bad. But it’s simply not realistic. Rarely in real-life conflicts is one person entirely responsible and the other person completely blameless.
By making the responsibility a bit murkier, Liebert successfully increased the authenticity of the conflict in this novel
While there were some global things about this novel that I loved, there were certainly a few weaknesses.
First, there were too few flashbacks.
The thing is, this entire vendetta — literally every action that Olivia took — was the result of stuff that happened when our dual protagonists were kids.
But yet, we saw very little of their actual childhood.
We were fed a meager diet of flashbacks with limited scope.
This made it more difficult for me to become invested, especially initially, in the conflict and, as a result, in the conflict’s resolution.
Also, to my extreme frustration, the ending felt incredibly rushed.
The ending — especially in a thriller — is so important and, also, so often book-killing. So this was a huge issue for me.
Throughout the whole book we had been building towards the actual getting of the revenge — which had been planning with a precision usually reserved for high stakes military maneuvers.
And I waited. Patiently — and ya’ll know I’m not good at being patient.
But then, when it was finally time, it was glossed over.
We are given maybe 15 pages at the end of the book to cover both the revenge and the aftermath.
It just want to scream, "THIS IS WHAT I READ THE WHOLE FUCKING BOOK FOR!"
It felt woefully insufficient.
And I felt cheated.
But these weaknesses notwithstanding, Pretty Revenge was a fast-paced thriller with a few logical yet unexpected twists.
Those hoping for an easy, light read will find what they seek in this novel.
It earns solid 3 out of 5 cocktails.
Despite owning the above described toy wedding cake, I never really gave any thought to my wedding prior to getting engaged — probably due in large part to the fact that I was a fat kid who thought no one would ever want to marry me, but you know. How about you? Did you have big dreams for your wedding? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments, below.
Moving right along to an ARC of a thriller by one of my newly favorite authors. To check out what I’m reading next, follow me here.