Based on the Harper Teen novels by Sara Shepard, this series is rich in suspense, mystery, and beautiful, fashionable characters who skirt the rules to achieve their own set of goals. The result is enticing entertainment that will keep viewers guessing and coming back for more, but the downside is that anyone who hasn't yet walked the halls of a real-life high school will get from the show a very skewed impression of what those teen years are like. These girls dress for a school day like they're moonlighting on a catwalk, and they have no shortage of time and no reliable parental oversight that keeps them from chasing down murder suspects, cozying up with a hunky teacher, or breaking into private property in pursuit of clues.
That's the bad news, but it's not the whole story. There are some positive takeaways from the characters' evolutions as a result of "A"'s bullying, which makes them rethink their past actions as social queens and become more empathetic to those on the social fringe. True, the girls don't always model great behavior and certainly don't incur the repercussions they might for their actions in the real world, but in their defense, they're motivated by a sense of self-preservation and a quest for the truth. The bottom line? If your young teen is champing at the bit for more grown-up TV, Pretty Little Liars is worth considering, provided that you're proactive in talking about the issues it raises, including sexuality (and homosexuality), relationships, peer pressure, and bullying in all its forms. Parents should know that later seasons of the show take place after a five-year time jump; the older twentysomethings often deal with more mature problems, drink, refer to their sex lives, and participate in a crime with lingering aftereffects.