There is something VERY rotten in the Philadelphia Main Line Suburb of Rosewood.
Alison DiLaurentis, 13, was a bright leader of a girls' clique. The members of said clique were more like satellites than actual friends as Alison's approval tended to give her peers a social leg up. She has been discovered murdered some 4 years after the summer she completed 7th grade in Rosewood Day, a private school on Philadephia's Main Line. She, along with her satellites drop designer names at the drop of a designer hat. Alison goes missing the summer before she starts 8th grade and is later discovered to have been murdered.
Spencer Hastings, along with the other satellites discovers she has good reason to want to dim the sun around which she revolves. She tends to sputter. In an earlier installment, readers learn that she has had a history of blackouts. Her older sister, Melissa, favored to the point of excess and indulgence treats her like dog droppings. After she comes clean about plagiarizing her older sister's economics paper, she is further ostracized by her own family. To make matters worse, her grandmother does not include her in her will. The old bag stipulated that only "natural born grandchildren" stood to inherit from her vast fortune. That raises the question - is Spencer adopted or is the old bag just as unloving as her son and daughter-in-law? Remember - Spencer did describe her as not being kid friendly in an early volume.
Aria Montgomery had been having an affair with her English teacher, Ezra Fitz. Her theme song is Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher." Back in town after a 3-year stay in Iceland, Aria reluctantly re-enters Rosewood Day School and the consequences of her father's infidelity. Aria's mother re-admits her into the house upon learning Aria knew about the affair even before the family left for Iceland. Her current boyfriend is someone named Xavier whom Aria meets at an art showing. Xavier hits on Aria and, much to her great chagrin is her own mother's online date! Xavier continues hitting on Aria, who moves in with her father and his pregnant fiancee, Meredith. Her brother Mike, some 2 years younger remains with their mother. Aria has a tendency to reach into her yak-fur bag, a security blanket she brought back from Iceland.
Emily Fields, a reknowned swimmer has finally become open about her sexual orientation. She has broken up with her partner, Maya, who is now living in the DeLaurentis house. In the previous installent readers learn along with Emily that she is bisexual. She meets a very kind boy named Isaac at a church social and in time enjoys a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship with Isaac.
Hanna - a former fat girl now a bulimic femme fatale has survived a lot. In an earlier installment, she was run over by a car; discovered what "fake friending" means and learns that popularity is as shifting as the shadows that stalk her and the other 3 girls. Her ulta-kind (or to use a word that crops up a lot in this book, "uber") boyfriend, Lucas stands by her side until she makes an accusation with devastating repercussions. Her own father all but ousts her from the family as well and his favoritism towards his stepdaughter to be, Kate is sickening. Kate is sneaky and conniving and Hanna has to be on high alert around her at all times. Kate puts the moves on Aria's brother, so Hanna decides that Mike is the ideal date for her.
In this book, the girls see a dead body in some neighboring woods. They believe he is Ian Thomas, one-time boyfriend of Melissa Hastings and the first boy Spencer bird-dogged. Ian Thomas was charged with Alison's murder, but was he really guilty? And is he really dead? And what became of the body found in the woods that was presumably Ian's?
The girls feel they can turn to no one but each other. Spencer has the worst of it as her own family steps up their emotional abuse. First, her car is taken without her knowledge and consent. To make matters worse, the woman she thinks of as her mother makes snide comments and tells her about "a wonderful new invention called the bus" and if she wants a car, she can go get a job and buy one. At that point, Spencer decides to seek out the woman who claims to be her natural mother. Is the woman called Olivia really who she says? Is Spencer really her child? And when the old bag made out her will, did she exclude Spencer because someone other than the two women on her list of possibilities is her natural mother?
Hanna and her stepsister Kate step up the bitchery and backbiting. Hanna's father appears to have replaced Hanna with Kate as a daughter and continues to rebuff Hanna and support smarmy Kate at all times.
Plot twists crop up and keep readers guessing. Aria seeks out Alison's brother and discovers that he, along with Officer Wilden whom readers ran across in the earlier volumes are high on the suspect list. Danger and mysteries interlock and readers are in a race to the final page - who is this mysterious A who has been stalking them by sending them texts and e-mails outlining their darkest secrets? And what, if any involvement do Alison's brother and the officer have in the set of mysteries?
Readers will be eager to read the next installment. Maybe a tad cliche, but still a guilty reading pleasure.