Review: Pretty Things by Janelle Brown (Audible Edition)

This book was all over my Instagram and was a pretty hyped book when it was released back in April. Not to mention the cover is pretty memorable and eye catching right?

My murder mystery picked it as our July read and we were all eager to start it because it sounded like it held so much promise.

I went with the Audible edition because both narrators had soothing voices in the sample I tried and I will admit, the Audible edition is a great listen. I loved the narrators! But what about the story itself?


Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play. (summary from Goodreads


Well this one was kind of a dud for me in some ways. I mean it wasn’t terrible but I was expecting something much more intense and murder-y. This book is categorized as a thriller and for me it was more of a cautionary tale rather than thriller. It started off really promising and dark sounding with all the references to Lake Tahoe’s links to organized crime and murder…..and then it just turned into a book about the pitfalls of social media.

I still felt invested enough in the story and characters to see how it ended but for me it ended up being predictable and there wasn’t enough twists and darkness to make it a thriller—suspense maybe but thriller—not for me.

I didn’t really care for any of the main characters. Nina’s issues for doing things were flimsy and Vanessa always came across as shallow. Lachlan was the predictable bad boy, Nina’s mom was clearly the worst, and Benny never seemed crazy at all. So I had a lot of struggles just with the characters but it was more than that for me.

What nagged at me the most was the reasons Nina gave for hating the Liebling family. It didn’t pack enough punch for me. I could understand that they hurt her but in the end it didn’t pack enough emotional impact to justify the greater story.

I know it sounds like I am hating on this story—it’s true I went into this thinking it was going to be a murder mystery with a heist element which it really wasn’t—I didn’t hate what I read. It just wasn’t what I was expecting and some of the plot points were underdeveloped and predictable. Plus going over the same timeline again and again from a new perspective was tedious. It would have read better if Nina and Vanessa alternated each chapter rather than large chunks of the book.

What this book did do well, was tell an amazing story about social media. The way the author was able to articulate social media and it’s impact on people showed so much self awareness and truth. Sometimes it’s hard to pin point reasons why we as people are drawn to things like the rich and famous or social media. In this book the author hits every single reason and articulates them so well. I loved examining how social media impacted Vanessa’s life and also how Nina used it as a tool for crime tailored for the individual. It made me really think about the pitfalls of social media and I enjoyed this aspect of the book very much.

So where does that leave me for a review? This is a hard one. It had so much potential and I think the author only scratched the surface of a book that could have been dark, twisty, and great with so much murder, deceit, and lies but it fell short of it’s full potential as a thriller but on the other hand the articulation and self awareness of the characters was really well done. So I went with a 2.5 start review. My initial thought was to give it 2 stars but would have considered 3 but just couldn’t firmly place it there so I split the difference and went with 2.5. It was ok but could have been amazing with some more depth.

Book Info and Rating

Audible edition, 496 pages
Published April 21st 2020 by Random House
Review copy provided by personal collection. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 2.5 stars
Genre: thriller


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