Book Title and Author: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Publication date and Publisher: Published May 30, 2017 by Delacorte Press
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Mystery
Pages: 370 pages
Date Read: June 10, 2017 (audiobook from Audible)
One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walks out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
It has been awhile since I’ve read a Young Adult book but after reading the synopsis and hearing it described as “The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars” then I knew that I had to read it since The Breakfast Club was one of my favorite movies back in the day. The truth is that they couldn’t have picked a better description for this book. Reading it really was like reliving the angst and emotions of high school with the drama and suspicions of a murder in the midst!
One of Us Was Lying was a great read because it was so addictive and skillfully written. As I listened to it on my morning walks, I felt like I was binge-watching a scandalous and suspenseful tv show while fisting handfuls of popcorn in my mouth. While it’s true that the book was cleverly written, at the same time, the novel’s mystery was still predictable in some places, and normally I find predictable to be terribly annoying and off-putting in a book. Yet, in this case, the overall plot and especially the characters were just so interesting that I forgave that flaw. Also, as the book’s synopsis tells you, if you pay attention and are clever enough you will be able to figure out the crime, so any suspicions you might have about the plot and the murder will likely be correct. However, that doesn’t detract from the storyline at all and in all honesty, I truly believe this story is not so much about solving the crime as getting to know the characters and how their lives are changed by the incident.
Truthfully, it is the characters in the book that keep you so enthralled, which you don’t expect to happen when you first start reading (or in my case listening to) the book! After all, the characters in the book are based on typical high school stereotypes so at first, it just seems like this is another overdone trope but trust me, this is unlike any high school tale you have read before! First, you have Bronwyn, the brain: the class valedictorian, the goody-goody, a sweetheart, and headed to Yale because she’s following in her parent’s footsteps. Then, you have Cooper, the jock: the all-American, good guy, star baseball player trying to decide between playing in the majors or heading to college after high school. Of course, you can’t forget Addy, the school beauty: she’s the homecoming queen, girlfriend of a star athlete, and seemingly at first the weakest and most spoiled of them all, with a mother who thinks life isn’t worth living without a man. And there is Nate, the bad-boy criminal: he’s already on probation for selling drugs, is still secretly (not really) selling them on the side, has an alcoholic father, and no mom in the picture, and he’s just trying to get by. Last, there’s Simon, the outcast: he’s despised by the school for being the school gossip and creator of the Bayview High’s gossip blog, About That, which reveals all of his fellow classmate’s ugliest, deepest, and darkest secrets. All five are in detention together one afternoon, and only four come out alive! The question is, who is the killer? Or did all four commit the crime?!
I love that McManus gives each of the remaining four their own voice to tell the events of the story. They take turns in alternating chapters, so you really learn so much about each of the four character’s individual stories as well as how their stories connect with each other to make one interwoven whole. The four are so much more than high school stereotypes. As their secrets are publicly revealed, you see that each of them are flawed and very real, so you can’t help but easily connect with each of them in turn.
Another thing I really liked about this book and thought McManus handled very sensitively and cleverly was how each of the four copes when they are forced to confront the deepest, darkest secrets that Simon had uncovered and was going to expose on his blog! The four face the consequences, but they also face them head-on. McManus gives each of her characters so much depth and excellent development as the story progresses that you are hooked and want to really get to know them and what happens to them! It was the changes in the characters from chapter one until the very end that made the story suspenseful and unputdownable! Honestly, as a parent of two teenagers and an educator of young adults, it was refreshing to see a book that presents these teenagers handling their personal turmoil honestly and facing their consequences with maturity while becoming better and wiser young adults by the book’s end. It’s an excellent moral and character lesson.
I loved the book, but I will say this (and no more without getting into deep spoiler territory): there are times that some deep topics are covered in the book, and they could present a small problem with individuals suffering from anxiety or depression. However, McManus did a wonderful job writing about the issues and was extremely sensitive and respectful to these topics. I personally thought she handled the topics brilliantly. Again as both a parent and educator of young adults that are this age range for close to 20 years, I strongly believe it is vitally important to at least mention this and make sure all readers are aware that this is not just a “fluffy” suspense story about five high schoolers or a murder mystery but there are at times some tough topics addressed in the book.
For a debut novel, this is just wonderful! McManus did an excellent job, and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future! I’ve already passed the book to both my teenage boys, ages 17 and 19! My 17 year old listened to the entire audiobook in a day and thought it was awesome, and my older son is listening to it now on his daily runs and is really enjoying it! I think this is a great YA book, and I will be highly recommending it to my students when classes start in August! But, don’t think this is just a book for Young Adults! I think all ages will enjoy it just like I did since it is clever, addictive, and offers something for all ages!! Now, excuse me…I need to go hunt down a copy of The Breakfast Club or binge a season of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix after reading the book and writing my review…..