Review | One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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One of Us is Lying
by Karen M. McManus

My Rating:
4stars

On Thursday 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 Thursday, he died. But on Friday, 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 just 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.

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I received an eARC of One of Us is Lying from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was so much fun!

If a book is sold to me as The Breakfast Club + murder, then it’s a book I want to check out. I can’t say that The Breakfast Club is a favourite film of mine, I’ve only seen it once or twice, but I love reading a thriller from time to time and this sounded like such an interesting premise.

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Of course I hoped I’d like it, none of us request review copies of books we think we won’t like (I hope), but what surprised me most about this book is what I thought would be a very plot-heavy book turned out to be a very character-heavy book, and I really liked this group of characters. A lot more than I was expecting to. Actually, by comparing this book to The Breakfast Club and giving us characters described as ‘the geek’, ‘the jock’ etc. was a clever way of making sure I got more than what I was expecting, because while I was expecting The Breakfast Club + murder with some teen angst I was caught off guard with a group of characters who I ended up rooting for.

Five teenagers, Bronwyn, Nate, Addy, Cooper and Simon, find themselves in detention after being caught with phones in their bags that have been planted there. After a drink of water Simon begins to have an allergic reaction and is rushed to hospital when no one can find his EpiPen or any in the nurse’s office. Simon dies soon after, and murder is suspected when it’s discovered his drink was laced with peanut oil.

Simon wasn’t exactly a popular kid. He ran an app where he shared people’s deepest, darkest secrets, and the police soon discovered that four stories, about the students he was in detention with, were scheduled to go live the day after he died. Suddenly, all four of them are suspects, all of them deny it, and all of them are liars.

This book, McManus’s debut novel, was such an easy read. I sped through it in one evening because I just had to know who did it, especially when more and more secrets began to be revealed about our four protagonists – one or more of whom could be a murderer.

As I mentioned before, it’s McManus’s characters who make this novel. They so easily could have been stereotypes and yet they weren’t. I particularly loved Addy, who’s lost something of herself in the years she’s been dating her boyfriend and letting him make all the decisions, and when she finally comes into her own it’s brilliant.

I loved Cooper, too, and his secret, in particular, was heartbreaking to watch unfold in such a public way, especially with journalists and news crews showing an interest. In fact one of the things I enjoyed most about this book was McManus’s commentary on how much the media can hinder a police investigation, and treat people as guilty before anything has been legally proven. She never lets us forget that, while there is a death at the centre of this story and that is tragic (even though no one’s really that sad to see Simon go), these people who have yet to be proven guilty are only teenagers. The media condemn them for the mistakes they make, but how is a 17 year old supposed to know how to handle a situation like this? As if high school isn’t difficult enough.

I even enjoyed the main romance in this book – I mean, you can see it coming a mile off, but the characters do have chemistry – but McManus didn’t only focus on the romance and I appreciated that. The four suspects end up developing this charming friendship, despite the fact that they can’t be sure one of them isn’t trying to set up the others. Cooper has a wonderful relationship with his grandmother, too, and both Addy and Bronwyn have sisters that they’re close to, and they all play active roles in the plot.

Day by day, layer by layer, secrets are revealed so that, at the beginning of the novel at least, you’re constantly left thinking ‘Oh maybe it was Bronwyn’, ‘Hm, maybe Cooper did do it’ and I enjoyed trying to play detective.

The only reason I didn’t rate this book any higher was because I felt like there were some moments, particularly nearer the end, that I wasn’t entirely sure I could believe, especially when the killer was revealed. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book, though, and I’d definitely be interested in reading something by McManus in future.

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