Told in a clear, powerful prose that grabs the reader from the off, the novel is an unflinching look at a life of a young woman recovering from trauma ... [Beagin] wrote the book after cleaning houses for five years...These details make it into her debut—including one hilarious scene where she stages her own bloody death in a client’s house—and give the book the authenticity and immediacy of a memoir ... Minor characters are brought to life in mere sentences, to the extent that even those introduced in later stages of the novel seem to have earned their place ... Beagin is excellent at physical description, in particular how the body memorises or processes trauma ... These details are given as backstory to a darker history of abuse that is told with great care and tension, leaving the reader as mired in ambiguities as Mona finds herself decades later ... With the clarity and vision of a more established writer, Beagin pieces together Mona’s past and, hopefully, her future. Wiping the floor with other, more hyped debuts this year, Pretend I’m Dead should clean up with readers and awards lists alike.
The 'quirky female outcast' is something of a trend in fiction, and... Beagin’s offbeat debut follows ... the novel shifts into something else, becoming darker and less jokey. Beagin’s larger-than-life cast occasionally distracts from the real pull of the novel, the heartbreaking loneliness of this nihilistic young woman, but the pull of the central character keeps you reading.