Pretty Little Liars – Quotes and Questions for Discussion
By Stacey Tuttle
Note: Most of these quotes and questions stand alone, requiring no real knowledge of the book. However, if you need more book knowledge, the person you are talking to can probably fill you in! ALSO, Parents, Youth Workers, Concerned Adults: Please check out our Pretty Little Liars Note to Parents.
“Emily never wore anything tight or remotely cute like the rest of the girls in her seventh grade class. That was because Emily’s parents insisted that one built character from the inside out. (Although Emily was pretty certain that being forced to hide her IRISH GIRLS DO IT BETTER baby tee at the back of her underwear drawer wasn’t exactly character enhancing.” (2)
Discussion: What makes good character? What IS good character – how would you define it? How should parents help encourage it? If character is from the inside out, then does that mean you have to forego “cuteness” to get it? Is it Emily’s parents’ fault that she is hiding her tee and therefore not building character?
Alison: “She was perfect. Beautiful, witty, smart. Popular. Boys wanted to kiss Alison, and girls – even older ones – wanted to be her. [So the girls were] well…dazzled. Before Ali, the girls had felt like pleated, high-waisted mom jeans—awkward and noticeable for all the wrong reasons—but then Ali made them feel like the most perfect Stella McCartney’s that no one could afford.” (3-4)
Discussion: What is perfection in a girl? How would you define it? Is there someone in your world who has that Ali effect—who makes you feel dazzled and perfect just because you are with them? Why are you friends with the people you are friends with? What kinds of people are they? What makes them a good friend?
“Ali said that secrets were what bonded their 5-way best friendship together for eternity. If that was true, they were going to be friends for life.”
Discussion: Back to friendships—what bonds friends together? Are there good secrets which can bond you and bad secrets which can bond you? Is there a difference between being bound to someone and being in bondage to them? Which kind of secrets did the girls share with Alison—the bondage kind or the bonding kind? How do you think the phrase, “the truth will set you free” applies to Ali’s statement about secrets in a friendship?
Spencer gets revenge on her older sister, Melissa, by making out with Melissa’s boyfriend. (Actually, this happens with more than one boyfriend.)
Discussion: Siblings, admittedly, can make you crazy. And YOU can make THEM crazy, too—it works both ways. But how should you handle that? Is revenge a good option? Are there ever times when that is the right course of action? What happens when you take revenge, and they return the favor, and you are suddenly caught in a cycle of revenge—how can you ever get out of that cycle? (Of course, this doesn’t just apply to siblings, but to any relationships.) On a slightly different note, is it ever OK to “make out” with someone else’s boy or girlfriend? Why or why not?
Speaking of making out, Aria met a boy in a bar and made out with him in the women’s bathroom. She later discovered that he was the new English teacher…her new English teacher.
Discussion: What do you think about that situation? Is it right or wrong or does it even matter than he is her teacher? That he is older? That she lied about her age? What would you do in that situation? What do you think about the fact that she made out with a boy she just met…in the girls’ bathroom…is this acceptable, is it good, is it common, is it wise, right, wrong or indifferent? Is it really normal for people to “make out” with people they just met?
We have already mentioned Aria and her teacher, Spencer and her sister’s boyfriends, but there are other instances of “forbidden loves”. Aria’s Dad had an affair. Emily is hiding the fact that she is in a growing relationship with the new girl in town, Maya. When Aria and Ezra are talking about what to do, and he is saying that it’s wrong and he can’t be with her, Aria’s response is that, “no one would have to know”—which seems to be the general feeling about any forbidden relationship. But the reality is in every case, someone knows. It is never a complete secret, never fully hidden.
Discussion: Almost every relationship in PLL is a forbidden one. What makes secrets and forbidden loves so appealing in this story? Is it that way in real life? Is it always true that forbidden loves are more appealing than ones that you are free to enter in to? Though enticing in the short run, what about in the long run—do forbidden loves have a long shelf-life? Are the consequences ultimately worth it? And if the relationship is “meant to be” then doesn’t it also stand to reason that it could wait a little while (like in the case of Aria and Ezra) until the circumstances are different and it doesn’t need to be hidden? Is it OK to keep things hidden? Is it true that no one would have to know? What about the fact that God knows?
There is a lot of under-age drinking in PLL, smoking and illegal pot use. Students are drinking in bars, lying about their ages, having wild parties where everyone is drunk, etc. etc. etc.
Discussion: What do you think about smoking, drinking and pot? Does age matter? Does it matter if it’s legal or not? If you are of age and it is legal, is it then fine to do or are there other considerations? What do you think about the fact that this book/show makes smoking, drinking and pot seem so acceptable for high-school students? Is it just showing reality or is it making something seems glamorous that it shouldn’t?
In the book, the author refers to Hanna’s mom as a MILF.
Discussion: MILF is an AWFUL term. But it raises the question of how we view authority and how we talk about authority. Is it appropriate to refer to anyone’s mom/parent in this way? What does this kind of talk indicate about the level of respect and deference we feel toward a person or authority in general? How do you feel when you hear this kind of terminology? Do you think a mother should be flattered by this term or offended by it?
“Now Hanna got to ogle her mom’s dates in a not so will-you-be-my-new-father? Way.”
Discussion: What is your response to the idea of Hanna ogling her mother’s dates? Remember, Hanna is a Jr. in High School…and these are the much older men her mother is dating that she is talking about, checking out. How do you think you ought to feel about this? Is it supposed to be “sexy” that she is attracted to these older men? Does it make her seem mature if she is interested in her mom’s dates? How do you think her mom’s example has influenced the way she looks at men?
Aria says that “everybody lies about their age.”
Discussion: Is it true? Does everyone lie about their age? What if they do? Does something being common change whether or not it is right or wrong?
PLL makes no secrets about the fact that Hanna throws up to make herself skinny. Her body issues are a huge part of the story. She felt fat and unloveable before she started throwing up, now she has a “perfect” body and is the “it” girl on campus.
Discussion: How common are eating disorders among your friends? Have you ever been willing to go to extremes to be beautiful? Make up, dieting, exercising, throwing up, surgery…how far are you willing to go, and how far is too far for the price of beauty and popularity? Is beauty the only thing that makes someone popular? How do you feel about the way you look? Is the only way to change the way you feel about yourself to actually change yourself? Could the way you feel about yourself change if you felt that someone more worthy than you loved you and accepted you and thought you were wonderful just as you are? What if you knew that the One who created you created you with a purpose and loves the way you are made—would that change things?
Hanna is completely irritated that her boyfriend, Sean, took a “virginity pledge”. His “V-club” gets mocked. Hanna questions, “Wasn’t sex the best way to express love? That was why the virginity pledge thing made no sense.” And Hanna works hard to tempt him out of his virginity commitment. Furthermore, he is the only one in the book who isn’t sexually active. There’s a big party every year at the Kahn’s house that is notorious for its alcohol and for all the “hook ups” in the woods. The book is pretty casual and pretty descriptive about scant (and or wet) clothing, romantic encounters that are very sexually charged, and romantic tensions between bi-sexual and homo-sexual couples.
Discussion: How do you feel the story portrays sex in general and more specifically, Sean’s commitment to virginity—does it make it look silly or honorable? How do you feel about the author’s bias in regards to sex/virginity? In your opinion, is sex the best way to express love? If someone makes a commitment to virginity, is it something that they should be talked / tempted out of, or supported in? Is it possible that the best way to show love is to honor the things which they value…even if it means honoring a commitment to virginity? Is love about sex, or about putting another person’s wants/needs above your own? In your experience is sexuality this casual and this commonplace among High School students? Do you think books/TV shows like this portray a healthy perspective of sexuality, do they exploit it or just portray what you feel is a reality?
“They didn’t often want to do other things that Alison made them do. They all loved Ali to death, but they sometimes hated her too— for bossing them around and for the spell she’d cast on them. Some times in Ali’s presence, they didn’t feel real, exactly. They felt kind of like dolls, with Ali arranging their every move. Each of them wished that, just once, she had the strength to tell Ali no.”
Ali was, “the shoulder to cry on, the only one you’d ever want calling up your crush to find out how he felt about you, and the final word on whether your new jeans made your butt look big. But the girls were also afraid of her. Ali knew more about them than anyone else did, including the bad stuff they wanted to bury—just like a body. It was horrible to think Ali might be dead, but…if she was, at least their secrets were safe.”
Discussion: Have you ever had a friend who made you feel like a puppet – like Ali made her friends feel? What makes a good friend? The girls considered Ali their best friend, but would you consider her a friend of the best sort? Should you ever have any concern about the “power” that your friend has over you because of the secrets they know about you? Do you have friends that you are afraid of?
On a separate note, it mentions that the girls had things they wanted to bury – like a body. That’s a strange reference, a BIG reference. Do you have secrets that are so big that you would compare them to a body you wanted to bury (i.e. like a murder you would want to hide), something of THAT magnitude? Does it strike you as odd or as normal that not one of these girls has a clean conscience? Do YOU have a clean conscience, or are you worried about being “found out”?
The parents in PLL are generally very image-conscience and have high expectations for performance. However, they are also generally very detached from what their daughters are really dealing with. Not one of the girls would talk to her parents about these secrets she is hiding, or the issues she is dealing with in regards to boys, social pressures, etc. The parents seem to cause more pressures and problems than they help solve/protect.
Discussion: What are your parents like? Are they people you can turn to for help, or are they a part of your problems? Do you feel pressure to perform from your parents, or are you accepted for who you are? Are you parents more concerned with image or with truth/character? If you were scared and in trouble, would you turn to your parents are think that you had to solve it all on your own? How do you think your perspective of your parents may color your perspective of the kind of God GOD is?
Parents, Youth Workers, Concerned Adults: Please check out our Pretty Little Liars Note to Parents.