Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review: Pretty Little Liars

As you know, I am taking a young adult literature class this summer. The class does not begin until July, but I started reading the books already. No, not because I am an overachiever, but because I am being practical. Two summer classes + a job + pulling together a literature review for my “Big Project” = get some work out of the way before I’m drowning.

With so many books in by brain, how will I remember the finer points of them all? Write them down, of course. And so I am trying my hand at a book review. Here it goes...

Pretty Little Liars
Sara Shepard
I have to admit that I was not especially excited to read this book. I don’t know why, but it seemed really unappealing to me. Did I know what it was about? No. I had not read any reviews on the book nor had I seen the TV show. Maybe it was the cover that threw me off. Whatever the reason, when I started to read the book I was ready to dislike it.

The book is the first in a series that follows four girls, Aria, Hanna, Spencer and Emily. The girls used to be best friends in seventh grade, along with another girl: Alison. The friendship disintegrated after seventh grade when Alison mysteriously disappeared. The majority of the book takes place three years later when the girls are in high school. Now each of the girls has gone their separate ways, and each has their own issues.

Spencer is trying to be as perfect as her older sister and is cramming in numerous AP classes, clubs, and whatever else it takes to become the star child of the family. She also seems to have this habit of hooking up with her sister’s boyfriends. Aria was in Iceland with her family for two years and just moved back to her hometown. On her first day back in the states she meets a great guy in a bar, but unfortunately on the first day of school she finds out that he is her new English teacher. Hanna used to be a the chubby girl in the group, but now she in thin and fabulous. In order to stay that way, she occasionally makes herself throw up, but that is the price one pays for beauty. Last but not least is Emily. She is on the swim team and may like girls, but isn’t sure yet.

The book follows this cast of characters through their first few days of 11th grade. At first it seems like it’s going to be just another year. Then, each of the girls starts receiving mysterious messages from “A.” The messages they receive refer to secrets that only Ali, their friend who disappeared three years ago, knew. And for being only in seventh grade when she disappeared, they had some pretty dark secrets.

It is not until the end of the book, after plenty of scandal and one monumental event, that the four actually talk to each other and find out that all of them have been receiving the messages.

Being book one in a series, I was not surprised to be left with more questions than answers. Each character has secrets that need further explaining, and there are plenty of relationships to develop. Will I read the next book to find out what happens next? Probably not.

It took me a long time to get into the book and frequently found myself annoyed. I could not get past a book that takes place in a town where everyone looks good. Also, I noticed that everyone smokes. Parents, students, doesn’t matter. It’s a town full of good looking smokers.
I also found it fairly predictable. I was able to guess that Emily was gay from the prologue, and that the person Aria hooked up with in the bar was going to be her teacher, among a few other little plot points. However, at the end I did not dislike the book as much as I thought I would. It is a compelling mystery, and if the little details didn't annoy me so much I would have enjoyed Pretty Little Liars much more.

I also kept in mind that I am not the target audience for this book. I can completely understand why a high school girl would enjoy these books. Pretty Little Liars
was easy to read, and a high school girl would be able to relate to the relationship issues, both in regards to boys and friends. Plus, the author was clever in making sure she had a character from four very different social circles: jock, hipster, popular girl, and overachiever. This makes it easier for all readers to find someone to identify with. Shepard did a good job keeping her audience in mind.
This book was not for me, but I would definitely recommend it for a high school reader. The drama, mystery, and plenty of twists and turns to keep readers turning the pages. 

Note: Sorry for the mixed review. This is my first time writing a book review, and I would appreciate any comments or tips!

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