PRETTY LITTLE LIARS
First-time novelist Shepard puts a mysterious spin on the prep-school subgenre of young-adult chick lit, and the result is a devilish gem of a book full of scandalous characters who are too naughty not to love -- or at least love reading about. She balances her four main characters with ease, never confusing who's who and what her dilemma is. Each girl has a deliciously wicked story in this first of a four-book series.
Everyone at the elite Rosewood, Pa., school has a secret, and for friends Spencer, Aria, Emily and Hanna, their friend Ali holds them all. After Ali mysteriously disappears, the girls think their secrets will be safe forever. Then each girl, unbeknownst to the others, starts receiving strange messages from "A" -- things only Ali could know. What happened to Ali, and will she divulge their secrets -- even if it's from the grave? (HarperTempest, Oct., 304 pp., $16.99, ISBN: 0060887303, 14 and Up, HC)