Ali's Pretty Little Lies (PLL prequel) by Sara Shepard | Rating: ★★★★☆
"Sometimes, a family is like an ear of summer corn: It might look perfect on the outside, but when you peel the husk away. every kernel is rotten.”
I'm the first to admit that I'm very, very skeptical about prequels. They can often be wonderful and informative and keep the same magic of the original series while providing us with a history. And then there's the ones that are bland and provide us nothing but frustration and even taint the original series. Ali's Pretty Little Lies fortunately is one of the good seeds and is just as spooky and entertaining as Pretty Little Liars.
The story takes place primarily before and during the summer which Alison DiLaurentis goes missing. Although the characters are in middle school when this prequel takes place, the story doesn't make us feel too ridiculous for reading about these girls in their younger years. Not much has changed and there's still a certain mature air to them that doesn't make us feel too awkward about the age difference between us and them. My biggest twitchy concern is the fact that a certain older boy takes to spending time chasing Ali and clearly lusting after her. I mean, gross, right? She's practically a child.
Back on track. Ali's Pretty Little Lies takes us back to the lie that started it all. I'm talking the formation of these pretty little liars as well as the moment Courtney and Ali officially switch place. As we know, the Ali that the girls knew was actually Courtney DiLaurentis and Ali's twin sister. It's very soap opera and very deliciously creepy; getting an idea of the twins relationship we grow to pity Courtney and are thoroughly frightened by the real Ali's actions.
Even at such a young age, there's something SERIOUSLY creepy and wrong about Alison DiLaurentis and it goes beyond being a typical mean girl who is jealous of others who may or may not shine brighter than her. She goes to great lengths to ruin her sisters life and image, eventually convincing everyone in the DiLaurentis family -- except Jason -- that Courtney is ill and unstable. Ms. Sheppard provides us with a great deal of information and flashbacks and really, really fills in many blanks for us.
It's important to see that Courtney, sadly, allows Ali to take advantage of her (due to Ali's never ending jealous over Courtney being liked better even at such a young age) and longs for the relationship the young twins once had. There's always a mysterious connection when it comes to womb mates and Ali and Courtney's relationship is certainly proof of that when it comes to C's end of the deal. Both twins show a contrast to each other -- one good, one bad. It's a typical take on twins in fiction, but entertaining nonetheless.
Although Courtney is far from perfect, she is the more sympathetic twin. Poor girl has been toyed with and left behind by her family that it's obvious why she plots to take over her sisters life and give her a taste of her own medicine. She's much more forgiving than Alison. While the switch it isn't the wisest choice, it's really really understandable given all she's gone through and her age. It's one some serious damage. After so long being locked up in a mental hospital, Courtney wants nothing more but to be the normal teenage girl she was meant to be -- so one day, she takes that life and tricks her parents into believing that she is Ali.
During this time, Courtney reinvents herself and masters the art of being Alison DiLaurentis. In order to fool everyone into believing she is Alison, she must look and act the part, but she must also ditch the friends the real Alison once had. In all of this, she embraces the inner mean girl and sometimes gets carried away by it. She also befriends everyone's favorite liars -- Aria, Spencer, Emily and Hanna; going to great lengths to keep each of them in her life. You can see Courtney get lost in the role of Alison and at times it is painful to watch because the lines get blurred.
You root for her, regardless. You smile with her as she explores her feelings for a seemingly sweet and mysterious love interest, as well as wonder if there could have been more than just friendship between her and Emily. You root for her when various threats and showdowns come into play the moment real Ali voices her desire for revenge and her life back. You worry for her well being even though you know her fate. And you long for her to be able to confide in Jason, who she had a sweet sibling bond with when she was herself.
She's a sweet girl in spite of all of it and it's very upsetting knowing her fate when we fully understand her backstory. Courtney DiLaurentis deserved better. I've forgiven her for the things she did or said when she was Alison because at the end of the day, she just wanted to be a normal teenage girl. Her life was taken away from her at a young age and really all she ever wanted was love and friendship and most of all, her sister back. It's seriously sad to see her life get taken away in the biggest way and the cruel twist at the end -- who helped Alison kill Courtney -- broke my heart in a million pieces.
Courtney's very last thoughts and pleas shattered me, to be honest. And I never expected to feel that way about her. Even though we know her fate as a character, it's still absolutely heartbreaking to watch unfold. I think that in spite of all the bad things she did while pretending to be Alison (including the switch), Courtney was a good person who deserved to grow and mature and just be. It was very interesting seeing it unfold in a new light, learning more about both Alison and Courtney and I think that it was a great addition to the series.
One thing is certain: the DiLaurentis family was incredibly fucked up.
And lastly, it was almost cute watching the liars as little nuggets and seeing how various secrets formed between the five of them. You get an idea of what lead them down certain paths that fateful summer after their leader goes missing. I wanted to know more, see more, and it inspired me to continue my reread of the original series. Pretty Little Liars is an entertaining read and Ali/Courtney's story only builds onto this intriguing and mysterious world. It's the perfect addition to this series and I cannot get enough!