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April 29th, 2012

RUTHLESS Opportunism

Ruthless: A Pretty Little Liars Novel by Sara Shepard

The Pretty Little Liars series has been divided into three sets of novels, each featuring a different A. What makes this third set of books stand out from the others is how... uninvolved and hands off the final A is (so far). Rather than attacking Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna – making them do things and doing things to them, this A simply sits back, occasionally taunts, and allows the liars to do all his or her A work on their own. Because of their checkered pasts (to put it mildly), the four girls are paranoid and ripe for harassment, but what does this say about the third A? Perhaps it says that the girls' latest and last enemy is smarter than the others, but this style of attack also isn't as exciting or nerve wracking. In addition, readers surely become frustrated with Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna. Not only have they not learned their lessons from A's past assaults, but their impetuosity is frustrating. If the girls would take a moment to think about their actions, to question their feelings and instincts, if they would simply use caution and common sense, then they wouldn't open themselves up to A's mischief nearly so easily. Restraint is certainly not their strong suit.

Take for example the relationship woes featured in
Ruthless. Despite fearing the repercussions from their actions in Jamaica and having a new A to look out for, all four girls embark on new relationships in this tenth book of the series... or, in Aria's case, revisit an old flame. As Aria's former English teacher reenters her life, Spencer embraces her inner thespian... and her fellow thespian... in an attempt to solidify her Princeton acceptance. Meanwhile, Hanna impulsively begins a new romance with the son of her father's political rival, and Emily embraces her inner bad-girl, eventually crushing on the very same person Spencer suspects of being new A. And these dalliances aren't just passing fancies... or, at least, in the girls' eyes they aren't; they're the star-crossed, soulmate kind of love... for all the 2.5 seconds that they last. One of these instant relationships, however, was more frustrating than the others.

Unlike on
Pretty Little Liars, the show, the Aria-Ezra romance was a passing storyline in the books. It was short lived and quickly dismissed in favor of more appropriate and more compelling entanglements for Aria. Unfortunately, Ruthless saw a return for the disgraced teacher. Initially, it was aggravating to see Aria so blinded by Ezra again, to see her making the same mistakes again, but Ruthless did something interesting: it showed Aria realizing just how wrong she and Ezra were together, perhaps even serving as Shepard's commentary upon the television series' portrayal of the relationship as well. Either way, the character of Ezra is gone and hopefully for good as Aria and her friends continue to fall further and further under the third and final A's wicked spell in the upcoming eleventh novel: Stunning.

Four out of Five Stars

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