So as promised, here is my series review for Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. Now there are eight books in this series so I won’t be giving individual thoughts on the books, just a general overview.
Three years ago, Alison disappeared after a slumber party, not to be seen since. Her friends at the elite Pennsylvania school mourned her, but they also breathed secret sighs of relief. Each of them guarded a secret that only Alison had known. But now they have other dirty little secrets, secrets that could sink them in their gossip-hungry world.
When each of them begins receiving anonymous emails and text messages, panic sets in. Are they being betrayed by some one in their circle? Worse yet: Is Alison back?
In this series, we read from the perspective of four different girls. Emily, Aria, Spencer and Hanna. Now you may know them from the show but things are very different in the books. Despite the little bit of high school cliché here each is very different. Hanna is obsessed with popularity as a former loser, Aria is a lone wolf who doesn’t fit in because of her strange personality, Emily is a classic good girl and an in-the-closet lesbian and Spencer is the girl driven by perfection and winning at all things. Let’s break them down.
Spencer is probably my favourite of the four. Her struggle to be noticed and appreciated by her parents is something probably all siblings can relate to at some point in their life. I especially enjoyed her analytical paragraphs as she tried to decipher who ‘-A’ was. In all the books the characters frustrate you a little bit and Spencer was sometimes so naïve it annoyed you. She is supposedly the smartest of the four but sometimes you could swear otherwise. Nevertheless, I found her situations very engaging and her personality quite relatable.
Hanna is probably my next favourite. Her obsession with looking perfect all the time was extremely heartbreaking as she suffers from an eating disorder. However, it could also turn sour as a reader. The way she pushes away the people who are closest to her all for popularity was rather narrow-minded of her. But I loved reading about her family tensions and friendship drama.
Aria is next. I really liked how she was the ‘weird’ one in the group and I think Shepard handled unpopularity very well in her case. Her persecution by A, in particular in the first four books, was so sad and you really rooted for her to keep going. Of course, she comes with her downfalls. One such is her inability to decide which man she wants to be with. (Only in fiction am I right?)
Lastly, Emily. Firstly I just want to say that the way Shepard discussed homosexuality was quite well done. The way Emily struggled with her own identity was beautiful and realistic. But girl, get a grip and stop crying! Seriously, she’s cried more than all of The Fault In Our Stars readers combined. My main issue with Emily was her innocence. I know that sounds bad but its the truth, I wanted to see a little more spark in her.
I know there are a lot of people who criticise the writing in these books, often saying its too simplistic and juvenile and to an extent I’d agree. But I have to point out that this is one of the best plots that I have read in young adult. The way Shepard weaves clues throughout her stories and handles big reveals is truly remarkable. Of course, the books could do with a bit more description to convey a scene better but I think Shepard’s writing when it comes to the characters is very good. You feel as though you know them as friends as you read the series. One thing that frustrates you about the writing is Shepard’s need to constantly recap everything that has happened in the previous books. Maybe because I read them in one big haul it was especially hindering. Or the way she describes what people are wearing and just keeps blurting out designer labels. I know that the characters live a privileged life but do we really need to hear about the contents of their wardrobe every five minutes.
Another thing that I found very impressive was the way that Sara Shepard made you feel sorry for characters who had done rather horrible things. That’s a good writer.
As I said, I really love the plot of these books. Its so fun to try and guess who the killer is or who the mysterious person behind the vindictive text messages is. Everything interweaves so well and develops at a steady pace if sometimes a little slowly when you read the middle section of the books. But I think it’s important to have these sections of little drama to increase intensity for a big ending. I also think this suspense really picks up in the second arc of the series where new A’s intent turns deadly, this was a real kicker in the series that kept you on the edge of your seat.
Overall, I’d recommend this to anyone who loves a young adult mystery with a little suspense. In general, a well-written fun series with a lot of stalkery goodness!
As a little side note to anyone who is thinking of reading this series. I would highly, highly recommend reading the ‘prequel’ (that should only be read after reading the first eight books) as it explains a lot of things more clearly and just generally offers a lot of background information that could make the series for you.
So there you have it. Just so you know, the struggle was real to not make this a spoilery review I hope you enjoyed it anyway. Give this series a go, you may end up enjoying it more than you think.
As a whole, this series probably sits around a four star rating.
Thank you so much for reading and I’ll talk to you in my next post!
(Sorry if this review seems a little rushed, I am pressed for time a bit)