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Book Review: PRETEND SHE’S HERE by Luanne Rice

Grief makes a deceased girl’s family go to extreme lengths to PRETEND SHE’S HERE.

Emily’s best friend, Lizzie, had such vibrant life. But cancer strikes quick.

Emily was not only close to Lizzie, but to Lizzie’s family. They treated Emily like she was one of their own. Since Lizzie’s death, Emily didn’t have the strength to go see them. She worried her presence would upset Lizzie’s mom, dad, and sister, and tear open wounds they, no doubt, worked very hard to heal.

And then Emily ran into Lizzie’s little sister, Chloe, in town, which was startling, for the Porters moved away after their daughter died. Chloe was alone, trying to muster up the courage to visit her sister’s grave. She convinced Emily to come with her–actually, to come with her and her parents. Turns out, Mr. and Mrs. Porter were parked just across the street in their minivan. The nostalgia hit Emily in the chest, and as they drove away, she missed all the seemingly obvious red flags.

Well, until Mrs. Porter referred to Emily as “Lizzie.” Emily began to feel ill–physically ill–as the drugs in an offered juice box took effect. Turns out, Mrs. Porter would stop at nothing to have her deceased daughter back.

Pretend She’s Here is advertised as a novel centering around suspense. And that was accurate… for maybe the first 40 pages. Then, it didn’t just slow to a crawl, it was as if it actually stopped. To make matters worse, the writing got repetitive and felt disorganized, which took the reader out of the moment and to a place that didn’t fit. I’d argue that Pretend She’s Here was little more than a generic contemporary and that’s not what I signed on for. I was thoroughly disappointed because the story was I-can’t-wait-to-turn-the-page wild right off the bat, and I was so looking forward to 300 more pages of thrills.

The novel is divided into two parts, which I found both unexpected and unnecessary. Part II could easily have been condensed to a brief epilogue. There was plenty of opportunity in those concluding chapters that Rice didn’t tap into. I kept waiting, but Rice barely scratched the surface of my hopes for the ending of the story. Instead, all those pages were little more than filler.

Adding insult to injury, Emily was awfully difficult to relate to for a protagonist. Now, considering the path the novel takes, I certainly understand why. However, having a forgettable main character–who is also the book’s narrator–leaves the reader distant and empty, quite frankly. There was little to connect to, but fortunately, somehow, it was still easy to sympathize with Emily’s unfortunate situation.


Pretend She’s Here is out now. You can grab a copy at your local bookstore via Indiebound or on Amazon.

Emily Lonergan’s best friend died last year.

And Emily hasn’t stopped grieving. Lizzie Porter was lively, loud, and fun — Emily’s better half. Emily can’t accept that she’s gone.

When Lizzie’s parents and her sister come back to town to visit, Emily’s heartened to see them. The Porters understand her pain. They miss Lizzie desperately, too.

Desperately enough to do something crazy.

Something unthinkable.

Suddenly, Emily’s life is hurtling toward a very dark place — and she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to return to what she once knew was real.

From New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice comes a breathless, unputdownable story of suspense, secrets — and the strength that love gives us to survive even the most shocking of circumstances.

(cover photo source)

By Lara

20-something. TV addict. Reader. Writer.