Aria, Hanna, Emily and Spencer spent years thinking their dirty not-so-little secrets were safely behind them until mysterious messages from someone known only as -A started popping up and throwing each girl's world off its perfect axis. They'd assumed it was their old friend who had gone missing, Alison, returned and taunting them. Until Ali's murdered body was found. -A didn't disappear with their hope for their old friend, and as Flawless has shown us, -A's brand of torture was really only just beginning.
Following in true Pretty Little Liars fashion, Flawless is chock full of secrets, suspense and scandal. But unlike its predecessor, I'm beginning to rethink my previous "moral-empty" viewpoint on this story. They're there, just hidden behind all the shock value.
The most predominant of these moral themes is anti-bullying. The girls spent their childhood in their own little clique, teasing the outsiders and playing cruel pranks. When the tables begin to turn on them, however, and the maturity that only comes with age sinks in, they realize just what it's like to be made fun of for being an outsider. This is especially the case with poor, poor Jenna, who just may be the most realistically unfortunate secondary character I've read in YA in awhile. There are also self-esteem issues, tragic though common family problems, and relationship drama. These things that don't jump right out in your face but are still integral to the story have left me with just a little more respect for the series than I had at the end of book one.
Now, about the actual book. OMG WHO THE EFF IS -A AND HOW DOES HE/SHE/THEY KNOW EVERYTHING????? Every time one of the girls does something gossip-worthy, there's a taunting text or an email or a note bearing that single-letter signature. This is a long-standing hook, and an almost excruciatingly effective one. I doubt I'll be able to stop buying the next books until the biggest secret in this series is revealed, even if I wanted to.
Which I don't. Not yet.
I mentioned in my review of the first Pretty Little Liars novel that I hate some of the romantic interests, one especially. Well, I think I hate Wren even more now, if that's possible. Sleazy college guy taking advantage of a sixteen-year-old girl? So beyond uncool. I actually found myself missing another of these romantic interests, Ezra, in this one. True, he's a bit of a creeper for making out with his student (who is also a freaking minor) but he added a spicy hotness that wasn't attached to the same level of sliminess as Wren, one this installment was missing.
When it comes to Hanna, I've got a lot of mixed feelings about how Shepard handles her. On the one hand, I think she does a passable job of showing us a volatile character who has gone to extremes to ditch her old dorky persona, and fears nothing more than having it catch up with her again. On the other hand, I do not relate to her eating issues at all. And not because I can't relate to overeating. I've had an unhealthy relationship with food for about as long as I can remember, but I have never once shoved a hunk of cheese in my face at a party just because I was feeling a little anxious. Most food binge habits are very private, taking place when there is no one else around out of shame and fear of being caught. Certainly not at a huge party packed with "important" people. But maybe I'm just a bit biased about this particular theme.
The biggest shocks in Flawless come at the end, making it almost impossible to put the book down during the last 50 pages or so. And making you want to pick up Perfect - the third in the series - very soon. That is a major success for a YA series, as it ensures the readers will keep coming back for more.
All that said, though this didn't have quite the same amount of compulsive readability as the first one, Flawless is a really good way to spend a couple of afternoons. If you liked the first one, you won't be disappointed by the second.
Flawless by Sara Shepard - 3.5 out of 5 stars.