Perfect by Sara Shepard

From the front flap:
In a town where gossip thrives like the ivy that clings to its mansions, where mysteries lie behind manicured hedges and skeletons hide in every walk-in closet, four perfect-looking girls aren’t nearly as perfect as they seem.

Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hanna, and the best friend Alison were once the girls at Rosewood Day School. They were the girls everyone loved but secretly hated—especially Alison. So when Alison mysteriously vanished, the girls’ grief was tinged with… relief. And when Alison’s body was later discovered in her own backyard, the girls were forced to unearth some ugly memories of their old friend, too. Could there have been more to Alison’s death than anyone realizes?

Now someone named A, someone who seems to know everything, is pointing the finger at one of them for Alison’s murder. As their secrets get darker and their scandals turn deadly, A is poised to ruin their perfect little lives forever.

Shit just gets so much worse in this installment of the Pretty Little Liars series that all I can do is shake my head. And still, I continue to read and eagerly await the answers promised in the fourth volume (originally intended to be the end of the series), so make of that what you will.

Anyway, some fairly awful things happen to the titular liars in this book, set three weeks after Flawless, the majority of them courtesy of A. Aria is ousted from her home because her mom can’t stand to look at her since Aria has known about her father’s infidelity for three years without ever mentioning it. Emily is outed at a school swim meet, and her parents threaten to send her to live with puritanical relations in Iowa unless she attends de-gaying therapy. Hanna still hasn’t heard from her father and now her best friend Mona is pissed at her too, culminating in a cringeworthy moment at Mona’s big birthday party followed by Hanna getting hit by a car.

You might think this couldn’t be topped for dramatic potential, but Spencer (who spends most of the book angsting about an essay contest) discovers a personal history of blackouts and gradually begins to recall what happened the night Ali disappeared. Meanwhile, A gives out lots of clues and hints about the murder, though their veracity is suspect.

I think I may be running out of things to say about this series, so perhaps it will suffice to say “the whirlwind of cray-cray continues.” It’s hard to feel much sympathy for Aria’s plight—not so much the getting kicked out of her house thing, but what follows—or Spencer’s, because both are very much “you’ve made your bed, now you’ve got to lie in it” types of situations. Emily seems to have fewer chapters devoted to her this time, which makes me wonder whether Shepard realized the endless on-again, off-again relationship with Maya was getting boring.

As in the TV show, Hanna continues to be my favorite. While it’s absolutely awful reading about her utter humiliation at Mona’s party, it does seem to cause her to question what her quest for perfection has really been about. Maybe she’ll learn to embrace her dorky side and will stick with Lucas, the sweet-but-uncool boy who thinks she’s wonderful just the way she is. But then again, with this series, hoping for a happy ending for anyone is probably futile.

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