Nicola's Reviews > Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
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Aug 25, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction, teen

Full disclosure: the ABC Family adaptation of Pretty Little Liars is my current guilty pleasure and I plan to consume the book series during its hiatus.

Pitched as “teen Desperate Housewives”, the Liars premise actually has more in common with the underrated first season of Veronica Mars. Beautiful, rebellious Alison goes missing and, three years later, her estranged friends – overachiever Spencer, pretentious Aria, downtrodden Emily, and ugly-duckling-turned-swan Hanna – begin receiving mysterious messages from “A”, who knows all their secrets.

The result is a blandly-provocative saga set in a predominantly-white, upper-middle-class world of private schools and country clubs. Amid this claustrophobic setting, Sara Shepard deftly evokes the emotional pressure cooker of modern teendom. In Liars, the girls are overscheduled with extracurriculars that will look good on college apps; old-before-their-time as a result of expensive overseas travel and lax parenting; and, of course, like all teenage girls, they are expected to be sexy without ever having sex. Unfortunately, Shepard doesn’t find a lot to do with her thoroughly-modern milieu.

Over the course of the novel, Liars travels the well-trodden roads of girls lusting after older boys (who are sometimes their teachers), denied lesbian attraction, OCD and eating disorders. Not that these aren’t issues teenagers face, but when one character, late in the novel, reveals that she self-harms, I felt like I should whip out a check-list and congratulate Shepard on hitting yet another cliché. The author never digs deep into her ripped-from-the-headlines-(of-Seventeen) plot points and the result is unconvincing melodrama.

Liars ultimately lacks the warmth of its wholesome forefather (foremother?), The Babysitters’ Club, but it’s also missing the outrageousness of its slicker sibling, Gossip Girl.

That said, I’ll probably burn through the rest of the series, just because I want to know who “A” is. Goshdernit!
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