Monthly Archives: March 2011

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Commercials for the tv show Pretty Little Liars on ABC Family recently caught my eye. They inspireded me to check out the book series on which the show was based. I read the first four books; Pretty Little Liars, Flawless, Perfect, Unbelievable.

Book cover of Pretty Little Liars by Sara ShepardThe basis of the book is that four girls–Emily, Aria, Hanna, and Spencer–lost contact with each other after their childhood friend disappeared. They start receiving messages from a mysterious “A” years later. These messages reveal secrets that only their missing friend–Alison–knew. “A” then starts sending texts and e-mails about the four girls’ current scandalous activities. The quartet must now discover what happened to their friend in order to stop their stalker.

Shepard left many hints that had me guessing A’s identity throughout, which made the four novels addicting.This was particularly surprising as I found every other aspect of the stories to be terrible. My need to find out A’s identity kept me reading. It was the reason I could not put the books down.

Book cover of Flawless by Sara ShepardThe ridiculous plot points had me rolling my eyes as I read. The main story line involves A’s ability to follow the girls at all times, which isn’t realistic. I did exercise some “willing suspension of disbelief” to go along with the point. I did feel that since this one aspect was over the top the rest of the action should be a bit more believable. This was not the case. The pages were full of crazy scenarios: A seventh grade student kissed her 17-year-old sister’s boyfriend; a high school junior hooks up with her teacher; a mother sleeps with a cop in an attempt to get charges dropped against her daughter. Do these things happen in real life? Yes. Do these things–and more–usually happen to a small group of friends? I find that hard to believe. All of these situations create a framework for a story that was just to much for me to handle. It’s not good when the “mysterious stalker who knows all your missing friends secrets” is the most believable plot point in your book.

Book cover of Perfect by Sara ShepardThe crazy plot lines were not the only thing I disliked about the books. I was not a fan of the frequent depiction of underage drinking, often with little consequences. The reaction of the parents to various situations their daughters were in was also quite disturbing. These reactions were sometimes more irrational than the circumstances their daughters found themselves in. I must admit that it has been many years since I was a teenager. It is also true that my experience as a parent is limited to a newborn. These two facts lead to me having little knowledge in the areas of teenage behavior these days, and their parents reactions. It may be possible that the behavior depicted in this story is accurate. My experiences with the many other YA novels I have read leads me to believe this is not the case. These factors contributed to my lack of enjoyment of the series.

The Pretty Little Liars series is currently made up of three sets of four books. The last series is due to be published later this year. I will not be reading this series, or the second set of four books. The annoyance I felt with the plot points made me reluctant to start with the second set of stories. I felt satisfied enough with the answers I had in the fourth book to not continue.

Book cover of Unbelievable by Sara ShepardIt should not be a surprise that I do not recommend this series. The author is successful in creating suspense, a factor that could not save the rest of the story. It was only due to my determination to get my questions answered that I survived through the first four books. A look at the Wikipedia entries detailing the plot points of the next four novels convinced me this was the right move. Shepard was able to top herself with outrageous plot points in these next novels. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time on the stories.

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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I started this year off by reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This book was perfect for my first review of 2011.

From Goodreads.com

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie PerkinsAnna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris—until she meets Étienne St. Claire: perfect, Parisian (and English and American, which makes for a swoon-worthy accent), and utterly irresistible. The only problem is that he’s taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her almost-relationship back home.

As winter melts into spring, will a year of romantic near-misses end with the French kiss Anna—and readers—have long awaited?

I first heard of this book through a Goodreads.com giveaway. Neither the cover nor description grabbed my attention, so I didn’t enter the giveaway. A month or so ago I started noticing a lot of people mentioning the book; John Green even acknowledged it on his YouTube channel. Friends and other authors discussed it on Twitter, and they all had positive things to say. I got caught up in the word-of-mouth buzz and ended up giving the book a second look.

I have previously discussed I enjoyed the way Emilly Giffin conveys relationships in her stories. I found the same to be true with the author of this story. Perkins artfully depicts the intricate ups and downs of a growing teenage relationship throughout this book. She is able to build the friendship between Anna and Étienne naturally. The pacing is never rushed or fake. I felt myself getting more involved in the story as their feelings for each other grew. When they encountered the awkward stumbling blocks caused by their growing feelings for each other, I felt the tension that developed. The moments of joy and happiness they experience affected me as if they were my own.

The other relationships depicted in the story demonstrate the same depth. You understood Anna’s anger when she and a friend got in a fight. I felt the sadness she experienced when she missed her family back home. The many emotions were depicted so truthfully that it made the book feel like more than just a story. This realism made a tale that was impossible to put down.

Review: I am so glad that I was persuaded to give this story a second another look. Anna and the French Kiss turned out to be a fantastic book that I couldn’t wait to finish. I can not wait to read the companion novel–Lola and the Boy Next Door–in September.