After the disappearance of their best friend and queen bee Alison, four friends are left to sift through the minefield of secrets they’ve only told Alison herself. Emily has feelings for the new girl at school and at one time kissed Alison. She’s struggling to keep her desires hidden from those who know her best while maintaining her good girl image. Aria has returned from two years in Iceland and promptly seduced a teacher in a bar. Now she’s in a dangerous relationship with an unattainable man who has fallen for his student. She holds the secret of her own father’s affair with a student in close confidence. Hannah was once the ugly duckling of the group but has reinvented herself as the girl who has it all. She keeps secret her techniques for maintaining her slim figure. Spencer always wants what isn’t hers, and that includes her older sister’s boyfriends. Although their stories differ, these four girls have one thing in common; Alison knew their deepest, darkest secrets. When each girl begins getting messages mysteriously signed -A, they must discover if their secrets are being told from the grave, or if someone else knows their sins.
While Pretty Little Liars cannot be considered high literature by any means, I did find myself drawn into the story of these pretty, entitled young women. Finding out the secrets that define each girl had me intrigued and by the time the messages from A start arriving, I was hooked. I’ve not read a whole lot of mysteries outside of Nancy Drew as a young reader, but I really enjoyed trying to figure out the culprit in this novel. Besides the big question of the book I also enjoyed the smaller mysteries in each girl’s life that played out in the story. As far as content for young adults, this book touches on some very important issues revolving around personal identity and finding one’s place in the world. Each girl is overly concerned with her image and where she fits in the grand scheme of her high school and community and each shows a desperation in maintaining her status. I can see how the sordid details of a student-teacher affair and a childhood prank gone wrong would appeal to a young adult audience. Pretty Little Liars is clearly a book that falls into the “guilty pleasure” category, but the girl’s stories and the bigger mystery at hand are intriguing enough that I’ll likely pick up the second book to find out what happens and who A is. Despite being a pretty fluffy book as far as content is concerned, the fact that I’m curious enough to read more points to a good solid mystery plot that captured me as a reader.