This is a spoiler free review of my latest read, One Of Us Is Lying! I decided I just had to read Karen M. McManus’ One Of Us Is Lying after all the hype it had last year so I picked it up to start off the new year. I’d naturally heard lots of buzz around the novel with it being hailed a murder mystery The Breakfast Club. Now I love the The Breakfast Club and the concept sounded so interesting so I thought I’d give it a go. Every so often a YA book that isn’t my stereotypical fantasy read comes along and grabs me by the heart, soon becoming a firm favourite. It turns out that One Of Us Is Lying would become one of those.
“The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five students walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
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 alive. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. He died on a Monday. But that Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates. Now, all four of them are suspects in his murder. Are they guilty? Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
They all have a motive. They all have something to hide. They all have a history with Simon. And one of them is definitely lying.”
Juicy, right?! I absolutely love the UK cover of One Of Us Is Lying and I think it gives away just enough information to intrigue you! Straight away I was captivated by the book, from the telltale front cover to the dramatic first chapter. That’s what I loved about this book, it’s straight into the action with no messing around. Just like The Breakfast Club, detention becomes the perfect isolated space to introduce characters who know each other but don’t really. It perfectly encapsulates the ins and outs of high school life and the different ‘types’ of students you often find. The death happens in a chaotic blur and from then on the novel is full speed ahead. I loved how fast-paced the book was as it kept me reading for hours (I spent lots of late nights promising myself one more chapter, only to find out that was a lie!). The air of mystery ensured suspense hung on every page as each character struggled to keep their secrets from being spilled.
After reading One Of Us Is Lying I read back through my notes to see what I could compile into a review, most of which ended up being plot points and my emotional reaction to those. Unfortunately for me, but luckily for you, I want to make this a spoiler free review so I’m not going to mention any more of the plot besides the synopsis. It makes this review really difficult to write, considering how much of it depends on the plot and how that changes everything, but I will tell you how much I loved it and beg you to read it, too.
This book is a clever combination of plot and character that both simultaneously become the driving force of the story. A mixture of past and present and a lot of teenage worry and problems creates such a dynamic, gripping read. At first I wasn’t quite sure how I would find the multiple perspectives all telling the same story, I’ve previously read dual narrative books and really disliked them, but this weaves the views of each character so neatly. I liked hearing the story from four different perspectives and the first person narrative really built up the angst and drama. Every time a character thought about all of their secrets I’d get so excited that they’d be revealed to me, the reader, and then the chapter would end! Of course I had to keep the pages turning in order to gather more information, which was a really clever way of keeping readers on the edge of their seat. Initially I felt like the detectives on the case, piecing together tiny bits of information to work out who murdered Simon, but soon I began to feel like one of the kids in detention, working with what they had and praying that one of their peers wasn’t guilty.
The diverse mixture of characters forced together in unusual circumstances is what makes this novel work. We’re all used to these stereotypical labels in novels, the brain, the beauty, the criminal, the athlete, but McManus puts them together in a way I’ve never seen before, forcing us as spectators to review our perceptions of people. As the murder unfolds we quickly begin to learn about each character, not only from the way they respond to the emergency but by how they are described by others. This is another positive of multiple narratives; you’re not limited to the omniscient facts, but instead you get several personal opinions to help you build rounded views of each character. However, as the novel progresses we are constantly learning more and more about the morals of the teens. Is there more to beauty than just her looks? Is the criminal always fated to be? What will brains do to keep her reputation? Is the athlete all he seems? I found myself constantly learning about each character and growing to love them in more ways than I could ever imagine. They were so real with such convincing backgrounds; from absent parents, parents who aren’t absent but might as well be, pushy parents, and everything in between, I’ve seen all of these stories before. Through these discoveries I began to notice subtle changes in the characters as they grew to be who they chose, breaking free from the stereotype they’d been given. It was so beautiful to watch the characters grow in such truthful ways. It really felt like these could’ve been real teens dealing with a real murder.
I’m still shocked at how realistic One Of Us Is Lying is, being one of the best representations of teenagers I’ve read for a while (when you read a lot of fantasy you often miss those small things that really make young adult life). Not only covering all the normal things that come with teenagers, like the pressure of exams and what university you might end up at, the novel covers relationships, including all the bad bits, family life, parties, keeping up appearances, and much more. Most importantly, it includes technology. I love it when I see a YA book that actually includes the use of a mobile phone or laptop! As a generation we are always clinging to some form of technology and that’s mainly how we keep in contact so I really liked that.
I feel like this review has been a huge load of waffle but I really hope I’ve managed to coherently express my love for One Of Us Is Lying without spoiling it for people who haven’t read it! This book is so clever and it really does deserve all of the praise it’s been given. McManus has written a real page turner with realistic, loveable characters and a whole load of shocking events, with an ending so satisfying I welled up! This was a complex piece of work that kept me guessing until the very end.