~Five students walk into detention. Only four leave alive.~
Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.
Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.
Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.
Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.
And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about how any of them again.
He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.
A geek, a jock, a criminal, a princess. As Simon comments early on:
“You’re all walking teen-movie stereotypes.”
It had me thinking of a dark, murderous version of The Breakfast Club, especially with that title. (Talk about chills!)
One of Us Is Lying is told in first person, and switches between the perspectives of the main characters. Given that there are four of them and that multiple perspectives are told within a single chapter, I was a bit worried that Bronwyn and Addy, or Cooper and Nate would sort of merge together if their characters weren’t defined enough, and I’d forget who was who and who was doing what (if that makes sense.) So the first few chapters were a bit of a warm-up in getting used to the characters, but as each narrative voice was clear and distinct, there wasn’t an issue.
The plot kicks off from the first chapter, with the characters handling their own sub-plots as the main storyline progresses. What I liked was that even though the subplots were focussed on their own storylines, they still helped to move the main plot along in someway, as they’re all linked together (which is as close to a spoiler you’re going to be reading here!) Obviously these sub-plots were mainly focussed on character development, and given the stereotypical outline of the four protagonists, you can sort of see how their characters would change toward the end of the novel (almost a stereotype in itself) but I wasn’t mad about it.
I will say this though…we have adults. Actual adults! In a YA novel! You know you get those books where you’re like “where are the police??” Well they are HERE, and clearly McManus has done her research. There are sections, such as the extract below, that are peppered with professional terminology from police officers and lawyers, making a refreshing change from the usual way they’re brushed over in so many YA novels.
“This is Lorna Shaloub, a family liaison for the Bayview School District. She’s here as an interested adult on your behalf. Now, this is not a custodial interrogation. You don’t have to answer my questions and are free to leave at any time.”
You feel like you’re right there in the room, being involved in the process and getting mad at the police later in the novel, which I think helps make up for any lack of action. Don’t get me wrong, a lot happens. Each scene is well paced and every sub-plot builds tension effectively, but it’s not a novel where you have the characters trekking across the country or being on the run. So if you’re into that specifically…maybe read something else? (But you’d be missing out.)
As well as the murder mystery aspect, the book touches on some important social issues including class, sexuality, mental health and identity, giving depth and interest to the characters and their environment. So did I guess whodunnit..? I might have had an inkling. But then again, I also had a suspicion which turned out to be completely wrong. And there was a twist I didn’t even see coming.
Although I felt the ending went on a little longer than it needed to, One of Us Is Lying is definitely a fun and intriguing page turner, with plenty of up-to-date references (though McManus may regret all the tumblr mentions in a few years. And one comment from Bronwyn about Netflix. I couldn’t find it for the purpose of this blog, but when you come across it, you’ll know what I mean). It’s an accomplishment of a debut novel from McManus, and is a must read for any fan of YA fiction.