Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard [Review]

Pretty Little Liars by [Shepard, Sara]Details:
Title: Pretty little liars
Series: Pretty little liars, bk 1
Author: Sara Shepard
Published: HarperCollins, 2006
Blurb:
[From the author’s website, saracshepard.com]

“I’M STILL HERE, BITCHES. AND I KNOW EVERYTHING. —A

Everyone has something to hide—especially high school juniors Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, and Hanna Marin.
Spencer covets her sister’s boyfriend. Aria’s fantasizing about her English teacher. Emily’s crushing on the new girl at school. Hanna uses some ugly tricks to stay beautiful.
But they’ve all kept an even bigger secret since their friend Alison vanished. How do I know? Because I know everything about the bad girls they were, the naughty girls they are, and all the dirty secrets they’ve kept. And guess what? I’m telling.”

Review:
I was completely prejudiced against this book before I started reading it. I thought it was a trashy novel, a waste of time, vacuous, vapid, stupid, trivial, and probably a bad influence. After reading it, my prejudices were both challenged and confirmed, and I discovered something else. While the book was all the things listed above, it was also at least one other thing. Fun.

Sure, the characters are all horrible examples of people — or perhaps good examples of horrible people — but as messed up, amoral, and unlikeable as they are, they are also fascinating and human. Also, I was relieved to see at least one character exhibit signs of emotional maturity by the end of the book, which shows that the characters can learn and grow. The thing that really redeemed the story in my eyes, though, and helped to explain the series’ continuing popularity (not to mention adaptation into a tv show), was the writing.

Critically the writing is not especially good; but then neither is James Patterson’s in my opinion, yet that does nothing to dampen his enormous popularity. Like JP, Shepard writes well because her writing suits her purpose well, which is to tell an entertaining story. The language is simply a bare-bones structure designed to give the story a place to exist and to move the action along, and as such it works very well. I was not distracted by glaring errors or by bad composition. In effect, the writing was good.

It took a while for my opinion about this book to change. At a quarter of the way through I noted that my impressions were largely negative, mostly because I disliked the characters as people. Even at the end of the book, the thing I find most troubling is that there is very little to admire in any of the characters – the same problem I have with adult literature of the same type (Gone Girl, for example). However, I also noted that the story was quite evocative of a certain type of tween/teen girl experience. Although my own experience was vastly different from anything in the book, the story still brought up old memories and feelings from middle school and high school, which I wondered at and appreciated.

Verdict
Yes, it’s trashy, and yes, it’s stupid, and yes, it showcases the worst of teenage girl behavior. But it’s also fun and entertaining and escapist. I don’t see any problem with indulging in reading something like this from time to time. After all, just because you read National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and the NEJM, doesn’t mean you can’t sneak a peek at the National Enquirer or Vogue once in awhile. So here’s the breakdown of my ratings:

Intellectual value: F
Entertainment value: A
Characters: C+
Plot: B
Writing: A
Overall: B

For more info:
Author website: saracshepard.com
Series info: wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Little_Liars_(book_series)
Amazon page: Pretty Little Liars

Originally published by me on http://yablrb.blogspot.com/