ONE OF US IS LYING – Karen M. McManus
In the following essay I want to present the book “ONE OF US IS LYING”, by addressing the content and the author and then giving my personal review for the book. The novel was written by Karen M. McManus and was published in the US in 2017, followed by the UK in the same year. It belongs to the genre’s young adults, fiction and mystery.
The story begins with five students at their high school (Bayview High), walking into detention together. They are all there for the same reason: a phone was found in their backpacks during class. But when detention ends, only four of them leave alive. Simon, the outsider and founder of the notorious school gossip app, who exposes his classmates every chance he gets, dies from an allergic reaction. The police later found out, that the student was poisoned on purpose, and now suspect, it was one of the students in the room, since Simon was planning on exposing all four of them on his gossip app the next day. Now the question is, who would cross the line and kill Simon to keep their secret? Because every person in that room had a secret to hide, which gives them all a motive for killing Simon.
Simons death acts as a catalyst for the whole plot of the novel, because the book builds up on the question, who the murderer is.
After Simons death the four main characters are being investigated by the police and followed by journalists for over a month, while the secrets they tried so hard to keep are being leaked and further evidence, on who the murderer is, keeps coming up.
The book further goes into detail how the main characters secrets effect their lives and how both the police and the accused students try to figure out, what actually happened that day during detention. (Going into more detail about what happens in the book would contain to many spoilers.)
The four main characters are Bronwyn Rojas, Nate Macaulay, Addy Prentiss and Cooper Clay, who are the four main suspects in the murder investigation. Bronwyn is a straight A student, who never breaks any rules. Her dream is to one day go to Yale and follow into her family’s footsteps. Nate is a notorious drug dealer and just one mistake away from prison. He lives with his alcoholic father in a deteriorating house and needs the money, he earns with selling drugs, to pay for his living. The third main character is Addy, prom queen and part of the popular group at Bayview High. She lives the perfect lives together with her boyfriend of three years. Last is sport star Cooper, a promising baseball star, who is being scouted by several colleges around the country.
The story is being told from the four different perspectives of the main suspects, which gives the reader an overall view of all characters, there secrets and their possible motives. The perspective changes ones or twice during one chapter.
Karen M. McManus is an American author for young adult fiction. She attended the College of the Holy Cross, which is a private Jesuit liberal arts college in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she earned her bachelor degree in English and later went to Northeastern University. There she received her master degree in journalism, which she mostly uses to write fake news articles for her novels. McManus now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her son and loves traveling the world with him.
“ONE OF US IS LYING” is Karen McManus’ debut novel, which spent over one and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list. The sequel to the mentioned novel, “One Of Us Is Next”, was published back in the beginning of 2020. Her books have been translated into more than 40 languages worldwide and have received multiple awards and nominations, primarily within the Young Adult category. There is even a television series in development and the author is currently working on two additional novels.
One of the main things I really liked about the book is, that the ending is not an open ending or a cliff hanger. Even though there is a sequel to the first novel, the reader is not forced to read it, only to find out what happens at the end of the first book. The first novel is complete in itself, which I value a lot.
Another thing I found interesting is, how much the characters developed throughout the novel and how they let go of their initial stereotypes. For example, how Addy learns who her real friends are and how to stand on her own. She let’s go of being the school princess and chooses to find not only a new group of friends, but also cuts and colors her hair after breaking up with her boyfriend, who used to control every part of her life. Another example for a character development is Cooper, who comes out as gay in the book and learns how to be himself without hiding half of his life. A big part of that is coming out to his father, who afterwards stops talking to him for a week.
My favorite character from the book is Bronwyn’s little sister Maeve, who is just a couple years younger than her older sister and goes to the same high school. She used to suffer from a severe illness, which is why she spent a big part of her childhood in the hospital. When she first came home from the hospital, she didn’t know how to act around other people and got made fun of. But she still managed to learn how to stand up for herself and grow as a person, which made her become confident, strong and bold. These character traits she also passed on to Bronwyn throughout the story, which made Bronwyn become more self-aware and courageous.
One thing, that I missed while reading the book, were details on how the police were investigating the four main suspects and why they only focused on them, when it was clear, that Simon made a lot of enemies through his app. It would have been helpful to get a few scenes on how exactly the police were investigating this case. Another thing I didn’t fully understand, is how the secrets, Simon was going to post on his app, got leaked through the police. They were the only ones that had access to his app, which is how they found the unposted entry in the first place. The question, how the secrets got out, is not being answered in the book, which makes the whole story confusing, since a big part of the plot is built on the secrets being leaked.
There also weren’t any scenes, that really stood out to me, because the story was mostly predictable, excluding the identity of the murderer. The novel was written with a lot of clichés and stereotypes, which made it easy to guess, what would happen next. Because of that fact, I wasn’t tense or bound to the book. But the author still managed to surprise me with the ending and who the actual murderer is, which is why I am really fond of the ending. But I was still a little disappointed, that my theory, of who the murderer is, proved to be wrong. The four persons perspective theoretically is a good idea, because you get a chance to know all the background stories of the main characters and to connect with all the characters equally. But especially in the beginning of the book the constantly changing perspectives were confusing and I always had to think twice, who’s point-of-view I was reading at the moment. Because of that I found it personally harder to connect with the characters in the beginning, since I was mixing up names half of the time.
In conclusion, I really liked the concept of the book, where the whole story is built up on the question, who killed who. But considering all the previously mentioned facts from above, I would probably recommend the book for younger teenagers, that love mysteries. The main thing I disliked was the predictability of the story, because of all the stereotypes that were included in the novel. But even considering that, the book remained interesting, which is why I would rate the book on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the best, an 8.
A book review from Antonia Weith