Alison, Aria, Emily, Hanna and Spencer were best friends, until Alison disappeared. Three years later, the remaining girls, now juniors at Rosewood Day, are leading separate, but charmed lives.
After living in Iceland, Aria returns home sophisticated and worldly. Emily is a champion swimmer, Hanna is the most popular girl in school, and Spencer's accomplishments make the average type-A valedictorian look like a slacker. But in Rosewood, appearances are deceiving, and when the girls start receiving mysterious texts signed by someone named A, the past threatens to ruin their perfect present. A claims to know all of their secrets—but who is A? How much does A really know? And what can four pretty little liars do to protect themselves from the truth?
I basically picked this up because the trailer for the TV series looked interesting. And I'm quite glad I did because I liked it more than I expected to. Four former friends receive threatening messages which appear to be from Alison, their missing friend and the only one who knew all their secrets. Now those secrets are about to come out and lives are going to be destroyed.
I liked the main characters a lot. Emily is the good girl from the proper family who is struggling with her sexuality, and is the one who misses Alison the most. Aria makes a connection with a hot guy in town without realising that he is her new teacher, and struggles to hide her dad's dark secret from her mother. Hanna has transformed from the fat to fabulous girl who rules the school but has an eating disorder and a screwed up family. And my favourite was Spencer who feels unloved by her family and can't stop kissing her sister's boyfriends. The girls are no longer friends but are drawn back together by the texts. Not only does 'A' know their past secrets, she knows what new secrets each girl has.
There are interesting side characters too. We have Mona, Hanna's bitchy best friend, Maya, who is Emily's latest crush, jenna, whose life was ruined by something the girls did, and Wilden, the cop who is trying to find out the truth about Alison. This book also deals with a lot of issues that are important to teenagers and adults-sexuality, infidelity, eating disorders, stealing, coveting, sibling rivalry, illicit relationships, keeping secrets...There is so much going on in this book that I didn't mind the switching POV the way I usually would. I think that actually works really well in this plot.
This was an intriguing and fun read despite not being a genre I would normally read. The girls are well developed and have enough juicy secrets to keep the reader interested. There is also the fun of guessing who 'A' is. Is it the missing Alison who wants to make their lives miserable or someone pretending to be her? Who else could know all their secrets? What is The Jenna Thing that they are so scared will come out? Did someone see what happened to Jenna that night? What do the cops know? What really happened the night Alison vanished?
Naturally the answers do not all come in this book or that would spoil all the fun! I was pretty keen to move onto the next book to find out what happens next in the series, though it has taken a good year or so to get this review written from my notes and catch up in the series. And there is a lot of cool stuff to come and plenty twists...