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Pretty Little... Murderers?

Twisted: A Pretty Little Liars Novel by Sara Shepard

It has been a year since the house fire at the DiLaurentis' cabin in the Poconos – the house fire that the real Alison set in order to kill Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Melissa, but the friends still don't feel safe. In fact, the girls aren't even friends at this point. They're older, though – seniors and applying for college, but the four Liars are certainly not wiser. They're still making those same mistakes which got them in so much trouble in the past. Spencer did something underhanded to get into Princeton; Aria's jealous streak is rearing its ugly head again; Emily is keeping an important part of herself not only from her family but from the whole world; and Hanna's sticky fingers are blackmailed into emerging once more. Oh, and then there's also the event which triggered their separation: Jamaica. But with A back to haunting and terrorizing the girls, what happened in Jamaica won't stay Jamaica for long.

Twisted really felt like the series reinvented itself, like Shepard hit the reset button. It also felt like it was setting the groundwork for the books to come. After all, A – whether a miraculously still alive Alison or some new all-knowing presence in the girls' lives – has yet to really do anything to them. Twisted featured no blackmail, no spilled secrets on A's behalf, and, in fact, the novel was quite coy about what exactly some of the liars' biggest secrets are. Whereas readers had gotten used to knowing all about the less than savory deeds committed by Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna, Twisted, on many fronts, keeps its audience well in the dark, changing the series' entire dynamic. Instead of feeling like a conspirator with the girls, readers are now somewhat on the outside looking in. This certainly sets up well for the next book, inspiring intrigue and curiosity. Twisted also felt darker than previous novels in the series – the lies, secrets, and scandals racier and more dangerous. Yet, despite the horrible deeds committed by the four girls, Shepard still managed to engender sympathy for them. While this ninth installment might be twisted all right, readers should savor unraveling all the complicated turns and knots.

Four out of Five Stars

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