A ‘Stunning’ Revival | Review of ‘Stunning’ (PLL, #11)


By: Cynthia Ayala

Following the less than enthusiastic Ruthless, Sara Shepard has caught her second wind and has revived her series with Stunning, the eleventh novel in her Pretty Little Liars series.

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Author: Sara Shepard

Published: June 5, 2012

Publisher: HarperTeen

Series: Pretty Little Liars

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Coming-of-Age

These four pretty little liars keep forgetting that secrets are no fun and that A knows how to weave them and just how to make these girls squirm. While Emily reconnects with an old flame, A taunts her with her dark secret. As Spencer seeks to aim high at Princeton, a double dose of A is hiding in the darkness. An unexpected venture leads Aria to unveil a hidden side of Noel’s dad, and with A stalking her like a cat, her life is about to unravel again. Of course, for Hanna, one little adventure turns her into A and cost her everything she holds dear. A is watching and ready to kill.

The eleventh novel in the Pretty Little Liars series written by Sara Shepard and published by HarperTeen on June 5, 2013, Stunning continues to build up the mystery and thrill in the young adult and coming of age genres.

Since the last novel in the series was a tad disappointing, this latest one finally picked up the pace, making for an interesting read. While the last novel was slow paced with annoyingly static characterization, this novel actually picked up the pace. In Stunning, the main focal point of that pulls all the characters together is the secret of Emily’s pregnancy. While the story builds all the other characters and the secrets and trials that “A” is putting them through, Emily’s dark secret takes a central focus and allows for her character to grow. This was a breath of fresh air considering the last novel was slow with constipated characterization and dialogue that literally went around in circles. The dialogue in the novel has improved in this novel. Granted, there are times where it runs around in circles when the four main protagonists go on about who is the new “A”, but overall, it has improved because the characterization has improved. No longer does the dialogue come off as a relentless and tiresome circle of blame, but it actually shows how the characters are thinking.

Readers are able to visualize the puzzle in the novel, the mystery behind who is “A” with each growing secret sends the reader into trying to solve the puzzle itself. It also serves as a powerful tool for misdirection. There are times that the writing really goes for it and sucks the readers into the novel, making the reader believe what the characters believe. Of course, any reader familiar with the series knows it’s never who they think it is, but Shepard is still able to make the reader look in the wrong direction with her writing which is a powerful skill on her part, highlighting her talent.

This novel comes off as Shepard’s second wind, especially when the previous novel was a literal drag. The characterization was spot on and it was a breath a fresh air to have the main focal point center around the naïve, kind-hearted character and she the shift in her characterization. Emily really grew in this novel, blooming out of her shell and really becoming a worthwhile character to read about. ★★★☆☆ (B-)

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