Pretty Little Liars is the first book in a projected 8 book series. While I'm a tad annoyed that I have to go through 7 more books to see how the main mystery is resolved, the first book wrapped up very well. It gave me enough to be satisfied, and offered more questions to be answered in the second book, Flawless. I even read the first chapter of Flawless just to get a sense of the second book, which was printed as an extra at the end of my edition. It starts with a focus on a character who was mentioned in the first book who has a LOT of the answers. I almost never read bonus sequel chapters in any book. And I admit to going on the PLL website to look for more clues.
Ha, this review is going to be tricky because obviously I can't give away too much. Pretty Little Liars starts in the summer of 7th grade. You meet 5 girls who centralize around Alison, their understood leader. She pretty much dictates how everyone will act and speak. She controls them with compliments as well as through vague threats. The 4 girls follow out of an attraction to Ali's confidence and a fear of her social power. Even in 7th grade you get a sense of this girl as a powerful person, able to get anything she wants. And still, the reader has NO idea what her motives are. This kind of sums it up: "they often didn't want to do the things that Alison made them do. They all loved Ali to death, but they sometimes hated her too--for bossing them around and for the spell she'd cast on them. Sometimes in Ali's presence, they didn't feel real, exactly. They felt kind of like dolls, with Ali arranging their every move".
Then, Ali leaves one of their sleepovers and isn't seen ever again. It happens that quickly. No body is found, there's no evidence. Only the 4 girls, plus Spencer's sister and her boyfriend were the last to see her alive. Three years pass, the girls are no longer friends and have gone in very different directions. Alison isn't spoken of, and neither is The Jenna Thing. Wait a minute, what's The Jenna Thing? I got more invested in this story from the group's past than anything else in the book. Nothing is explained, hinting is few and far between. And then the girls start receiving text messages and e-mail messages, vaguely threatening to expose their secrets, from a source called "A". Each girl has a bunch of little secrets, and add more to the list throughout the book.
Is Ali alive? Has she come back? Who is Maya, the new girl who moved into Ali's old house? What happened to Jenna?
I think I will have to read the other books in the series. I actually need to know how everything resolves.
A few other thoughts about the book. It has succint, often funny writing:
"You guys happy to be back in America?" Byron asked.
Mike, who sat next to Aria in the backseat, grinned. "America rocks." He went back to maniacally punching the tiny buttons of his PSP. It made a farting noise and Mike pumped one fist in the air.
There's also this messed up game Spencer's family plays in the book called Star Power. Each incredibly ambitious and competitive family member says something that they achieved that day and the winner is the Star. It's a way to one-up your relatives in the guise of "healthy self-confidence and a sense of achievement". But it's very creepy in the book. It's funny though, when Melissa's new boyfriend's turn comes around and he's all like "Uh, I just sat in a bar with friends today" and there's a terrible silence, and disappointed glares. The whole thing is a scene that's so well done.
And, I am OBSESSED now, thank you, with finding a Vanilla Coke. That's all they drink! And everytime they mentioned VC's I was like, "That would be lovely right now". So, be warned.
Oh, and I loved the description of their school as having a cafe and a barista, instead of a lunch room, and a Reading Room instead of a library. It's so over the top, but perfect for the book. It reminded me of the world these girls live in.
The only problem, as I read through these books, is that I will not be able to review them as the plot concentrates! I'll be all like "this one person (I can't tell you their name because then book 3 would be RUINED!), does this thing (Can't Tell) and I was like Cool!". So, also be warned about that. But yeah, Pretty Little Liars is off to a really good start.