Ali’s Pretty Little Lies by Sara Shepard 2013
So if you’ve read or seen Pretty Little Liars and are confused about Ali’s character, this is the book to read. Shepard wrote lots of books in between, and if you’re a true fan, you’ll probably want to read them in the order they were written. But this book clears up a lot of mysteries—which can be a good thing if you’re confused and a bad thing if you like figuring out secrets yourself.
This book is written from Ali’s point of view leading up to the first book. Many of the scenes from the first book are repeated but from Ali’s point of view. It’s a faster read than the first book, which had four POV and personally, I found it difficult to keep the girls apart.
Shepard knows how to create a complex character and supporting cast. She leaves many things unanswered and has written countless sequels to feed us more information in each of them. There are plenty of people to hate, but she creates enough sympathy for the four main characters that you root for them. In this one, you were rooting for Ali as well or was it….
Spoiler alert – for those who want to discover the secrets, don’t read the rest.
Allison and Courtney are twin sisters, and both think the other is evil. From Courtney’s viewpoint, Allison manipulates their parents into thinking Courtney means to harm Ali, and they have her committed to a hospital for the mentally ill for paranoid schizophrenia. When she visits home three years later, she is able to switch places with Ali and takes on her identity, ditching Ali’s current friends and making news ones of Aria, Emily, Spencer, and Hanna who don’t know Courtney well enough to realize she isn’t Ali.
Shepard does an excellent job of sharing Courtney’s fears and need to keep anyone from finding out her secret and being sent back to the mental hospital. Shepherd builds Ali’s growing desperation and reveals her reasoning for the manipulation and hateful remarks she makes in the first book as well as her skewed definition of friendship. She has to be perfect, but she wants them to come to her with their problems so she can solve them.
Courtney leads Aria past her father’s car to reveal his affair to hide the fact her mother is having an affair with Spencer’s father. She sabotages Hanna’s romance because her own is ruined with mystery older boy Nick.
The real Ali threatens her during a visit to the hospital and convinces everyone she is well enough to return home a few days before “Ali” graduates from junior high.
Courtney has been recording everything in Ali’s diary since taking her place three years ago, and Ali reads it, hiding the diary to use as a reference when she takes her rightful place. That explains how –A knows so much about the four friends in the first book.
Courtney doesn’t write about Nick in the diary. He met Ari at camp and strikes up a romance with Courtney. Unfortunately Nick sees Ian kissing Ari against her will and breaks up with her. He makes a cryptic message about knowing a psycho girl, and we briefly meet Ari’s friends from the mental hospital, Iris, Tabitha and Tripp. We also learn Jenna knew both twins. In addition it is revealed that Spencer’s dad is also Courtney and Allison’s father which makes Melissa a half-sister and we know how she hates Spencer so why not add her to the list of people who would do Allison/Courtney harm.
Shepard is good at giving readers plenty of enemies to pick from. Ali has help when she kills Courtney and leaves her in the hole for the gazebo, but her partner is not revealed. Courtney smells cigarette smoke and she recognizes the voice but doesn’t say if it’s male or female. Shepard likes to tease her readers.
In a great twist, Ali forgets to take the ring and friendship bracelet Courtney was wearing and her parents believe she is Courtney, especially when she tells them she is Ali, and Ali can’t be found. They haul her off to the hospital where she remains for three years and the first book continues with the mysterious messages from -A.