pretty little liarsAudiences are enthralled by the lives and loves of teenagers who are doomed by their misguided intentions, miscommunications and misunderstandings. Whether they’re faux Manhattan socialites in Gossip Girl or revamping tried and tested love triangles in The Vampire Diaries, many of us can’t help but tune in. Teen angst has now taken a thrilling turn to the dark side with blackmail, arson and underage student/handsome teacher trysts for the latest in guilty pleasure chic, Pretty Little Liars. If you’ve yet to experience the show there’s still time to catch up as it’s currently on hiatus until the New Year and the second series is being repeated in the UK on Viva.

The show began with four girls brought back together at the end of summer after they receive ominous anonymous messages from a mysterious “A” about their AWOL Queen B. The group’s former leader, Alison DiLaurentis, has been missing for a year and until now the secrets they shared had disappeared with her.

The girls’ first assumption is that their favourite witch with a “B” has returned to play more games of mischief and misery until a body is found beneath her former home. The clique continues to get texts, e-mails, letters and videos from an all-seeing adversary who knows their darkest secrets and much more. Now mid-way through its third season the riveting US drama makes product placement look like a valid lifestyle choice, as you cling to the edge of your seat for the next twist in blackmail and sabotage.

The paranoid and clueless pretty little liars were kept in the dark by their scheming alpha mean girl as victims of her abuse and adoration. After years in Alison’s shadow her plotting is catching up with them and they’re paying for not asking more questions.

Spencer, Hanna, Aria and Emily find out that Alison knew much more than she let on and they race “A” to her secrets. The discoveries send a ripple of shock through their lives when they see hidden camera footage of themselves at a sleepover and Alison meeting an older man. The town is steeped in secrets and filled with untrustworthy opponents who all seem to know a little slice of Alison’s meddling.

Each girl is blackmailed into even more trouble by their darkest moment with Alison. They were all party to a prank gone wrong which left a girl blind. Though the anonymous messages don’t stop there, the girls all have their own secrets that they thought were shared with Alison alone but are now being used to taunt them.

The only one who ever challenged Alison was the tough and intelligent Spencer who attracts her sister’s boyfriends and often likes the attention. Whereas Hanna was the butt of Alison’s jokes for being overweight but has now adopted her crown after shedding a few pounds and shoplifting a lot more, but Hanna’s mum is no saint either and they will do anything to protect each other. Aria returns to the fold after a year abroad and tries to escape her father’s infidelity by drinking underage at a bar where she unwittingly meets her soon-to-be teacher and by the time she finds out it’s too late. While innocent Emily was always in love with Alison and she’s still dating her jock boyfriend to hide firmly in the closet from her conservative parents.

Secrets are teased out along the way as the girls have to choose where their loyalties lie and “A” tries to crush any semblance of happiness or normality. The parents’ messy private lives give them added obstacles and the adults begin to notice that someone is toying with their daughters. The girls become closely entwined by their shared torture and don’t know where to turn after trusting the wrong people. They’re slowly learning that they only know what “A” wants them to know.

The show paused this summer, only to return for the yearly Halloween horror episode and after seasons of mistaken “A” identities there are now two characters who have been identified as members of the “A” team. The foursome only knows of one of them and it’s assumed that she is under lock and key in a mental institution. Being the devious darling that she is, some barred windows don’t stop her making a masked appearance. You would think by now the little liars would learn that no good comes from trying to have an uneventful adolescence, especially at a Halloween party on a moving train.

Like most teen dramas you can expect to get frustrated with the characters jumping to conclusions, rushing in and having those “Don’t go into the woods!!” moments, but it’s worth it. There are still so many unexplained things from the life and death of Alison DiLaurentis and if the show teaches you anything it’s that everyone is a little liar but secrets don’t stay secret forever.

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