Review: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Publisher: Harper Teen
Published: 2006
Format: paperback, pp. 286
Rating: 4/5

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. And Hannah uses some ugly tricks to stay beautiful.

But they’ve all kept and even bigger secret since their friend Alison vanished.

How do I know? Because I know everything about the bad girls they were and the naughty girls they are now. And guess what? I’m telling.

Pretty Little Liars, adapted into an ABC Family show, reads like the kind of ridiculous stereotypical high school show you would find on American TV, but with a hint of thriller and decent writing. You follow the lives of preppy Spencer, jock Emily, queen bee Hannah, and alternative-but-still-cool Aria. Three years ago they found popularity through beautiful but vindictive (I would say that other ‘b’ words, but this is a PG website, so you’ll just have to guess) Alison, but when she mysteriously disappears they grow apart.

Despite the fact Pretty Little Liars has been turned into a typical American TV show (and I say that with the utmost respect being a fan of Gossip Girl, 90210 and the like, but it’s no BBC drama), the book is deliciously tantalising. The girls are pervaded by texts and emails from a mysterious A, about things they thought only Alison knew, but she’s been gone for three years, right? They cross paths but remain in their isolated new lives. More than once I felt like shouting at them to talk to each other about these messages, but of course that would spoil the game.

Sara Shepard knows her audience, but does not pander to them. She writes with a well developed style; this is not trashy chick lit. It reads as a thriller, but with a few references to designer labels.

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