By Cynthia Ayala
Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer have done some very bad things, but they are done being tortured. The FBI has been lurking around and the girls have decided to put their lives in their hands. But just as they thought everything would be okay, it all begins to unravel. A always has a plan, and it is deadlier than ever.
Fourteen books in seems long, and it is. It’s the same story, the only thing that has changed is the girls are getting smarter, which certainly took long enough. However, there is also still a lot of tension. The reader knows something bad is going to happen to these four girls, it’s just a waiting game, waiting for the next shoe to drop. It may be predictable, but even that predictability does take away from the rising tension of the novel. Additionally, there are no longer just four distinct stories. Since this final arc started, the girls lives, their stories, their mistakes, have become intertwined. They are finally truly in this mess together. These aren’t bad girls, they are young adults who made bad choices, bad mistakes and truthfully, they just don’t want to face the music because it might destroy everything they have. Because keeping secrets won’t do that right? The story gets frustrating after a while because it is fourteen books later and while the girls are getting smarter in whom they trust, they are still making the same mistakes; they are still keeping secrets. If they didn’t, this book wouldn’t exist of course, but the number of lies and secrets these girls make and keep, just continues to get frustrating because that is the biggest mistake they made that the antagonist loves. Yeah, they are smarter, but not by much sadly.
Moreover, the character dynamics, the family situations, while they are somewhat realistic, there is also a high level of abandonment for these girls, which is part of the point of A master plan, to leave the girls alone in the world. However, after everything the girls have gone through, to have their families just doubt them and abandon them so quickly, is a little disbelieving. Yes, the girls lie and keep secrets but in the grand scheme of things, while it is annoying, to a degree, it’s believable. These girls are systematically being tortured, emotionally, mentally, and even physically. They don’t know whom to trust. So that at least does bring a level of realism to some of the most annoying traits of the girls.
That being said, while the story has become somewhat repetitious, it is still very tension driven. Chapter after chapter the reader is worried about what A is going to do next. The audience reads her threats, sees the insanity and cruelty in them, and is waiting for her to act. Shepard is excellent at building that tension; she excels at making a repetitious story still captivating. It may be the same story of four girls being tortured, but how they are tortured, the master plan, the consequences, those are key elements that keep this story riveting. At the end of the day, all the flaws are washed away because the reader is pushed to the edge of their seat just waiting for everything to go hell, and when that happens, it is still a jaw-dropping shocker. (★★★☆☆ | B-)