Monday, January 3, 2011

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Title: Pretty Little Liars (Goodreads)
Author: Sara Shepard
Series: Pretty Little Liars #1
Published: October 1, 2006 by HarperTeen
Summary: Everyone has something to hide—especially high school juniors Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna.
Spencer covets her sister's boyfriend. Aria's fantasizing about her English teacher. Emily's crushing on the new girl at school. Hanna uses some ugly tricks to stay beautiful.
But they've all kept an even bigger secret since their friend Alison vanished.
How do I know? Because I know everything about the bad girls they were, the naughty girls they are, and all the dirty secrets they've kept. And guess what? I'm telling.
My thoughts: I read this book somewhat early last year and I'll admit to having thought it only okay. But the other day I saw the new, TV-series inspired cover, and I found myself buying it and Flawless, with its new cover design. I'm a big fan of the TV series, and having re-read the first book in the series, I'm now a big fan of the book series as well.
Alison disappeared three years ago and along with her, four girls' hideous secrets. Spencer, obsessed with being better than her sister and doomed to repeat the mistakes she made the summer Alison disappeared, is jealous of her sister's new boyfriend. The new, improved, Icelandic Aria has discovered her English teacher is the boy she recently hooked up with. Emily's not sure whether she's attracted to her boyfriend or the new girl in school. Hanna has shed her chubby, insecure past self for a new, popular, self-destructive lifestyle. As if their own issues weren't enough, the girls are now being stalked by someone who knows a little (or a lot) too much, and who goes by A. As they each cope with their dwindling privacy, they find themselves slowly morphing into what they used to be. And Alison doesn't seem quite so gone anymore.
The mystery in this series debut is enticing and scary in a posh, glittering way. The girls' problems are realistic and shocking in a way that only rich, secretive girls' secrets can be. Spencer, my favorite character on the show, is your stereotypical rich girl; overworked and overdramatic. But she's toting a secret that could destroy the other girls and an obsession with having everything her sister has. I just love how she's so clueless and cunning at the exact same time. Hanna, being my second favorite, and the object of my complete and total sympathy, is undoubtedly (in my opinion) the most 3-dimensional character, because not only is she doing multiple horrible things, but she is also the only one with a terribly sad past that made her the way she was. I love how she's the only girl not really afraid of Alison also.
Emily, struggling with her own sexuality, was a great character, because even as she struggles with her present worries, her constant fear of the past made her chapters seem the most suspenseful and creepy. Even Aria, who I felt somewhat bad for (until the end, when I felt horrible for her) at the beginning became somewhat relatable. The romance involved in her part of the story was hot and steamy and I loved that element. Shepard has a knack for writing the scandals that take place behind closed doors with a flair for the dramatic that makes the smallest thing seem huge.
I really loved the way Shepard wrote the story. With it being third-person, not too much was given away with the girls' thoughts, and their stories weren't jumbled like they might have been. Even though the story was written from third-person omniscient, each girls' parts had their own distinctive ring and their own personality. For instance, if the chapter was revolving around Hanna, the wording and the scenery was portrayed like Hanna might see it, or how Hanna might feel in it. Overall, Shepard's writing was elegant and eerie in a perfectly polished and mysterious way.
Even though I didn't totally appreciate the ruling out of who A might be, it was nice to have a little bit of closure. I've yet to read Flawless and hopefully that installment will be just as gripping, eerie, and dramatic. Shepard does an immaculate job of dangling the whole story in front of the reader without making it melodramatic or annoying. It's kind of like a cross of Desperate Housewives and I Know What You Did Last Summer, but realistic and dangerous. I read Pretty Little Liars in one sitting, and even though it's by no means deep or thought-provoking, it was ideal for what it was. Despite the superficiality of the girls' and some of their problems, it was engaging and a definite promising start to the series. I can't wait to get the next one. 
Cover: 5/5 (I really love this reprint version with the girls from the show.)
Characters: 4.5/5
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4.5 stars


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