Spoiler Alert: Wicked is the fifth book in Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series. If you haven’t read the first four books and want to avoid spoilers, this is the time to look away.
Wicked by Sara Shepard (2008)
Okay, I admit it. I was a little skeptical about how this series would keep going after revealing the identity of A in book four and identifying Ali’s murderer. As it turns out, there’s a new A (or Faux A who Hanna renames Maybe-Not-So-Faux A, so take your pick) and maybe the person who was fingered as Ali’s murderer really isn’t guilty after all. Just when our four main characters thought they had put A and Ali’s murder behind them and were finding some semblance of normal or what is their new normal, their worlds spin out of control once again (and yes, you can imagine how much that is getting to Spencer in particular). I have to tell you—Wicked was not disappointing and I’m still addicted to this series, perhaps even more so now. I actually considered picking up the next book immediately after finishing this one but convinced myself to wait a few days.
The beginning of Wicked finds Hanna, Spencer, Aria and Emily trying to let go and move on with their lives. As I already said above, the girls just want their lives to go back to what for them passes as normal. A few months have elapsed since the end of Unbelievable, and the old adage “time heals all wounds” has been to true to a greater or lesser extent for our main characters. For Aria, things between her and her mother are better, and everyone in the family is adapting to Ella and Byron’s pending divorce as well as Meredith’s pregnancy. Things are also going better for Emily. Her family is accepting her sexuality, and she’s moving on from her breakup with Maya. But things for Hanna aren’t going as well. What she wants most is to be the ‘queen bee’ of Rosewood Day, but she feels like her hold on that position is tenuous in the aftermath of all that has happened, and now she is living with her father, his fiancée and Kate. Hanna sees Kate as a rival in her pursuit of popularity. What is going well in her life is her relationship with Lucas, and yes, I’m happy he hasn’t disappeared quite yet. Finally, there is Spencer. Oh, things are just not going well at all for Spencer, and of the four characters, she’s the one who seems to be at rock bottom at the start of Wicked. After admitting that she stole Melissa’s paper, she’s become a pariah in her family as well as at school, the latter of which is perhaps the most devastating because academic success and excellence is the thing that is most important to Spencer.
Because this is fiction, there has to be tension, the girls have to face conflict, and Shepard has to bring each of them to a new crisis point. Emily, I think, is the only character that remains mostly flat in the story in terms of things getting better or worse. Aria becomes entangled with her mother’s new boyfriend, Spencer learns that she has been disinherited, and Hanna’s pursuit of uber-popularity is foiled by her own family. Hanna, at least in my opinion, is the character who is in the worst possible position at the end of the novel. Then, of course, there is Faux A, or shall I say New A. New A appears, and though the girls dismiss New A as a copycat at first, they learn that the threat New A poses to them is real. A return to normalcy just doesn’t appear to be in the cards for these girls. Not yet anyway. A is ready to inflict new wounds.
One of the reasons that I like these books is that even amid the melodramatic twists and turns, at the heart of each character’s storyline is an exploration of what we want most, why we want what we want, and the relationships in our lives. In Wicked, I find this to be particularly true with Hanna and Spencer. What Hanna wants most is to be the most popular girl at Rosewood Day, but she never stops to ask herself why this is what she wants. Further still, she shows time and time again that she is willing to pay any price to get what she wants, and it’s heartbreaking at times because it costs her what is most important. That is, it’s heartbreaking because she doesn’t seem to grasp that there are things more important than popularity, or see until it’s too late that her relentless pursuit of popularity is costing her everything. What Spencer wants most is for her parents to show they are proud of her. Similar to Hanna, she also wants to win when it comes to school—she wants to be first in her class and win awards. I know that my response to Spencer’s storyline is partially due to the fact that she’s the one that I identify with most. Still, the repeated rejection Spencer receives from her family is horrible and yet it explains so much about why she does what she does and why she wants what she wants. Like Hanna, what Spencer wants in terms of school is fleeting, and also like Hanna, she can be blind to things that are more important (for Spencer in this novel, it’s her relationship with Andrew). Hanna and Spencer, throughout the series, have felt the most real to me (and, I admit, at times the most ridiculous) and I find myself more invested in their storylines.
Should you keep reading this series? In my humble opinion, absolutely. The books are fun, quick reads, and can be as light or complex as you want them to be. Wicked ends with quite a cliffhanger, and I’m already put “read Killer” on my to-do list.