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11 Down, ? To Go - Stunning

Stunning: A Pretty Little Liars Novel by Sara Shepard

Sex, lies, drugs, drag, and murder: no, this isn't rock n' roll; this is Rosewood.

It has been a year and a half since Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer received their first text message from A. Now, two A's later, they're back at the same church where they said goodbye to Fake-Ali, Their-Ali, and yet, again, they're connected to the murder victim. In fact, until the woman was shot, they believed her to be their latest tormentor, threatening the little girl Emily gave away for adoption, tricking Hanna into stAlking her ex's new girlfriend and making Hanna look a fool in the process, blackmailing Aria with the knowledge of her boyfriend's cross-dresser of a father, and sabotaging Spencer's chances of getting into her Princeton eating club of choice by dropping a little acid and Ritalin into Spencer's "pot"luck brownies. With each and every single plot against the pretty little liars, A's game seems to become just that much more dangerous.

And perhaps that's the most interesting aspect of this series. Despite the fact that Stunning is the eleventh Pretty Little Liars novel, it's always fascinating to see what A's going to dish out next. Unlike the television series, the A in the books is less dependent upon expensive stunts when it comes to terrorizing the girls, not only making her... or him... more believable but also more sinister as well. Rather than creepy dolls and custom Magic 8 Balls, book A uses knowledge of the liars and Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer's inability to not put themselves in dicey situations to manipulate and harass the four friends. Shepard also does a better job of balancing the characters - equally featuring and torturing the girls. While it's natural for readers to have favorites, Shepard seemingly doesn't. No one liar is more central to the story than the others, and it never seems like one is ignored by A or given lighter punishment. It's also amazing to witness how charmed the  girls' lives still are despite A, to see just how they're going to wiggle out of their latest spots of trouble. Despite the novels' darker nature, this sense of invincibility both adds a touch of innocence, resulting in escapism for readers, and it detracts from the books' veracity and, consequently, their reading value.

3 out of 5 Stars

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