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Pretty Little Liars

Seventh graders Emily, Spencer, Aria and Hanna worship Alison in Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars. Alison’s the prettiest, most popular girl at Rosewood Day School. When the five girls are thrown together at their school’s charity drive, they quickly become friends. Over a year later, the girls are still friends, but the power Ali wields over them all has them feeling uncomfortable. She knows all of their deep, dark secrets: secrets that could ruin their lives if anyone else found out. When Ali disappears, the four girls are shaken, but also…relieved.

Three years later the girls start getting strange text messages, emails and notes from someone: someone who seems to know all of those secrets that they thought were safe since the disappearance of Ali. The messages get more and more threatening and the girls can’t help but wonder: Is Ali sending the messages? If not, then who?

Book number one kicks off the Pretty Little Liars series with a captivating plot that guarantees the reader will be reaching for number two, Flawless, as soon as they finish. And it’s not just the plot that grabs hold of the reader, but the characters themselves give the reader a personal connection to the book. Author Sara Shepard’s four main characters, Emily, Spencer, Aria and Hanna are all teenage girls, each individually coping with coming of age issues that are characteristic of our day and age.

Aria’s experiencing culture shock as her family just moved back to the States from Iceland; and she’s got a crush on a much older guy who just happens to be her English teacher. Emily is tired of her family’s expectations about her future professional swimming career; and she can’t understand these feelings she’s developing for the new girl who just moved in. Hanna, after losing weight and getting her braces taken off, is now the town hottie, but after her parents’ divorce and subsequent neglect, she still doesn’t have the self-respect it takes to keep her from throwing up her food to stay thin or stealing to feel the high it gives her. Spencer is class vice-president, a straight-A student, yearbook editor, a hockey player and gorgeous, but despite all of that, she remains in her sister’s shadow.
I was impressed with the way Shepard incorporated the issues of race, tolerance and self-esteem in this novel, especially because I expected it to be a light, beach-read type novel. I would, however recommend this series for older teens as it incorporates more adult content and bad language.
I have not yet watched the ABC Family television series based off of Pretty Little Liars, but after reading the book, I am very curious to see the plot, as well as the characters, depicted visually. I would particularly be interested to see how the producers of the show depict the character Emily’s relationship with her love interest Mona on a family-friendly channel.