Pretty Little Liar fans are about to get the fresh infusion of intrigue and murder they've been longing for, and it's about time. Like the original series, PLL: The Perfectionists is based on books by Sara Shepard. But unlike the Freeform series, the book series is neither a direct sequel nor a spin-off of Pretty Little Liars. In fact, Marlene King, who is also showrunning this spinoff series, decided to take quite a few liberties with the original source material, altering it to make it more relevant to the existing PLL fandom. And this isn't the first time she and her team, with the help of Shepard have chosen to take some liberties with the author stories.
The Perfectionists series consists of two books: The Perfectionists, published in October 2014, and its sequel, The Good Girls, which came out in June 2015. Both books center around the same set of five female characters. Ava, Caitlin, Julie, Parker and Mackenzie, all have different strengths — and different secrets — but they're brought together by their shared hatred of the class bully, Nolan Hotchkiss. The girls despise Nolan so much they even joke about murdering him, right down to the way they'd do it. But when Nolan actually shows up murdered in the exact same way the girls had joked about, they have to figure out who it is that's trying to set them up — and why.
While the Freeform show is definitely based on Shepard's books, the network made a few major changes to the original story. The primary change, per Variety, is that it turns it into a PLL crossover series by incorporating both Alison DiLaurentis (Sasha Pieterse) and Mona Vanderwaal (Janel Parrish) as the protagonists of this series. Alison and Mona become stand-ins for the original characters Julie and Parker. Cellist Mackenzie is gender-swapped for a gay male character called Dylan. Only Ava and Caitlin retain their original names.
If you thought that Shepard might be unhappy that Freeform decided to shake up her stories so much, it doesn't look like she minds in the least. Speaking to Bustle at a set visit in November 2018, King encouraged fans to read the books. "Reading the book in no way would ruin the TV show for you, nor the other way around. You SHOULD read it," she says. The showrunner added, "Shepard's very happy with how we treat her material."
And really, why wouldn't she be? Over the course of its 7-season run, PLL won a slew of People's Choice and Teen Choice Awards, earning Shepard even more positive press and garnering interest in her other books series, too.
In addition to Pretty Little Liars and The Perfectionists, Shepard has three other YA series: The Lying Game, The Heiresses, and The Elizas. Freeform (formerly ABC Family) already turned The Lying Game into its own PLL companion show back in 2011. The show, which starred Alexandra Chano as twins Emma and Sutton Becker, only ran for two seasons before being cancelled.
According to Just Jared, The Heiresses was also slated for an adaptation starring PLL's Shay Mitchell before it was given the axe before its scheduled 2018 premiere, so if you want to know the answer to that question, you'll have to read the books.
Currently, no plans have been announced to turn The Elizas into a TV series of its own. But if The Perfectionists can manage to veer more on the side of PLL-level success, or at least surpass The Lying Game and Heiresses, then it's possible there could be yet another Shepard show green lit in the future.
Additional reporting by Karen Fratti.