Thank You, “Pretty Little Liars”

Three years ago, I was going through one of the hardest times in my life. Between switching schools in hopes of getting a new start, fighting an ongoing battle with my depression, and trying to take it day by day, everything seemed to be falling apart. As everyone who knows of my existence knows, Pretty Little Liars is my biggest obsession. Sometimes, sure, I probably annoy the hell out of my friends, but there’s a story behind the show that many of my friends don’t know.

It was my sophomore year in high school. I distinctly remember sitting in Spanish class (the same place I also came up with the idea for my novel Before I Break–interesting), and these two girls sitting near the front were babbling on about something. As I listened a little bit closer, I started to pick up little bits of the conversation.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe so-and-so is A!” one of the girls said.

“I know!” the other girl said. “I can’t believe it either! I never would have thought!”

Now granted, I’d heard of Pretty Little Liars before, but never actually watched the show. I always thought it was some type of girl drama show, not even realizing in the slightest that is was a mystery show, so I was a little confused. What the hell was an A and why were these girls about to go into cardiac arrest over a letter of the alphabet? I decided that when I went home, I’d do a little bit of research on the show.

I have no idea what urged me to do so. Maybe it was my curiosity over what a simple letter could do to teenage girls, or maybe it was my gut letting me that it was something I might enjoy. So I went home that afternoon and immediately looked up the show, just to provide myself with a little bit more information. To my complete and total surprise, the show was nothing that I thought it was. In fact, when I read the synopsis, it was something like this:

“After the death of their best friend Alison DiLaurentis, four girls face off with a mysterious adversary named “A” who has dedicated their life to exposing the girls’ secrets.”

Of course, that little synopsis made me look a little further. Upon searching, I then found an article with a title like,

Pretty Little Liars: Alison Alive and Ezra is “A”?

That was when I was immediately pulled in. So these girls thought their friend was dead and she was actually alive? Huh. Odd. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to check out the show and watch the Pilot.

To make a long story short, I watched quite a few episodes that night. A few days later, I attempted suicide for the fifth and final time, and was sent to a psychiatric hospital to receive treatment. Now, this is the part of the story that’s going to sound utterly ridiculous, but it’s true.

Inside the hospital, I met a few other friends who’d watched the show, and they told me that I just had to keep watching. I’d read spoilers from the books, but they kept trying to tell me the show was different. Of course, I had to believe it, because Ezra was not A in the books. This little show gave me the determination to get out of the hospital. I just had to solve the mystery!

Once out of the hospital, I binged the entire show while waiting to be put in online school. Since I had so much time on my hands, I was able to binge watch all three and a half seasons in less than a week. On top of all this, a really amazing and interesting thing happened. The entire time I watched the show, I was sucked in. I wasn’t thinking about all the bad things going on inside my head. I was thinking about who the hell this A was and why there seemed to be about twenty of them. I was thinking about whether Ali was really alive. I was thinking about my growing fondness of the female leads, and my growing attraction to the men on the show.

During this course of my life, I was going through so much. Mental illness was seriously dragging me down, but when I was watching the show (or even theorizing) I wasn’t thinking about everything that was wrong. Eventually, I got my mother to watch the show, followed by my sister, followed by my grandmother. Then I got my best friend to watch the show, and even got some internet friends to watch the show (some of whom are still not caught up yet *cough cough* *wink wink*). What started off as a little thing for me has gotten my family and friends involved, and now we’re all sucked in.

Although we all knew this was coming, Freeform made the announcement just a while back that Pretty Little Liars would be ending with its seven year run. When I first heard the news, I couldn’t say I was surprised. I mean, we were nearing the end of the line. It’d been speculated about for so long that I couldn’t be shocked, but I could certainly be sad.

While the show’s had its fair share of criticism (mostly over the controversial, “plot hole” filled Big A reveal, or the new Uber A that apparently still feels the need to target these girls five years later), I’ve been a hardcore fan since the second I started watching. Through all the relationships, the drama, the red herrings, the twists, and the reveals, I never once complained. I never once questioned the direction that the show was going, because deep down inside, the show was what kept me alive during such a hard part of my life. It kept me alive (and willing) long enough to get help, all because I wanted to know who could be the face of a mysterious letter from the alphabet.

Now, three years later, the show’s reaching its end, and it’s going to be hard. What will I do when I no longer have something I connect with? What will I do with my Tuesday nights when I can’t expect another episode of my favorite TV show to suck me in, allowing me to forget about my troubles for at least an hour a week?

That I don’t know. What I will say is that the cast and writers of Pretty Little Liars have really given me strength, as has the story itself. People may be wondering, “How can a show about teenage girls being tortured give you hope?” But it’s not just that. It’s about the bonds of friendship. It’s about love. It’s about accepting those around you, even though they might be different. It’s about the consequences of being a bully. It’s about life and death. All the things we deal with on a day to day basis, just in one big tangled web.

I give a huge thanks to the wonderful leading ladies of the show (including Sasha Pieterse and Janel Parish). I give thanks to the wonderful men on the show. Thank you to Sara Shepard for writing the books for them all to play in. But most of all, thanks to Marlene King and the other writers of the show, who really gave me something to look forward to each and every week.

You’ve all helped make me a stronger person. You helped me get through the most difficult time in my life, even when I wasn’t willing to.

So thank you, Pretty Little Lairs. It’s been a fun ride.

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