Book review: ‘Pretty Little Liars’ by Sara Shepard

Once close friends, life for Hanna, Aria, Spencer and Emily has changed dramatically since the disappearance of their friend Alison when the girls were in middle school. Now harboring secrets of their own, the girls have reached high school — and grown apart. As the group is reunited when Aria returns with her family from overseas, the question over what happened to Ali seems to grow stronger.

Especially when each girl begins receiving mysterious messages exposing their dirty little secrets — tidbits only one person in the world ever knew: Alison. But if their secret-keeper hasn’t been seen or heard from in years, who could possibly know about Hanna’s sudden weight loss, Aria’s secret relationship, Spencer’s affection for the wrong boy — or Emily’s own complicated feelings for a new neighbor? Who’s behind the emails, text messages and notes they begin receiving, threatening to ruin the careful facades they’ve built?

Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars, the first in a popular young adult series, is full of all the treachery, cattiness and boyfriend-stealing you’d expect of a gaggle of high school girls in an affluent Pennsylvanian suburb, but with an added twist: a mysterious disappearance and, quite possibly, a murder. I was sucked into the story of these “It Girls” from the first page. It’s obvious from the get-go that the ladies were involved in something quite unsavory, and that they alone knew about it was reason enough to bind them together. But since Ali’s disappearance, even that bond has been frayed and broken.

Pretty Little Liars is the epitome of a fast read; I finished it in two days of inconsistent reading. Each time I went to pick it up, I found myself fumbling along for the next page to figure out what sort of trouble the girls had found themselves in this time. Alternating between the past and the present, the novel’s quick pace definitely helped the novel’s feeling of urgency.

My quibble with the book is probably the same as my problem with any story featuring too many characters — it took me a while to keep them all straight and I didn’t really emotionally connect with most of them. In addition to the four main friends and the mysterious Ali, we had a crew of miscellaneous friends, boyfriends, siblings, parents and teachers whose names seemed to disorient me each time they appeared, forcing me to wrack my brain in trying to place them. Still, that’s not a huge deal. And maybe, you know, a personal reading problem.

So we all know I’m 24 and no prude, but I will say that — for a young adult novel — I was shocked at some of the behavior and themes of the book. Like Gossip Girl and other YA series, there’s plenty of lying, cheating, sex and other mature content at the heart of the story. It was pivotal to the plot, yes, but just a caution if you or your teen would rather stay away.

If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining and juicy read, the Pretty Little Liars series could be a good companion for a rainy afternoon. We won’t be chattin’ philosophy, science or complex issues by the close of the final (cliffhanger of a) page, but that’s not what this is all about. This was cotton candy: fluffy and fun. And with six additional books in Shepard’s series, there’s plenty more where this snack of a story came from.


3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 006088732X ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy obtained through BookMooch

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16 thoughts on “Book review: ‘Pretty Little Liars’ by Sara Shepard

  1. This one sounds like fun! “Mean girls” is a theme that never gets old (seeing as how some women simply never grow out of it!) and even just after reading your review I’m dying to know who’s sending them all those messages! Well done!

    PS–When do we get to hear about your date? 😉

  2. I haven’t read any of these but if you say the theme is a bit “adult” for a YA read that would be a turn off for me.

    I think authors have to remember who the targeted reader is….

    Thanks Meg for a good review! 🙂

    • I have read all of these books and they are not as bad as you think. They do have some “intense” parts but I think the books teach you a lesson, staying with the mean girl just is not good for you, and it will bite you in the butt someday. Look them over once more…. -A

  3. i hate it when there are too many characters too! it messes with my imagination because i can’t remember what any of them “look” like or whatever haha. i read that they’re turning this into an abc family series actually! wonder if the books will be better?

    not sure if this one appeals to me though. everything seems like “gossip girl” after a while. :/

  4. Meg, your review couldn’t be more right on time for me! For some reason, I have been thinking about this book for a little over a week, wondering if I wanted to read it. After your review, I am finally convinced to at least give it a try the next time I find myself looking for some quick, entertaining reading. Thanks!

  5. I have to admit, after weeks and weeks of studying the themes and subject matter of some pretty heavy literature, I love gobbling up this kind of fluffy reading. I am in love with Gossip Girl (both the books and the TV show) because it’s just fun to read. They aren’t heavy – they don’t weigh me down in any way…it’s just a good time with all sorts of scandal. Great review. Definitely will keep this in mind the next time I need a fluff fix.

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  8. I havent read these books but iom going to start and i love how you put the reviw on this so this is going to be in my must read series on the book. i think this is going to be a great hit for my sister that watches this show on abc family every tuesday. I sometimes watch the show also!

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