Warning: Spoilers if you haven’t read the book series or watched the TV show.
The year is 2010. The two of us sat on a bed with ABC Family turned on, eagerly waiting for the premiere of Pretty Little Liars. We’d seen the show previews for weeks and couldn’t wait to watch this teen thriller. At the time, we hadn’t read the books.
The first book came out in 2006 and the last one released 2014. There are 18 books total, 16 are part of the regular series and two are companions.
The TV show lasted for seven seasons, from 2010-2017. We loved the first few seasons, but as time went on, it got more and more ridiculous. Eventually, we had to read the source material to see the differences.
1. The Character’s Appearance
One thing that became clear immediately, Shepard’s descriptions differed a lot from the TV show casting. The only character who looks the same is Alison DiLaurentis.
In the books, Aria Montogmery is the tallest member of the group, Spencer Hastings is a blonde, Emily Fields has red-blonde hair and Hanna Marin is a brunette.
Also, Spencer cares more about fashion and her appearance in the books. While Aria is supposed to be the artistic one in both, her clothes in the books sometimes are self made and more unusual. Emily is basically always in a T-shirt in jeans in the books, where the show gives her a different style in later seasons. And Hanna only buys the latest trends. She spends most of her free time at the mall.
2. The Ships
The couples in the TV show and books are completely different.
Spencer: Spencer dates a couple of the same people in both, but in the end, she ends up with Wren Kim. In the show, his name is Wren Kingston. While he is British in both, his ancestral background on his dad’s side is Korean. For Spoby (Spencer + Toby) fans, this never happens.
Hanna: Hanna and Caleb are a fan favorite on the show. Caleb doesn’t exist in the books though. Instead, the love of Hanna’s life is Mike Montgomery, Aria’s younger brother. They are so cute together and always ready to make the other laugh.
Aria: Ezra and Aria first met at a bar and started dating, even when he was her teacher. This happens in both! However, in the books he’s a total creep and their relationship doesn’t last long. Aria then hits it off with Noel Kahn, who she bonds with despite their differences. In the books, Noel and Aria are endgame.
Emily: One main difference is that in the books, Emily is bisexual. Her most serious relationship was with a girl named Jordan, who doesn’t appear in the show. Emily ends the book series single, which was probably for the best because she went through more than all the other liars. In the show, we never got the Emily and Alison appeal. Emily probably should have stuck with Paige in the show.
3. The Timeline
The book and the TV show starts at the beginning of junior year. However, in the show, Ali had been missing for one year and the book she’d been missing for three.
Also, the show has a huge time jump. The girls come back to Rosewood, Pennsylvania after five years. The book ends at the end of their senior year in high school.
We didn’t think the time jump worked very well, but the producers did it because the actors looked too old to be playing high school characters. It’s been used in shows to ignore the college years, like One Tree Hill and Riverdale.
4. The Twin Reveal
We watched the series finale together in 2017, just like we watched the premiere. When the Twincer theory was revealed (Spencer’s twin) Claire screamed so loudly that windows shattered. Christy’s kidding, but we were both so mad because it literally made no sense.
In the books there is a twin, but it’s Ali’s twin. Courtney and Ali were rivals since childhood and Ali would do anything to destroy her sister. The girl that the liars were friends with was really Courtney. There’s an entire book explaining the twin shift called Ali’s Pretty Little Lies. Shepard made it known naturally and it made perfect sense with the progression of the plot.
5. Family Dynamics
Emily had the biggest change, since in the show she is an only child. In the books she has three older siblings, two sisters and a brother.
Spencer’s parents in the book get divorced. Spencer’s mom remarries and the man has two children. Spencer is Veronica Hastings’s biological daughter. However, Peter Hastings had an affair with Ali and Courtney’s mom, making him their biological dad. It made sense since Spencer and Ali looked alike.
Hanna’s family probably changed the least. Her dad moved to Maryland and remarried and gained a stepdaughter named Kate. However, for a brief period of time in the books when Hanna’s mom gets transferred to Singapore, Hanna’s dad and his new family move in with her.
Aria’s dad cheated on her mom in both. However, Meredith is much nicer in the books. The whole Montogmery family is more free spirited and celebrates the winter solstice and other pagan traditions. Aria’s dad married Meredith and the two have a baby.
We hardly get out of Rosewood in the show. In the books, the characters travel to Iceland, Jamaica and spend an entire book on a cruise ship. Seriously, we wish our high school took us on a week-long cruise!
7. Darker Stories
While the show had its fair share of violence, the books were much darker. A threatened a lot in the show, but Ali as A wanted all the liars dead. She brought them to a house in the Poconos only to try to burn it down. She killed many of their friends and acquaintances. Ali also almost managed to have them thrown in prison for her “murder”.
The characters also did worse stuff. The four liars got themselves in a lot more trouble and weren’t always likable. Stealing famous art, hit and runs and sabotaging people are only part of it. Shepard did a good job of giving each girl a distinct personality and did a lot with character growth.
8. Different Characters
A lot of characters didn’t overlap. The show ignored Courtney DiLaurentis and a lot of the romantic interests of the characters. The characters also had some of their own friendships outside the group that got axed.
Also, Paige and Caleb aren’t in the books, along with Cece Drake, Mary Drake and Twincer. Two major characters in the show died early on in the books: Mona and Toby.
It’s too bad that there wasn’t more overlap.
9. A’s Network
In the show we kept asking who’s A and it got very twisted with many people being involved and donning a black hoodie at least once.
Ali had one specific partner in the book series, who happened to take on different personalities to befriend each liar individually. However, Ali had national coverage for what she did. A group of supporters created online forums for her, calling themselves the Ali Cats.
10. The Ending
The last book and last episode have virtually nothing in common. Like we said earlier, the big reveal did nothing for us and then the liars lived happily ever after.
The entire last book, Vicious, was so intense. Ali has her most diabolical scheme yet and the liars need to band together to save themselves from a life sentence in prison.
Ali’s backstory is so interesting and her character completely dark and twisted. In the show she’s just a bully, but in the books she’s a manipulative mastermind and has been since she was a little girl.
We wish Marlene King would have taken the source material more seriously and gave us the TV show ending the fans waited years for. *Sigh* we’ll always remember Twincer.