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Pretty Little Liars is a series of young adult novels by Sara Shepard. The series follows the lives of four girls — Spencer, Hanna, Aria, and Emily — whose clique falls apart after the disappearance of their leader, Alison. Three years later, they begin receiving text messages from someone using the name "A" who threatens to expose their secrets — including long-hidden ones they thought only Alison knew.

The series in chronological order:

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  • Ali's Pretty Little Lies
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • Flawless
  • Perfect
  • Unbelievable
  • Pretty Little Secrets
  • Wicked
  • Killer
  • Heartless
  • Wanted
  • Twisted
  • Ruthless
  • Stunning
  • Burned
  • Crushed
  • Deadly
  • Toxic
  • Vicious

A television series premiered on ABC in the summer of 2010, all series exclusive tropes go here.


Tropes

  • Aborted Arc: The Sequel Hook at the end of Wanted (the originally-planned Grand Finale for the series) implies that Alison survived the fire that was believed to have killed her and left Rosewood with her family (who skipped town right after her apparent death) to start a new life elsewhere under a new name that's a Significant Anagram of "Alison DiLaurentis", forming a new posse at her new school. The second half of the series reveals that she did indeed survive the fire, but is in hiding in or near Rosewood, continuing to torment the girls as A along with Helper A, and while there is a Time Skip of at least six months between Wanted and Twisted, there's no indication given that she went to another school or made any other friends during that time.
  • Accidental Murder:
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    • In Unbelievable, Mona tries to kill Spencer after the latter discovers that she's A. Spencer, in self-defense, closes her eyes and pushes Mona away from her, causing Mona to go over the edge of the cliff and break her neck in the fall.
    • In Twisted, the girls confront someone who they think is Alison, and Aria, believing she was going to kill them, pushes her in self-defense, causing her to fall to her death. Though it's later subverted, since Burned reveals that the girl, Tabitha Clark, was killed by a blow to the head at close range (which was very much not accidental), not from the fall.
  • Adults Are Useless: There hasn't been a single adult that they've found that could help with their "A" problem.
  • Aloof Big Sister: Melissa to Spencer, and Jason as well.
  • Always Identical Twins: The person who died was actually Alison's identical twin, Courtney, whom Alison killed in a fit of rage for stealing her identity. Courtney is even buried under her twin's name.
  • Always Someone Better:
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    • Spencer feels she is constantly under her older sister Melissa's shadow, though she's mostly gotten over this by the end of the series.
    • Darren believes that Hanna felt this way concerning Alison.
    • Spencer also felt this way about Alison.
  • Alpha Bitch: Alison before she died. After, Hanna and Mona have sort of replaced her by the start of the series, though Hanna eventually loses this.
  • Anyone Can Die: Anyone who is important to the plot of one or more books will probably die in the next. By the end of Vicious, the dead people include Toby Cavanaugh, Mona Vanderwaal, Jenna Cavanaugh, Ian Thomas, Courtney DiLaurentis, Tabitha Clark, Gayle Riggs, and Graham Pratt, as well as the real Kyla Kennedy.
  • Asshole Victim: Alison wasn't exactly the nicest person around. Ultimately subverted, as Alison wasn't the "victim" after all. The real victim, Courtney, wasn't psychotic and evil like Ali, but she had still devolved into a major bitch by the time she died.
  • Based on a True Story: The author claims at the series is loosely based off her experiences on "...Philadelphia’s Main Line."
  • The Beautiful Elite: Everyone in Rosewood. At worst they would be Hollywood Homely.
  • Big Eater: Hanna, played for drama.
    Hanna: "My way of staying sane is to eat a ton of cheese-based snacks and then throw them up."
  • Blackmail: A's messages.
  • Break the Cutie: Before the start of the series, Jenna was teased constantly by Alison and her friends, abused by her stepbrother, and then blinded by a prank gone wrong. She never holds the teasing against Aria and the others, though, and the prank was her idea, conceived in an effort to take her stepbrother out of the picture.
  • Broken Bird: Aria
  • Brother–Sister Incest/Not Blood Siblings: Toby and Jenna. Though it's later revealed that it wasn't consensual on Jenna's side, and Toby was molesting her.
  • But Not Too Bi: Emily has one straight relationship with Isaac; all the rest of her love interests are girls.
  • Cain and Abel: Ali and Courtney.
  • Cassandra Truth: The girls telling Darren that a second A was tormenting them after Mona's death, and, more disturbingly, Ali desperately trying to convince her parents that Courtney switched their identities. Her failure meant she was locked up in a mental asylum, where, presumably, everyone continued to insist that she was her sister. It's really no wonder she lost her mind as well.
    • Lampshaded by Hanna to the police in Toxic after several instances of them refusing to believe the girls about Ali still being alive and after them, including her attempt to strangle and drown Emily: "Do you completely disregard all of your victims' testimonies, or just ours?"
    • Much more tragically is Courtney trying to convince her parents that Ali is making her look crazy to get rid of her.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Ali's Pretty Little Lies manages to do this to an already-dark backstory:
    • In Wanted, originally planned to be the final book in the series, the girls learn that the "Ali" they knew was actually Courtney, who was put in a mental hospital years before for repeatedly attempting to impersonate her sister, and finally succeeded in doing so after meeting them. This leads the girls to believe that "Their Ali" was always secretly nuts, and the real Alison was originally a victim who only become the also-crazy psychopath she is by the end of the book thanks to having her life unfairly stolen away from her by her twin.
    • However, this added backstory from Ali's Pretty Little Lies clarifies that, in fact, Courtney was the original victim all along; she was never actually crazy, and Alison framed her for being so and got her institutionalized just to get rid of her out of jealousy since Courtney was the more-well-liked twin. Her switching places with her sister was only an attempt to live the life she always wanted that Alison stole from her. When Ali confronted her about it a couple of years later, Courtney admitted that she just wanted a sister again and wanted to reconcile with her, only for Ali to murder her anyway. Not only does this make Courtney/"Their Ali" far more sympathetic, but it makes "Real Ali" infinitely less so, showing that she killed Courtney over a feud she started in the first place, and there was tons of Psychological Projection going on with the things Ali accused her sister of.
  • The Chessmaster: A is obviously this.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Hanna is like this in her relationship with Sean, causing him to dump her.
  • Cure Your Gays: Emily's parents attempt to do this to her, but luckily, they don't succeed.
  • Daddy's Girl: Hanna used to be like this with her dad, Tom, before he remarried. However, once Tom, Hanna, Isabel, and Kate all move in together for the second story arc, he seems to prefer Kate to her, causing her many insecurities.
  • Dark Secret: Everyone in Rosewood has one of these.
  • Dead All Along:
    • Played with in regards to Courtney. When she initially returns to Rosewood, the Liars take The Reveal that she is Ali's twin, Courtney, at face value, and that their best friend Ali is dead, but then she convinces them that she is actually the friend they knew, and Courtney was the one who really died that night instead of her. By the end, it's revealed that the dead twin is Courtney, but Courtney was the "Ali" they were friends with all along; the twin who's still alive and trying to murder them as A is the real Ali.
    • In Crushed, Hanna meets and befriends a girl named Kyla Kennedy at the burn clinic where she's volunteering in the hopes of getting information out of Graham. After Graham dies right as Hanna was about to get critical info from him, the girls later find out that that real Kyla was discovered to have been murdered several days ago, and conclude that the girl Hanna met was really Alison in disguise.
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • Hanna has one with Alison while she is in the hospital. Later subverted, as Alison (the real one) was alive, and visited Hanna when she was drifting in and out of sleep.
    • Later, Aria has a real one via using a medium to talk to Ali (or rather, the Ali she knew, who was actually Courtney), who writes down the cryptic-but-accurate identity of her killer: "Ali killed Ali" (as in, the real Alison killed "their" Ali). Since Aria didn't know at the time that Ali had a twin, the message instead causes her to think for a while that Ali committed suicide.
  • Deadly Prank: The Jenna Thing from the backstory was this. Ali convinced the other four girls to play a prank on Toby involving a firework. It backfired, leading to Jenna's blindness and Toby taking the fall for it after Ali blackmailed him. Jenna had actually conspired with Ali to get rid of her stepbrother because he was molesting her. The firework went off at the wrong time, causing all the chaos after it.
  • Disney Villain Death: After Spencer rejects Mona's offer to become A together with her, Mona attempts to kill her, which leads to Spencer accidentally pushing Mona to her death over a cliff.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Alison is basically ruining the Liars' lives and trying to kill them because they unwittingly validated her sister's Twin Switch. They didn't even know she had a twin and genuinely thought they were talking to her.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: At first, the girls understandably suspect that "A" is Alison (which was clearly the point), but soon after they first start receiving A's messages, Ali is found dead, and they cycle through a lot of suspects. There are a few different people acting as A throughout the series, and they all qualify as this.
    • The first A, of the first four books, is Mona Vanderwaal, supposedly Hanna's best friend, who actually wants revenge on the girls for the Jenna Thing.
    • The second A, of books 5-8, turns out to be the real Alison DiLaurentis, who has been alive the whole time and, unbeknownst to nearly everyone in town, had a twin sister named Courtney. Courtney was the "Ali" the Liars knew as their best friend, and she's the one who actually died.
    • Alison is still A for the final 8 books, but she also has an accomplice, "Helper A". He turns out to be Nick Maxwell, a.k.a. Tripp, whom Iris and Courtney both believe at different times to be their boyfriend, but is actually Ali's boyfriend. Furthermore, books 9-13 detail how each of the girls met a seemingly-innocuous guy during their separate summers; Book 14, "Deadly", reveals that all four of these boys were actually Nick in disguise.
  • The Dragon: Mona to Hanna at the beginning of the series. She turns out to be a Dragon with an Agenda, with said Agenda being getting revenge on Hanna and the other Liars for the Jenna Thing.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Toby Cavanaugh kills himself near the end of Flawless after Emily rejects him upon discovering his "secret". (Though it turns out she was wrong about this; she mistakenly thought he was A, but said secret, which the girls only learn after his death, was actually that he used to molest his stepsister, Jenna.)
    • During the Trauma Conga Line of Deadly, Emily comes dangerously close to jumping off a bridge to her death. Her horrified friends and Melissa narrowly talk her down, and she wryly notes that this might not have even worked anyway, since, as a talented swimmer, she probably could have avoided drowning after she jumped.
    • In Vicious, Emily seemingly drowns herself for real, and her friends spend most of the book thinking she's dead. It's subverted, though, at the end, where it's revealed she was Faking the Dead in order to escape the law and track down Alison, which is the only way she can prove her and her friends' innocence.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Her: Jenna's murder at the hands of Alison occurs very abruptly at the end of Heartless.
  • Dysfunction Junction: All of the main characters have some kind of major issue. Spencer's competitive nature drives her to do whatever it takes to come out on top. Hanna suffers from body image issues and eating disorders. Emily's sexuality and sweet, forgiving nature lead her to make terrible decisions. And Aria feels conflicted over her desires to be accepted into a group and be an independent loner.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The main 16 books in the series are divided into four Story Arcs of four books each. Spencer is the Liar on the cover of the first book of each arc, and Hanna is on the second one each time. In the first arc, Aria is on the cover of the third book and Emily is on the fourth one, but in all subsequent arcs, Emily is on the third cover and Aria is on the fourth one.
  • Evil Twin: In Wanted, Alison reveals that she had a twin, Courtney, who was the "Ali" that the Liars were friends with. The Liars believe by the end of the book that both sisters were this, but Ali's Pretty Little Lies shows that the real Alison herself was actually the evil twin, and Courtney, though bitchy, was not evil.
  • Erudite Stoner: Reefer, one of Spencer's later love interests. At first she think he's just some creepy stoner from Princeton who by some miracle got into the school, but then it's revealed he's actually a Teen Genius majoring in Quantum Physics who grows his own pot and keeps it neatly in alphabetical order. Spencer can't help but be impressed.
  • Everybody Knew Already: The Jenna Thing turns out to be this because Ali lied about it. She claimed that no one else but them knew and swore them to secrecy. It turns out that Jenna and Toby also knew who was behind it. Mona also knew about it, which contributed to her dislike of the girls and desire to become A to get revenge on them because she had been friends with Jenna.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: As a result of living in hiding as A during the third and fourth story arcs, Alison has become this by the end of the series.
    • In Deadly, she's been living in a seemingly abandoned barn, without being able to get proper nutrition or hygiene. By the time the Liars see her, she's bone-thin and one of her teeth has rotted away. Emily's narration describes it as being like if someone scribbled all over the Mona Lisa; "the most beautiful girl" has become "a twisted freak".
    • Conversely, in Vicious, Ali's mom has been helping her hide from the law, and got them both fake IDs; in order to make sure that "Tiffany Day" doesn't at all resemble Alison DiLaurentis, she's become fat and dyed her hair a mousy brown color. Hanna describes her as looking exactly like the kind of girl Ali herself would have once mocked mercilessly.
  • Eviler Than Thou: The girls first think A is Alison, until her corpse is discovered soon afterwards. They eventually learn that A is Mona. However, Mona denies killing Ali and doesn't know much more than the Liars do about her death (or that Ali even had a twin, Courtney, who was the one who actually died), assuming it was Ian based on Ali's diary entries. After her death, a new A appears, taking advantage of Mona's work. It is revealed to be the real Alison, who was Courtney's killer, and she's far more malicious as A than Mona ever was. Mona doesn't actually kill anyone, and the only people she tries to kill at any point are the Liars (specifically, Hanna and Spencer at different times), her actual targets. Alison, meanwhile, kills numerous other people—such as Ian, Jenna, Tabitha, Gayle, Kyla, and Graham, and attempts to kill Melissa and Iris as well—in her revenge quest on the Liars, simply for knowing too much or being in her way.
  • False Friend:
    • Mona befriended Hanna only as a part of her elaborate revenge plot as A. After Mona's death, Hanna is devastated to realize that their close friendship was never genuine on Mona's end.
    • Alison pretends to befriend the girls in the eighth book only so she can attempt to kill them in revenge because she felt like they were involved in stealing her life.
  • Five-Man Band: —
  • Formerly Fat: Hanna used to be fat before undergoing a makeover and becoming bulimic.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Darren Wilden was a troublemaker in High School but now he's a police officer.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Hanna - sanguine, Spencer - choleric, Emily - phlegmatic, Aria - melancholic, Alison - leukine.
  • Flashback: Every book is started with one. Also, the girls have flashbacks routinely about what they did with Ali.
  • Food Slap: Ben spills his drink on Emily after finding out she cheated on him with Maya.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Mona always knew the best dirt on people" less than forty pages into the first book will jump straight out at you on a reread.
    • There are hints dropped in Unbelievable that Ali has a twin, which isn't confirmed until Wanted.
  • Gambit Roulette:
    • It is revealed in Unbelievable that Mona Vanderwaal is A and has planned everything that's happened to the girls (so far) all along.
    • Then in Deadly, we learn that Nick/Tripp was the guy each of the girls met during their summers (all four of them) and caused their respective summer secrets.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Emily is unable to understand why Real Ali would hate them so much and want to kill them, since she didn't even know them personally. Ali mocks her for it.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: This is the reaction of most of the Typical Rosewood Boys after Emily is outed by A.
  • Girl Posse:
    • The four main girls were this to Alison before her death.
    • Before she befriended the protagonists, Alison had another girl posse with two girls named Riley Wolfe and Naomi Zeigler, before suddenly abandoning them for not much reason at all in favor of the Liars. Courtney ditched them after taking over her sister's life because she didn't know the secrets and inside jokes that the real Alison did and would have been found out as an impostor quickly.
    • Hanna forms one of her own after Mona's demise for a short while with Naomi, Riley, and her stepsister Kate.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Spencer and her older sister Melissa for the first half of the series, though they've mostly buried the hatchet by the second half.
  • Grand Finale:
    • Wanted, the eighth book in the series, was originally planned to be this, as shown in the first prints and the acknowledgments. The end of the book is clearly setting each of the girls up for a more hopeful future, though there are a few mild open ends and possible plot holes still remaining, as well as a major Sequel Hook suggesting that Alison is still alive and has started a new life in a new town under a new name. By the time the series ended for real, this book ends up only concluding the first half of it.
    • Vicious, the sixteenth main book (not counting the prequel and interquel), is the real one. There's still a possible Sequel Hook at the end of this one, too (as Sara Shepard is wont to do at the end of several of her series), but it's really more of a case of The End... Or Is It?, as the small number of open ends and inconsistencies from Wanted have been resolved, and the Liars' character arcs are wrapped up even more neatly.
  • Happy Ending Override: Since Wanted was the original final book in the series, it ends with the Liars, though not in perfect places in their lives, at least doing a lot better and feeling optimistic about the future. Once the series was continued with what ended up being eight more books plus two side stories, the new novels (starting with Twisted, the ninth) had to create more conflict for them to deal with, resulting in some of this:
    • The girls get some major Aesop Amnesia about the Character Development they'd had by the end of the first eight books. Spencer is back to being über-competitive and willing to frame other people for her mistakes to come out on top; Hanna, after learning that popularity isn't everything, is also willing to shift blame to others to save her own reputation; Emily, who learned the hard way about how being blinded by love could badly cloud her judgment, makes more awful decisions by letting her heart rule her head; and Aria, though she doesn't get this as bad as the others, still has problems with her conflicting "loner" vs "wanting to belong" mentalities.
    • Similarly, after their experiences with the first two "A"s demonstrated how much keeping secrets and lying could cause problems and wreck your life, their actions over the summer gave each of them an individual major secret and all of them collectively another major secret, all of which they spend much of the second half of the series trying to keep covered up.
    • After fully reuniting as best friends near the end of Wanted, their summer secrets have also driven another wedge between them, as their relationship and levels of closeness are reset to early-series levels by Twisted, and it takes them several books to get back to where they left off in Wanted.
    • Spencer and Andrew Campbell, who have a sweet, fairly solid relationship built up in the second story arc, have had an Offscreen Breakup by Twisted with not much explanation.
    • Though Spencer's parents hadn't gotten back together by the end of Wanted, they were at least trying to mend their family dynamic and all have dinner together once a week. This apparently doesn't last, as Veronica gets a new boyfriend and these gatherings don't continue.
    • Emily's relationship with her family (especially her sister, Carolyn, with whom she always got along pretty well) deteriorates more and more throughout the second half of the series, culminating in her having permanently distanced herself her from them by the Grand Finale.
    • Actually averted, though, with Spencer and Melissa, whose newfound understanding and desire to be better sisters to each other at the end of Wanted is not undone. They remain on good terms for the rest of the series.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • The reason Hanna gets hit by a car in Perfect. A sends her another threatening message, but accidentally uses their regular phone instead of the blocked one, and Hanna recognizes the number as belonging to her best friend, Mona Vanderwaal.
    • This is the reason that the new A (Ali) kills Ian, Jenna, Tabitha, Gayle, and Graham.
  • Hidden Villain: "A" is an alias used by multiple people, and all of them are extremely skilled at avoiding having their identity revealed, while conducting blackmail and other methods to mess with the main characters. Their identities are revealed in the fourth, eighth, and fourteenth books, and they're finally taken down for good in the sixteenth and final installment in the series.
  • Hot Teacher: Ezra Fitz, whom Aria falls for and dates in the first story arc.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Aria is a vegetarian, and realizes in horror during her second week in Iceland that she ate a puffin.
  • Irony: The reason that Alison's parents hid her twin sister, Courtney, from the world was because they thought that Courtney was crazy. Tragically, it turns out that Ali, their "perfect little girl", was the one that would go around blackmailing people, ruining lives, tearing apart families, and committing numerous counts of murder without even showing the slightest sign of remorse. The worst part? It turns out that Courtney was never the crazy one in the first place, having been framed by her sister who successfully tricked them into believing this, and Courtney was much closer all along to the "perfect daughter" that they falsely believed Alison to be.
  • Informed Judaism: Hanna is revealed to be Jewish in Pretty Little Secrets. There were no indications prior to this. It turns up again in Vicious, when Hanna and Mike get married. A rabbi presides over the wedding, and there is a chuppah.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: This was the reason why Aria didn't fit in with her peers in the backstory, because she was much more interested in things like philosophy and abstract art. This left her friendless until meeting Alison and the other girls.
  • Interquel: Pretty Little Secrets was the eleventh book published in the series, coming out halfway through the third arc of the series, but takes place between the first and second arcs (between the fourth and fifth books), showing how the second A took over from the first one, who died at the end of the fourth book.
  • Jerkass: Alison definitely crosses into this trope. The reason why she is popular is because she is attractive, smart and charismatic. More specifically, the real Alison is and always was this. Courtney in her "Ali" persona started off as a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, with most (but not all) of the "jerk" part coming from having to pretend to be Ali, but does devolve into this by the time she dies as a result of increasing stress and paranoia.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Alison was a bad person from the get-go, framing her sister for being crazy and getting her institutionalized purely out of envy, but she started out seeking revenge only on Courtney for switching places with her and just wanted to reclaim her identity. However, after killing her sister but failing to get her life back (since her parents still believe her to be Courtney), she starts blaming and seeking revenge against more and more people who played a tangential role at most in causing her problems, and loses whatever sanity she still had, killing or trying to kill nearly a dozen more people in the process.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: The entire premise of the books.
  • Les Yay: Invoked by Alison (both versions of her) to manipulate Emily.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Maya, Emily, and Trista.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Aria's younger brother Mike is a textbook Hormone-Addled Teenager and constantly thinks of sex, but is rather funny as opposed to creepy.
  • Love-Interest Traitor: The girls ruin many relationships throughout the series by falsely suspecting various love interests or potential love interests of being A or having a connection to them, only to find out too late that it's not true. There are, however, a couple of examples that play it straight:
    • Ali's Pretty Little Lies reveals that Ian wasn't really Courtney's secret paramour; she was just pretending to like him, and actually had a relationship with a guy named Nick Maxwell, an old friend of Ali's. But the end of the book strongly hints, and Deadly confirms, that Nick is actually Alison's boyfriend and accomplice, "Helper A", who only pretended to date Courtney as part of his and Ali's plan to murder her so Ali could get her life back.
    • Though Noel Kahn does love Aria and wasn't helping A stalk and hurt her or the others, Crushed and Deadly reveal that he did know way more about Ali and Courtney than he initially let on, including that they were twins, the "Ali" he went to school with was actually Courtney, and the real Ali was in the Preserve under her name. He visited her frequently and was in love with her, not believing she was crazy (she very much was), and hung out with her several times outside the Preserve before the Liars even found out Ali had a twin. He eventually did abandon Ali for good to date Aria, and cut off all contact with her after she tried to murder the Liars in Wanted, but he knew and kept to himself a lot of important info that, had he shared, could have saved the girls from several dangerous situations and avoided many of their "A" problems. It takes several books for Aria to forgive him for this and get back together with him.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • Zig-zagged.Spencer thinks she might be adopted and finds a woman who claims to be her birth mother, but then it turns out that her parents are hers, and the woman she thought was her mother was in fact her gestational surrogate trying to get more money from the Hastingses.
    • In a more straight example, Spencer's dad is Alison's and Courtney's biological father, as a product of the affair between him and Jessica DiLaurentis.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Hanna's mom is rather protective of her. Even Darren lampshades this.
    • Emily, who (correctly) thinks the New A is still Ali, is willing to forgive Ali if she apologizes...until the moment Emily gets texts threatening her newborn daughter, at which point all bets are off.
    • In a villainous and somewhat tragic example, in the final book, Emily, who faked her death to hunt down Alison, discovers that Ali has been able to stay hidden because her mother has been helping her. Emily realizes that, even though Mrs. DiLaurentis knows that Ali is a monster and despite everything she's done, she's still her daughter. Indeed, Mrs. DiLaurentis almost (reluctantly) lets Ali kill Emily, but luckily, the police arrive Just in Time.
  • Manipulative Bitch:
    • Alison (actually Courtney) proved to be very skilled at manipulating other people. She was good at getting her friends to tell her their secrets. Afterwards, she would dangle their secrets in front of them in the other girls' company, seemingly enjoying it. Not only that, she spent over a year tricking people into thinking she was Alison, though her motivations for doing so were sympathetic, at least.
    • Mona proves to be very skilled with this, using her intelligence to plan the whole A scheme and befriend Hanna only for the purpose of taking her down later.
    • Topping those two is none other than Alison herself. When she was only 8-9 years old, she successfully manipulated her parents and a whole bunch of doctors into believing that Courtney was a paranoid schizophrenic in order to get her institutionalized so she wouldn't have to share the spotlight with her sister anymore. In the present day, she uses her skills to manipulate the girls into believing false information when she becomes A, even more than Mona had. After meeting them under the identity of "Courtney", she manages to trick them into believing that she's the same girl they'd been friends with, and that she wants to "rebuild" their friendship better than it had been, in order to lure them into a trap so she can attempt to murder them.
  • A Man Is Always Eager: Inverted. Hanna is the one pressuring Sean into sleeping with her. Sean joined a virginity club and plans on waiting until he is older.
  • May–December Romance: This series has several of these.
    • Aria and Ezra
    • Byron and Meredith
    • Spencer and Wren
    • Darren and Ms. Marin
    • Ian and Alison, though it's later revealed Ali wasn't actually involved with him and was leading him on.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Inverted, since this is the source material making a Shout-Out to its TV adaptation: In one book, the actress playing Hanna in a film based on what happened to the Liars mouths off to the director and loses her job as a result. Among the suggestions for her replacement is Lucy Hale, who plays Aria in the TV series.
    • When Hanna visits Madison, the girl she framed for the car crash that A got them both into, to apologize, she mentions that she'd mistakenly thought Hanna was "the blonde Pretty Little Liar," an allusion to her being blonde in her more widely-known TV incarnation. In the books, Hanna's a brunette while Spencer is the blonde of the group.
  • The Nicknamer: Alison frequently gave nicknames to people. They included Jenna the Jerk, Snow White for Jenna as well, Hefty Hanna, and "Killer" for Emily.
  • Nice Girl: Emily. She couldn't even bear to let Alison die in a fire and left the door open for her to get out as well, despite the fact that Alison had just tried to kill her and her friends.
  • Nice Guy: Sean.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Mona's Valley Girl act barely hides what is an obviously sharp, observant and intelligent mind.
  • Official Couple: Quite a few throughout the series, but the endgame pairings are:
    • Spencer Hastings and Wren Kim are dating.
    • Aria Montgomery and Noel Kahn are dating.
    • Hanna Marin and Mike Montgomery are married.
    • Emily averts this, and is the only one of the main four girls to be single at the end of the series.
    • Outside of the Liars, there's also Melissa Hastings and Darren Wilden, who are engaged by the end.
  • Oh, Crap!: Ezra's reaction to finding out that Aria is a student in his English class. Understandable given how their situation could affect his career.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Hanna is visited by Alison while she is in the hospital in a weird surreal dream-like state, leaving us unsure whether it was real or not. It's later revealed that Alison (the real one) is still alive, and really did visit Hanna to mess with her head.
  • Pet the Dog: Alison (really, Courtney posing as Ali) empathized with Jenna’s “sibling issues” (Toby was molesting Jenna), and conspired to help her get Toby sent away, so she could be free from her stepbrother's sexual abuse.
  • Posthumous Character: Ali. Or rather, the girl whom the Liars knew as Ali, who was actually her twin sister, Courtney.
  • Prequel: Ali's Pretty Little Lies, which fleshes out the series backstory by taking place before and leading up to the time that Ali died. Most of it is told from Courtney's point of view, up until she's killed by Alison; afterward, Ali takes over the narrative for the final chapter.
  • Product Placement: The books constantly name-drop designers, brands, and stores.
  • Psychological Projection: By the end of the series, it's very clear that the real Alison was doing a lot of this towards her twin, Courtney. At one point in Wanted, she describes her sister—the "Ali" the Liars knew—as always needing to be better than her at everything and being unwilling to share the spotlight, even though these exact traits were the reason that Ali herself framed Courtney for being crazy and got her sent away to the hospital. She also repeatedly refers to Courtney as "crazy" and "schizo", even though, again, Alison manipulated everyone to believe that about her, and Ali herself—who becomes a psychopathic murderer and sacrifices everyone and everything in a quest for misplaced revenge—is far more crazy than she ever made Courtney appear to be.
  • Really Gets Around: Trista from the first arc and "Erin Bang Bang" in Burned have this reputation.
  • Redemption Rejection: In Ali's Pretty Little Lies, after Ali first tries to kill Courtney, the latter manages to temporarily talk her down and almost get her to reconsider her plans by promising to switch their identities back and confessing that she really just wants them to go back to being best friends and close sisters the way they once were. But then Alison's accomplice (Nick) arrives, and this is enough for her to harden her resolve and go through with murdering Courtney for real, even if it does leave her a bit shaken afterwards.
  • Red Herring:
    • First A is suspected to be Ali, then Toby Cavanaugh, then Emily thinks it's Maya, Spencer thinks it's her sister Melissa, and Aria is worried it's Spencer herself. It's finally revealed to be Mona, but after she dies, a new A starts threatening them.
    • The second A seems to be a man the girls hadn't even spoken to, but it turns out that was wrong, too. It's Ali.
    • Emily gets led far off track when she finds out that an Amish girl named Leah has gone missing, and Leah's boyfriend was Darren. This causes her to think that Darren had killed Leah and it wasn't Ali that died.
    • The third arc has the girls in each book assume someone who is connected to each of their dark secrets over the summer is the third A, then the end of each book seemingly shows that this was not the case. But then Deadly reveals that this was true, but it wasn't the person any of them expected. It was a guy that each of them met during the summer, all four of whom turn out to be the same person: Nick "Tripp" Maxwell.
  • Remarried to the Mistress:
    • Aria's father, Byron, cheated on her mother, Ella, with Meredith, one of his college students, and basically forces Aria to keep it a secret when she discovers this. When Ella finds out thanks to A, she divorces Byron, and he eventually marries Meredith and has a kid with her.
    • Likewise, Hanna's dad, Tom, cheated on her mom, Ashley, with Isabel, and later divorced Ashley to marry Isabel.
  • The Reveal: A lot of them, though plenty of aversions as well.
  • Revenge: This is the primary motive of all the different A's, though each of them wants revenge for different reasons.
  • Rich Bitch: Hanna's mom.
  • Secret Diary: Alison wrote all of her friends' secrets in a diary before her death. Mona finds the diary among Alison's things, which is how she knew so many of their secrets.
  • Secret Identity: A is the identity of the person blackmailing the girls. The first A is Mona and the second one is Alison, who later is revealed to also have an accomplice, "Helper A", her boyfriend Nick.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • Aria and Ezra.
    • Ian and "Alison" (Courtney), though it's later revealed that Courtney wasn't actually into him and was dating him as a cover for a relationship with someone else.
    • Also Emily and Maya, for a while.
  • Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl: Emily's Amish cousins.
  • Shipper on Deck: Mike is a big supporter of his sister Aria with his best friend Noel Kahn, and is thrilled when they finally start dating.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Rosewood.
  • Sticky Fingers: Hanna has a bad habit of shoplifting from stores with her friend Mona. This is one of the things that A blackmails her about.
  • Story Arc: There are four main ones, made up of four books each, though the third and fourth arcs arguably blend into one larger eight-book story.
    • Books 1-4: Trying to figure out who A is, with the secondary goal of finding Ali's killer. The arc concludes with them learning that A is Mona, but not having a decisive answer for who killed Ali. (They think they know, but the next arc reveals that they're wrong.)
    • Books 5-8: Learning the second A's identity, and determining Ali's killer for real this time. Both of them are the same person: the real Alison DiLaurentis, who murdered the "Ali" that the Liars knew, actually her twin sister Courtney.
    • Books 9-12: Gradually revealing the Liars' "summer secrets" (collectively and individually), and learning who the third A is. They eventually conclude that A is still Alison, who survived their encounter at the end of the previous arc, but realize that she also has an accomplice, "Helper A".
    • Books 13-16: Tracking down Ali and "Helper A" (and discovering the latter's identity) to clear their names once and for all after their secrets resurface. Helper A is Nick Maxwell, who is arrested at the end of Book 14, while Ali herself is apprehended in the final installment.
  • Teacher/Student Romance:
    • Aria and Ezra.
    • Aria's dad, Byron, likewise has one with his own student, Meredith.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Emily ended up pregnant after losing her virginity to Isaac, and secretly had a baby over the summer. This is one of the things that A tortures her about in the third arc.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Vicious ends with the girls free from Alison and Alison sentenced to life in the prison's psychiatric ward, but she's still plotting a way to game the prison and mental ward systems and get her revenge.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: A: I'm still here, bitches.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Good lord, Emily in the last arc of the series. Took several levels, in fact. For most of the books, Emily's emotional and over-forgiving nature, as well as her feelings for Ali/Courtney, cause several problems for all of the girls. However, she's the one who saves the day in both Deadly (the 14th book) and Vicious (the 16th):
    • In Deadly, the third A (actually still the second A, Alison) and Helper A (Nick Maxwell) try to kill the Liars at the end by locking them in a room full of poisonous gas; however, while the rest of the girls lie weakened and nearly succumb to the gas, Emily gets back up, tackles Nick and knocks him unconscious, and stands up to Alison even after the latter pulls a gun on her and almost shoots her.
    • In Vicious, she takes it Up to Eleven: After the girls are arrested for Alison's murder and have no way to prove that she's really still alive, Emily makes a plan that involves taking a leaf out of Ali's book: to fake her death and disappear in order to fly under the radar to find Ali. It works; she successfully fakes her suicide/accidental death, finds Alison (hiding out with her mother), fends off another murder attempt from Ali, gets both Ali and Mrs. D arrested, gets her friends out of jail and all of their charges dropped, and makes sure Alison is sent to an insane asylum, ridding them of her for good.
  • Trauma Conga Line: All four girls suffer this in Deadly after being arrested for Tabitha's murder. They suffer it even worse in Vicious after being arrested for Alison's murder.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Spencer has no memory of what happened the night that Alison disappeared. We later learn she had a similar episode when she was younger due to an illness. What actually happened was: Spencer got into a fight with Alison over Ian, and pushed her to the ground before leaving the area. After Ali disappeared later that same night, Spencer then repressed the memory because of the trauma. When she later remembers part of this by the time of the series, she starts to believe she may have killed Alison in this incident, and only later does she recall the full encounter and realize that A was messing with her.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Toby Cavanaugh. He ends up committing suicide at the end of the second book.
  • Twin Switch: Alison's twin sister Courtney stole her identity when the latter was home from the mental hospital one weekend, causing Ali to be taken back to the hospital in Courtney's place and under her name.
  • Two Aliases, One Character: "Helper A" in the third and fourth arcs takes this Up to Eleven, as the person who caused or at least was part of all of the girls' summer secrets under the aliases of:
    • "Easy A" Phineas, who gave Spencer study drugs to help with her college tests. She was eventually forced to frame another student for being the dealer to avoid charges.
    • Derrick, Emily's confidant during her pregnancy, who encouraged Emily to give her baby to Gayle (a rather unstable woman who was Tabitha's stepmother) instead of her original choices for the adoption, which Emily almost went through with until she realized Gayle's instability and changed her mind.
    • Jackson, the Jerkass bartender who got Madison dangerously drunk and just laughed about it; Hanna driving her home as a result led to a car accident and her framing Madison for drunk driving.
    • Olaf, who got Aria to help him steal a painting from a museum in Iceland, nearly leading to her arrest by the police had Hanna not helped her escape.
    • His real name is Nick Maxwell, also known by his nickname of "Tripp". He is Iris's unrequited crush and "Ali's" (Courtney's) real secret boyfriend (rather than Ian, whom she was only pretending to like as a cover for her relationship with Nick). He is actually Alison's boyfriend and has been ever since she was at the Preserve, promising to help her get revenge on her sister for stealing her life and on the Liars. He used Iris's feelings for him to manipulate her, and dated Courtney merely as a ploy to gain her trust so he could more easily help Ali murder her later.
  • The Unfavorite:
    • Spencer feels like this in her family, though it's later revealed to not be true.
    • Hanna feels like this with her father in comparison to her stepsister, Kate.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Hanna had a crush on Sean Ackard in seventh grade. Fast forward four years later and they are dating; Hanna wants to have sex with him, but he just joined a Virginity Club and refuses to break the vow he made to wait until marriage before having sex. After this inevitably leads to their breakup, this is how she sees it.
  • Was It All a Lie?:
    • This is how Hanna feels about her friendship with Mona Vanderwaal upon discovering that Mona was A all along. While she's not around to confirm it anymore, all signs and Mona's words to Spencer indicate that, yes, it was a lie. Mona witnessed the Jenna Thing, and because she was friends with Jenna and got scarred during it, vowed to get revenge on the girls, even though Jenna herself did not want this because it was a prank that she planned together with Ali that went wrong. Mona stopped being friends with Jenna when the latter wouldn't tell the truth about the incident, but was still determined to seek vengeance.
    • By the end of Wanted, the Liars have a mild version of this about their friendship with Ali. In her Just Between You and Me note to them, the real Alison claims that Courtney, who was the "Ali" the girls knew, only chose such "uncool" people like them to be her new friends as a way to spite Alison, since they were girls that the real Ali would never have looked twice at. Ali's Pretty Little Lies reveals that, though Ali did genuinely believe this, it wasn't really true, and Courtney truly did love her friends; tragically, though, she'd increasingly driven them away from her by that point, and never got the chance to make up with them before Ali killed her.
  • We Can Rule Together: The first A, Mona, makes this offer fairly literally to Spencer when the latter learns her identity, stating that they can both be A and rule Rosewood Day together, with Spencer taking her "rightful place" as the queen bee of the school. Spencer, naturally, refuses and notes how crazy this is, resulting in Mona attempting to murder her.
  • Wicked Stepmother: This is subverted with Isabel because Hanna dislikes her mainly out of her jealously for her father finding a new family and preferring them to her.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Courtney DiLaurentis. At first, she and her twin sister, Alison, were the best of friends and as close as could be; however, gradually, Ali's more intense personality caused the more chill, comforting Courtney to become the more popular sister. Ali got jealous of this, and would threaten Courtney into pretending to be her, but always denied it when Courtney told their parents about it, causing the latter to come off as crazy. Courtney was wrongly diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and spent three years of her life in a mental hospital starting at the age of nine. Her parents sort of forgot about her and treated her like she was unwanted when she came home to visit, staying in a dinky guestroom and not being allowed outside. Her family even changed their last name from Day-DiLaurentis to DiLaurentis, because of the shame of having a child in a mental institution. Is it any wonder Courtney wanted to be free and have her old life back? She eventually does manage to switch places with Alison and form her own group of close friends, but gradually, her paranoia and stress over her sister potentially being released from the hospital and coming back to torment her causes her to treat her friends like shit and alienate them. Finally, Ali does indeed come home and kills Courtney for stealing her life, even though Alison started the whole ordeal and Courtney only wanted the happy life she deserved in the first place.

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