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pll #1 Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard | Rating: ★★★★☆

“When someone covets something they desire and lust over it. Usually it’s something they can’t have. You’ve always had that problem…”

Before the hit television series graced our screens, Pretty Little Liars was a wildly popular novel hailed as Desperate Housewives for the younger crowd, much like the Gossip Girl novels were referred to as Sex and the City for teenagers. Similarities between both series don’t end there and although plots and characters are explicitly different, both read in the same style.

They are light, fun and an easy way to pass the day. Neither series are serious business. Captivating and juicy? Absolutely. Life changing? Not so much — unless you count the desire to turn up the notch on your style after hearing the descriptions of what our girls wear in the series. Which, to be honest, I totally found myself in need of a shopping trip after reading the first of the series.

I read the first Pretty Little Liars novel while relaxing and trying to tan on the beach all those years ago. I’d already devoured what was released of Gossip Girl, The It Girl and The A-List, so I was looking for the next juicy and stylish read. Naturally, this series was the next on my list — everyone loved these books; everyone lumped each series into the same category. It wasn’t rare to be utterly obsessed with each of these at the same time.

First thing you should know about PLL: Sara Shepard writes in a relaxing manner, making the first book a fast and thrilling read. It won’t take you long to finish it. There’s so much mystery within the first installment that it instantly captures your attention. Who is A? What happened to Alison? What secrets have yet to unfold — and just how fast will they hit you in the gut?

It’s the perfect start to a phenomenal series.

We start with an introduction that sets the stage for mysterious circumstances. Five best friends: Alison DiLaurentis, Aria Montgomery, Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin and Emily Field were practically inseparable, despite their differences in personalities and appearance. Your typical preteen/teenage circle of friends. Everything was going good, everything was normal that year…

And then the unthinkable happened — their queen bee, Alison, disappears.

Things fall apart from then on out.

Alison had always been the leader of their clique; always the aggressive one. She is unlikeable and absolutely the stereotypical mean girl. You often wonder why she acted the way she did and why everyone seemed to excuse it and worship the ground she walked on. Ali knew everyone’s secret and kept her own hidden. She was always laughing at the expense of others, even her so called best friends, always looking for the next great challenge…

Her disappearance shakes her hometown to the core and in the end, it is too much for the remaining four girls to stay close. Even three years later, things aren’t quite the same. Aria, Spencer, Hanna and Emily are no longer speaking to one another. What was once a strong friendship disappeared just as quickly as Ali had.

They’ve lived these years in different directions, one in a different country, and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that their secrets are safe. Theories and questions surrounded the loss of Alison. But life went on. Life continues to still go on…

Upon Aria returning to Rosewood, the story truly begins and it doesn’t take long to get to know each girl separately. Each girl has secret after secret, like so many of us do, that complicate their paths and make things quite dangerous for each of them. At times, they border on being so shallow it’s an unlikeable trait — but this is something that makes it so fun to read.

I’ve decided not to describe each of the girls upfront, instead I’ll focus on my favorite from this novel. Emily Fields.

Emily is the most relatable and likeable out of the group; a sweet girl who has struggled with her sexual identity for most of her teen years. One of her major secrets is she was in love with Alison. Her struggles with her sexuality are very easy to relate to; you want to root for her to break out of her overprotective parents hold. And you can’t help but to smile as she forms a friendship with the new girl in Rosewood, Maya, because you can just feel the romantic connection forming just as quickly as their friendship.

Each of the four main girl begins to receive threatening notes, emails, letters and texts from a mysterious sender. A. Could it be that their best friend is back? Had she ever really left? A threatens to spill all of their secrets — secrets which only Alison knew. Eating disorders, affairs of all types, questions of sexuality and more. Everything the girls hoped had disappeared with Alison comes back to haunt and blackmail them…

Every teenage girls worst nightmare.

Just as their theory begins to grow, on whether or not Ali was the one sending the texts, they come to a pause. Ali’s case is reopened when the decomposed body of a young girl is found — in the backyard where the DiLaurentis family once lived. Alison DiLaurentis is dead — but their secrets aren’t.

Spooked over the threatening messages and devastated over the closure and loss, the girls receive one final message before the first installment ends. At Alison’s funeral, no less. I’m still here, bitches, and I know everything. If that wouldn’t be enough for you to continue the series, then I don’t know what would.

Pretty Little Liars lives up to its hype — and nearly ten years later, I still absolutely adore this novel. The story has somehow managed to age really, really well. It’s the best read for the summertime and a perfect way to waste your day in a delicious and mysterious read.

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