The Pros and Cons of Pretty Little Liars: A Review of the First Pretty Little Liars Novel

Friendships, memories, secrets, and murder are all in a day’s work for the girls of Pretty Little Liars.  As much as I love this show on ABC Family, I never felt the urge to read the novels.  However, when I needed to fill the Pretty Little Liars shaped hole in my heart, I decided to read the first novel by Sara Shepard.

There were a lot of things I loved about the novels (especially comparing them to the television show) but there were a few problems that popped up as well.

So…Starting Out…

I always believe in starting with the negative, it makes the positive section feel like a gift. Humor me and read on to the negative side of a pretty little liar.

The Negative Side of Pretty Little Liars

First, I have to admit that I am way out of the target age these novels are trying to reach, but I don’t understand why name-dropping designers is still happening in novels aimed at teenage girls. Pretty Little Liars had an obsession with Tiffany & Co, something that a lot of women never get near until they graduate or until they land a great paying job. I think entertainment companies forget that right now the targets are living in one of the worst recessions in recent history. Tweens and teenage girls might be looking to the novels to break away from reality. Having designer names dropped in almost every other chapter might screw with a girl’s self-esteem.  Some girls might even think, “If I can’t afford these designers how am I going to be as cool as these characters are?” Ok. I know. I’m entering the afterschool special land, but you have to think some girl out there might be feeling that way sometimes.

The pseudo mom in me finds it irresponsible to be pimping out these brands to girls and possibly making them feel like they are nothing unless they dress like their favorite characters in their favorite novels.  The marketing graduate in me thinks the name dropping is a wonderful way of getting new clientele at a young
age.  Like cigarettes companies say, ‘Get them while they are young’ (I use this idea a lot when it comes to marketing campaigns…cigarette companies should really hire me).  It is the perfect reason to name drop in novels targeted at adolescent girls.  I guess that is the true reason this exists in novels aimed at teenage girls and that won’t change anytime soon.

Second, I don’t think parents are that oblivious to everything these girls are up to.  Hanna’s mother stupidity is explained by her high-powered marketing job, but the rest of the girls don’t have an explanation.  This is one thing I hate in YA novels these days.  I grew up with parents that knew what I was up to and even cared about what I was doing.  I even thought when I
was a teenager that my parents had special powers since they always knew what I was up to (their special powers were nosey neighbors and living in a very small town where everyone knows who you are).

The parents in these novels seem to be so caught up in their own lives they have no problem letting an unlicensed driver drive around (Aria), they don’t notice their daughter is drowning in self-doubt (Emily), they don’t question why their daughter would kiss her sister’s boyfriend; they rather shun her (Spencer) and one doesn’t know that one daughter is crying out to be recognized by both parents by stealing (Hanna).  I know this happens in real life, I’m not naive, but there are more parents that care about their kids than parents who don’t.  I just wish YA
fiction would show that more often.  Parents don’t need to be in all of their children’s interests, but it would be interesting to read about a parent who is aware and just letting their kids grow up; only stepping in when they are truly needed.

That’s All You Hate?

See? Now that all that negativity is out of my system it is now time to talk about what I loved about the novel.  It’s present time my dear readers!   I promise there is more to love about this novel than there is to hate about it.  Here is the positive side of a Pretty Little Liar.

The Positive Side of Pretty Little Liars

I love when novels address issues that are prominent in teenager’s lives.  There are some issues that never change (questioning oneself, peer pressure, sex, drinking etc.)  YA novels should always keep these issues in their novels.  It is just comforting to see that each generation has the same problems.  I like knowing things never change.  Aria, Emily, Hanna and Spencer are still dealing with feelings and issues that anyone can relate to.  Some might call it boring or cliché but to become a cliché it had to be popular and true.  These issues will always be popular and true in YA novels and I’m glad Pretty Little Liars didn’t ignore that fact.

Another thing I love about Pretty Little Liars is how the author writes these characters.  I have read hundreds, thousands, millions of teen novels that like to
talk down to its readers.  Most are usually thrown at walls or left to die in garage sales, but there is no surefire way of never reading a novel like that again. Pretty Little Liars author, Sara
Shepard, made sure this novel wouldn’t suffer that fate.  Every character voice is distinctive and rings true to me.  She has them cursing, vain and obsessing over everything that is unimportant in life.  I love how the four main characters remind me of my friends growing up.  We tried to act like adults when we must have sounded so naive and silly to someone who has experienced life and this is how these girls sound.  They are all trying to act like adults when they are still handling things like children.

The last thing I love the most about this novel is the mystery storyline.  Who is A?  Sure, they could just look up the details on the text message and reverse
lookup the number, but that would ruin the fun.  A is out to get all of them and it is a lot of fun watching how they handle that.  The use of social media really makes this novel interesting.  I have read other teen novels that use social media, but it just falls flat.  In Pretty Little Liars, it just works well.  Whenever one of the girls gets a text or email, it is interwoven into the novel so well it just works. I feel there isn’t any other way to put it.  It just works.  A owns these girls and this person knows it and it is fun to read and watch.

All and All…

Pretty Little Liars is a well-written novel for teenagers.  It doesn’t talk down to them nor does it ignore the basic problems that still exist in teenagers lives today.  While there are some aspects I could live without, I am looking forward to reading the next novel in the series and enjoying the new season on ABC Family this coming Tuesday (June 14th).

Now, as A would say, “Don’t get too comfortable. It’s not over until I say it is”.  Next I will be reviewing the season two opener of Pretty Little Liars: The TV Show and possibly the next novel in the Pretty Little Liars series.

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