Alison "Ali" DiLaurentis had the four B's of popularity: beauty, brains, body, and boys. She also had four amazing best friends - Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Hanna Marin, and Emily Fields. As if their friendship weren't enough, she also knew secrets about all of them. Secrets that no one else even suspected, from bulimia to unfaithful parents, and everywhere in between. Then, one day, just as the summer was beginning, Ali disappeared, leaving four friends weeping in her wake. While their sorrow was strong, Ali's sudden disappearance was also a bit of a relief. After all, now their secrets would never be revealed. But the fact that Ali's body had never been uncovered always left a slight hesitation in their mind. That is, until she was found under a pile of cement, proving that their secrets would stay dead and buried. But maybe they spoke too soon. After four long years, Hanna, Aria, Spencer, and Emily are brought back together to mourn at the funeral of their long lost best friend. But things hit a sour note when the mysterious "A" contacts all of them once more, threatening to reveal their secrets and pin the blame on them for "The Jenna Thing." As if the eerie note isn't horrifying enough, each girl is shocked to see that the police have re-opened Alison's case. Only this time it's being treated as a murder, leaving the four former friends open for police questioning at any time. To make matters worse, Toby Cavanaugh - Jenna's reform school brother - has returned to the quiet town of Rosewood, attending nearby Tate Academy. And, while the former geek turned hottie seems harmless enough this time around, there's a mischievous glimmer in his eye that's leaving everyone on edge. It doesn't help that, since Toby's sudden arrival, "A" has been sending more and more notes. Making threats, demanding them to perform certain acts, and even spying on their every move. While the girls know that they should confide in one another regarding "A's" sudden attacks, they can't bring themselves to reveal such intimate, and oft-times embarrassing, details to one another. It doesn't help that a sense of mistrust has grown between all of them over the years, pushing them more into the acquaintance category, as opposed to the friend category; or that they're all facing certain dramas in their lives right now. Dramas that could tear them apart, and ruin their lives in a heartbeat. From the arrival of a deadbeat dad, to the rekindling of a forbidden romance, and even moving into trusting a former enemy territory. Spencer, Hanna, Emily, and Aria think that they'll be able to handle the newest drama on their own. But, as "A" moves closer in their direction, they begin to realize that if they're not careful, they may just be buried alive by their many scandalous secrets.
While Sara Shepard's debut, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, gave readers a character sketch, a surface look, if you will, at Hanna, Spencer, Emily, Aria, and even the missing Ali; FLAWLESS brings us back to where the first installment left off, the day of Ali's funeral, and instantly moves in to dissecting each of the aforementioned characters, giving readers the chance to get to know them better. Shepard has a talent for making the reader sympathize with, yet, at the same time, dislike certain people introduced. Her ability to make secondary characters memorable is amazing, and truly makes for a delightful read. While I find Aria and Hanna to be the most enchanting characters, simply because I can relate to both of them in various ways, I must admit that both Emily and Spencer are captivating in their own ways. The vulnerability that Hanna shows as she comes to terms with, and attempts to defeat bulimia, while giving into the pressures of anorexia nervosa, are addicting; while Spencer's inability to resist her older sister, Melissa's, boyfriends is jaw-dropping. Emily, like Hanna, is attempting to come to terms with the "real" her, which many readers will relate to quite well; while Aria is wacky and wonderful, and just working to keep her family together. Combined, each girls story presents a wonderful topping to the underlying truth: Ali's mysterious disappearance. With "A" moving in closer on every page, it's obvious that Shepard is working on revealing his or her identity sometime soon - or so we can hope. Riddled with suspense, and a captivating cast of characters - a 'flawless' sequel.