My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release date: October 7, 2014
In Beacon Heights, Washington, five girls—Ava, Caitlin, Mackenzie, Julie, and Parker—know that you don’t have to be good to be perfect. At first the girls think they have nothing in common, until they realize that they all hate Nolan Hotchkiss, who’s done terrible things to each of them. They come up with the perfect way to kill him—a hypothetical murder, of course. It’s just a joke…until Nolan turns up dead, in exactly the way they planned. Only, they didn’t do it. And unless they find the real killer, their perfect lives will come crashing down around them.
First thing you need to know about this book – it is a Pretty Little Liars-rehash. No, seriously, the basic premise is the same – five girls implicated in a secret in a posh suburban town, where people keep dying like annual flowers and the male population is interested in underage girls. Having said that, I would also like to point out – it is better than PLL. I would go further in saying that Shepard outdid herself with this one. I had read her other new series – The Heiresses (which was PLL in adult fiction) and that one disappointed me a bit with the predictability.
So, PLL 2.0 (yes, I just had to get that in) starts off in Beacon
Hills Heights – where there are these five different girls who have each been tormented by the murder victim – Nolan – and plot his demise. They don’t carry it out, of course, (actually I don’t trust that – I have my doubts about Parker but we’ll get to that later) but he actually turns up dead! Le gasp! Now, naturally these little liars girls feel guilty because he died right after they played a harmless prank on him (Jenna, anyone?) and how can they go to the police because they will look oh-so-guilty! So, being a Sara Shepard novel, they go about their regular lives and try to find out who murdered him.
The characters in this series are definitely more diverse than of other Shepard books. The girls are all seemingly perfect with flaws underneath. Parker is a scarred PTSD-suffering survivor of parental abuse and while my heart bleeds for her, her memory is a mystery and therefore she seems fishy. Ava is the girl who is slut-shamed just because she actually got good while Mac was a notch in Nolan’s belt. Caitlin blames Nolan for the death of her younger brother whom he had bullied very much. Julie is just hurt on behalf of Parker. Basically, Nolan is the male version of Alison DiLaurentis, get it?
Romantic entanglements – no Shepard book would be without at least one girl cheating on her boyfriend or getting involved with a taken guy. Mac has had a crush on her ‘best’ friend’s boyfriend since forever, Caitlin is starting to like her boyfriend’s sensitive younger brother, Julie wants to have a normal relationship while dealing with a stalker and Ava just wants a peaceful existence. I was very happy with how positively their friendships were shown – none of the girls have the slightest trouble with each other, even though they just became friends weeks ago. They also accept each other’s flaws with a great deal of understanding – and more importantly, without any judgement. About ships, well, I really ship Parker and Julie – they are the poster childs for BFFs – the way they protect each other.
Yes, Shepard has one formula – secrets in a group of girfriends – and currently that seems to work well for her. Do I love it? Yes. I can’t get enough of her books. Her writing style is quite addictive – it may not keep you at-the-edge-of-your-seat-anxious but it definitely makes you go where-is-the-next-book. I would give this a 3.5.
Received an ARC from HarperCollins via Edelweiss, which in no way affected my opinions in this review