Book Review: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Posted February 10, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments

Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

by Sara Shepard

Series: Pretty Little Liars #1
Publisher: HarperTeen on October 1, 2006
Genre: Contemporary, Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Representation: BIPOC Character(s), Black Character(s), Lesbian Character(s), LGBTQIAP+ Character(s)
Content Warnings: Adult/Minor Relationship, Body Shaming, Bullying, Child Death, Death, Drug Use, Eating Disorder, Emotional Abuse, Fatphobia, Homophobia, Infidelity, Pedophilia, Racism, Sexual Content, Stalking, Suicidal Thoughts

Rating: ★★

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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 the dirty secrets they've kept. And guess what? I'm telling.


Oh wow.  Okay.  Where to start with THIS book.

I guess I’ll start by extending Shepard the benefit of the doubt.  think she was trying to write the most sensational, over-the-top, unrealistic and ridiculous teenagers ever.  I think.  I think this was on purpose and not bad writing.  Right?

The next thing I’ll do it give Emily some props.  Of all the characters in this nightmare of a novel, I think that Emily was the most… human?  Her character is the only one here who I think could have had an actual, interesting, “doesn’t make me groan aloud and roll my eyes a lot” story.  I more or less enjoyed the pieces from Emily’s POV, but she was not enough to save this book as a whole.

That aside.  Wow.  Pretty Little Liars is an absolute train wreck.

Lets make a list of some NOPEs, shall we?

  1. Elitism
  2. Fatphobia
  3. Bullying
  4. Adult/minor relationships
  5. Infidelity
  6. Homophobia
  7. Just… really terrible parents?  And friends.  And boyfriends.  And characters in general.

I am almost 100% sure I missed something there, but those are some of the things that made me want to hurl the book across the room… only this was an audiobook and my phone is expensive.  Pretty Little Liars came out when I was in high school, near the age of these girls, and I’m so grateful I didn’t pick it up at the time because I was impressionable and already really really conscious about my weight, and the Hannah storyline was hugely problematic and probably would have been impressionable on 16 y/o me.  So many of the characters in this novel make the most dramatic, unkind, unhealthy decisions possible.  It was more disturbing than “thrilling”, I guess, with particular emphasis toward Aria/Ezra being a big fat NOPE, Emily’s boyfriend’s behavior bringing me SO MUCH rage, and of course, Hannah’s storyline.

Okay that’s the characters.  Lets talk about some other things.

The pacing on this book was slow.  It feels like it should be quick, but between the four POVs, I honestly felt like nothing was happening.  We went through each of the POVs once and each of the girls did A Thing.  Then went went through them again, and the girls did more or less the same thing again.  Then through again, seeing the discovery.  Again, reacting.  End of book.  Nothing happened, and it took forever to get there.

I have issues with the realism of everything, but again, that falls into the arena of giving Shepard the benefit of the doubt on her choices here.

The writing as well was just… sort of icky.  There’s this scene early in the book where Spencer decides to strip down to her sports bra, underwear, and knee-high field hockey socks and go into the hot tub.  And for some reason that scene bothered me an extra lot.  Like it had it’s own problematic bits, but I honestly just couldn’t get past the fact Spencer went into the hot tub with knee-high socks.  Why?  Socks are the best thing to take off at the end of the day, especially after practice.  I’m pretty sure Shepard did it just to allow Spencer to be mortified at her lack of glamour when A BOY OMG OMG OMG OMG sees her.  For whatever reason, it was this scene that stuck with me as an example of the overall drama and ridiculousness that was this book.

There was a point as I was listening to it when I realised, Oh no.  I’m going to have to read a bunch to find out who A is.  Because the underlying story was intriguing.  It was just everything else about the book that I disliked.  Then I remembered – the series was over and I could Google the answer.  Thanks Internet, you beautiful spoiler machine!  Now I know the end of this series and don’t have to read any more… and wow was it anti-climatic.  I would have been annoyed to read sixteen books and have it end there.  Goodbye and good riddance, Pretty Little Liars!

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★
Plot: ★★
Writing: ★★ 1/2
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Narrator: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: 1/2

2 Star rating


How many books in a series do you think is too many?  For myself, I think ten is excessive, and it has to be a pretty special story to be allotted ten books.  Sixteen is definitely too many!  What about you?  Where do you say “enough’s enough!”?  Tell me about it in the comments!

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2 responses to “Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

    • Amber

      I’m glad you enjoy it, Raphael! You are certainly among the majority – the book and television series both were very popular.