The insurgence of YA mystery on TV receives a DVR priority in this Young Adult mystery writer’s house. Thankfully, ABC Family provides young mystery lovers (and some of us “old”) with a few great soap-opera style whodunits with Pretty Little Liars topping the list.
The series begins when Alison DiLaurentis’ (Sasha Pieterse) remains are found a year after her mysterious disappearance in the fictional town of Rosewood. This event brings together her four former best friends who had drifted apart following that fateful night. Alison was the glue that held the girls together, the leader of the high school clique. As the episodes progress, viewers see Alison’s viciousness and many of the secrets that she holds over everyone’s heads — is she not a nice girl, or is she simply misunderstood?
After attending Alison’s funeral, the four friends reunite outside the chapel when each of their cell phones sound — they’ve received their first threatening text message from “A” — and the mystery begins: Who killed Alison? And, who is “A”?
PLL #1 – Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale) returns home from a year abroad with her family, and forgetting she’s a teenager and back in America, goes to a local bar where she meets Ezra Fitz (Ian Harding). The two immediately hit it off and share a kiss after connecting over their love for literature. The next day at school, Aria walks into English class where she discovers Ezra is also her teacher.
Meanwhile, emotions erupt at home when her mother (Ella Montgomery, played by Holly Marie Combs) leaves her father after discovering the true reason behind the family’s extended absence from Rosewood — Aria’s father, a professor, had an affair with a teaching assistant at the local college. Aria and Alison knew this secret prior to the Montgomeries’ extended vacation, having spotted Mr. Montgomery (Chad Lowe) making out with his TA in his car. Whoopsie!
Isn’t it ironic that Aria now begins a torrid love affair and dates her teacher after torturing her father for a similar inappropriate relationship? “A” won’t let Aria forget it…
PLL #2 – Hanna Marin (Ashley Benson) replaced Alison as the most popular girl in school following her friend’s disappearance. “Hefty Hanna” — as Alison liked to call her — dropped her baby fat, partnered with her new BFF Mona (Janel Parrish) and took to a life of brattiness and shoplifting.
Hanna lacks the self-confidence a young woman needs, having watched her father walk out on her and her mother. She spirals out of control, throwing herself at her boyfriend, only to be rejected. Not helping matters, Hanna watches as her single mother (Ashley Marin, played by Laura Leighton) bails her out of trouble by bedding the detective on Hanna’s shoplifting case.
Hanna really has the worst luck — she wrecks her boyfriend’s car, and she is involved in a hit and run when she gets dangerously close to discovering “A’s” real identity. When Mona throws her a surprise “glad you’re alive party,” someone steals all of the money (assumedly “A”) that Hanna’s mother stole from a client at the bank. And, while following “A’s” sordid trail back to the money, Hanna falls for the wrong boy who happens to be feeding information to the girls’ nemesis, Jenna Marshall (Tammin Sursok) — who of course later turns out to be the right boy for her anyway (Caleb, played by Tyler Blackburn).
PLL #3 – Spencer Hastings (Troian Bellisario) is the poor-little-rich-girl of the bunch. Her successful parents push Spencer to be the absolute best, much like they did with her older sister Melissa (Torrey DeVitto). Spencer is brilliant, but plays second fiddle to her sister, always aware that her parents favor Melissa. To retaliate, Spencer kisses her sister’s boyfriend and then later kisses her new fiancé. Matters only get worse for Spencer when Melissa surprises the Hastings family by abruptly marrying her boyfriend right after calling off her previous engagement.
Spencer begins to investigate her new brother-in-law, and slowly uncovers an affair between him and Alison that happened just before Alison’s disappearance. As she continues to investigate, Spencer believes that her new brother-in-law not only stalked her best friend but also killed her, causing the rift between Spencer and her sister to intensify.
Now a suspect herself in Alison’s murder, Spencer befriends Toby Cavanaugh (Keegan Allen) who also happened to serve time in jail briefly as the main suspect in Alison’s death. Did I mention that Toby is also the half-brother of Jenna?
Toby knows just how deceiving and manipulative his sister can be….is Jenna “A”?
PLL #4 – Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell) is the daughter of a military father always away on assignment who is confused with her own sexuality. She starts the series with a boyfriend but then falls for the new girl in town, sending her mother (Nia Peeples) into a tailspin. Making even more of a splash, Emily takes Toby Cavanaugh to the homecoming dance as her date trying to hide the fact that she’s gay. The fact that Emily doesn’t totally believe in Toby’s innocence, like the rest of the town, leads to a dangerous encounter — only one of many.
After accepting that she is a homosexual, Emily is further devastated when her girlfriend is sent away to military school after marijuana is found inside her back pack. Emily’s world continues to turn upside down when her mother announces that they’re leaving Rosewood to live with her father who is stationed in Texas. Meanwhile, Emily holds the key to the photo evidence the girls have uncovered on her home computer (evidence they believe links back to Alison’s killer) which conveniently gets erased when the realtor shows the Fields’ house.
Each of the girls have oodles of conflict surrounding them individually, even without “A’s” threatening their every move (there’s so much more that I didn’t mention). Throw in the suspicions the police and their parents have regarding their involvement in Alison’s murder, and the lies they continuously try to hide despite “A’s” best efforts, and Pretty Little Liars doesn’t bore its viewers — it has twists and turns week in and week out.
Season two ended with the huge unveiling of “A” — but is it really her?
I have my suspicions that the incorrect identification of “A” is just another twist masterfully planned by the real “A” — confused yet?
Don’t worry — everyone can clear it up when Pretty Little Liars season three premieres Tuesday, June 5th.
Do you watch Pretty Little Liars or is the show “too young” for you? What do you think about the mystery — do you believe the identity of “A” or are you like me and believe there’s much more to the story? Has anyone read the books? Which of the girls do you relate to the most — Aria, Spencer, Hanna, Emily, Alison, Mona, or the outcast Jenna? I’d love to hear from you!