Book Review: Pretty Little Liars

Yeah, I know, I promised “depth”. But this is the most recent book I’ve read, so I’ll just go ahead and review it. I’ll post the review for the sequel, Flawless, soon — maybe later today — then I’m moving on to books I’ve been dying to read for ages! :’D

I feel the need to start off by saying that chick lit isn’t my thing. However, I am open-minded. I enjoy the Clique series. The Pretty Liars TV show is engrossing. So this book might be right up my alley! …unfortunately, that’s not the case. I really wanted to like it, but the more I read, the more disappointed I got. It was Twilight all over again!

As this is the first book review I’m posting, the format will probably change. For now, I’m posting the book cover, a brief (and uninspired… sorry!) summary, as well as some general information1, more thoughts2, my grading3, and my final impression of the book4. Sorry if I’m breaking every law of blog book reviews — let me know what I’m doing wrong and I’ll definitely change it! If you just don’t like how I write… sucks to be you. :Va



Cover of Pretty Little Liars.

Alison DiLaurentis held her clique of Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, and Hanna Marin together… until she disappeared the summer before 8th grade began. The girls end up drifting apart after the incident. But years later, they are brought back together when a crazy stalker called ‘A’ sends them creepy messages and threatens to spill their secrets.

Spencer’s plate is full with school and extracurricular activities as she tries to live up to her sister’s reputation. Aria is back from a year in Iceland after her father was transferred back to Rosewood, channeling the confidence of “Icelandic Aria”. Dorky Hanna has transformed into one of the most beautiful and popular girls at Rosewood High. And, much to her confusion, Emily is attracted to her new neighbour and schoolmate, Maya.

The four former BFFs receive messages inferring that someone else knows their darkest secrets… secrets that they thought only Alison knew. Is Alison alive? Is she stalking them? The girls are reunited under ominous circumstances, desperate not to let their secrets slip out and ruin their lives.

If I hadn’t watched the television show prior to purchasing this book, I would’ve enjoyed it even less. As I find with most chick lit, the characters are plain… almost boring. Is this a problem for someone who wants an easy read to kill some time? No. Is this a problem for someone who expects masterful storytelling? Absolutely! The ‘cardboard characters’ effect is further magnified by the fact that the book cycles through the 4 girls’ point of view. Rather than being one solid book, it feels more like four half-completed stories cobbled together. One chapter belongs to one character, the next to the next, and so on. By the time one character’s chapter comes up, I forgot what happened in their last one.

Since I don’t want to post blatant spoilers, my comments might be a bit cryptic or even ‘incomplete’, but bare with me. I tried to like Spencer, but… seriously? Going after your older sister’s boyfriend? Geez. Aria is somewhat likeable, but… the underage drinking, lusting after her teacher… squick. Hanna, with her shoplifting and obnoxious I-need-to-have-sex-with-my-boyfriend-NAO attitude, is infuriating. Emily is the only one I sympathize with, and even then, she’s so whiny and annoying! asdfghjkl.

Also, the vocabulary is seriously dumbed-down. I could feel my brain cells dying as I read. Not good. And it wasn’t just the typical faaabulous-chick-lit-y descriptions (“Sean was dressed in a plain white T-shirt that accentuated his strong-from-soccer chest and flat-from-good-genes stomach, dark blue Paper Denim jeans that made his butt look awesome, and ragged black Pumas. His blondish brown hair was messily styled, his brown eyes looked extra soulful, and his pink lips extra kissable.” page 185), it was… EVERYTHING. Well, that’s excellent, right? This means that even young children can read this book! Errr, actually, not quite. These girls are drinking underage, smoking underage, and lusting after older guys… and doing it all so casually, as though it’s not a big deal. Reading shit like this is traumatizing! The super-simple language is just for the sake of enticing reluctant readers, I guess. I don’t turn to chick lit for sophisticated literature, but I don’t want books that make me feel stupid!

Despite all of this, Pretty Little Liars’ redeeming quality lies in its premise. It’s flat-out creepy. Someone who’s ruthlessly stalking each of these girls and somehow knows their deepest, darkest secrets? Sign me up! Unfortunately, these books are moving extreeemely slowly… the series was recently expanded from 8 books to 12. From what I’ve seen so far, buying all of them would be a colossal waste of time and money. I can see why people like this series, especially those who don’t read enough literature to be able to distinguish between “magnum opus” and “fanfiction quality”. I purchased the first two PLL book at once, hoping I would get into the series. Unfortunately, it seems like I’ll be sticking to the television adaptation.

1. general information

name: Pretty Little Liars
author: Sara Shepard
number in series: 1
genre: young adult (chick lit, mystery)
narrative point of view: third person
narrative tense: past tense

2. more thoughts

readability: I’m torn. On the one hand, I only read through it quickly so I could get it over with. On the other hand, the dumbed-down vocabulary really helped make reading it a breeze. Not a conventional page-turner.

what I enjoyed: A double-edged sword: it’s a simple read. Everything that happened was ‘obvious’, if that makes sense. Didn’t have to do much thinking.

what I disliked: Uninteresting characters. Slooow plot pace. Being a very shallow read. Feeling like I was ripped off! I want my twelve bucks back! d:

hooked on the series: Nope. Definitely didn’t hook me. I don’t know if I would’ve still purchased the second book, despite already having emotional investment in the characters from watching the television show.

3. grading

premise: Very solid premise. No wonder this idea sold. 7/10.

characters: Meh. I only sympathize with Emily, who suspects her mother might be racist. Yeesh! Everyone else deserves the shit they’re getting. If it wasn’t for the TV show, I doubt I’d care about them. 4/10.

plot: And this is where the whole “I watched the show first” backfires. It doesn’t feel like much progress in this book. And the pace felt even slower because of the whole multiple POVs thing. Still, the premise helps carry it, and the ‘twist’ is interesting. 5/10.

writing style: Slightly below average across the board. The writer isn’t terrible, but isn’t exactly demonstrating stupendous talent. Everything is very simple and easy to read. The writing doesn’t elevate the quality, but it doesn’t drag it to rock bottom. 4/10.

OVERAL GRADE (not an average)4/10. 

4. final impression…

NOT impressed. (Understatement.) I’m really disappointed, and this is coming from someone who had low expectations (I should stop giving chick lit a chance!). If you want to kill a few hours with an easy girly novel, pick up a copy. If you feel like your time is valuable and want a more sophisticated read, STAY AWAY!


About lily.

My life revolves around writing and enough geeky hobbies to annoy my parents.

Posted on 04/07/2011, in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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