Book: “One of Us Is Lying” by Karen M. McManus
Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, May 2017
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk 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.
Review: You want to talk about classic high school movies, one of the assured mentions is going to be “The Breakfast Club”. While I really don’t like what happens to Ally Sheedy’s character (as a ‘basket-case’ in high school myself, I didn’t appreciate being told that if I just got a makeover boys would like me), I have to admit that the concept of kids coming from different social circles and getting along for one day is really appealing. ESPECIALLY when one of those kids is Judd Nelson, my GOD. So when I heard about this book, and that it’s basically “The Breakfast Club” with a murder mystery to boot, I was TOTALLY IN!!!!
But we actually got so much more than that. While sure, the Brat Pack in that movie each gets their own little piece of vulnerability, McManus has an entire book to explore each of her characters to their fullest extent, and can paint them in complicated and well rounded ways that gives the reader reasons to be invested in all of them. We get four perspective characters in this book. Bronwyn is the brainiac who is carrying an Ivy League dream not only as a legacy, but as a biracial girl whose Columbian side of the family literally pulled itself up by the bootstraps to start said legacy. Addy is a girl who has been taught that her only strength is her beauty, perpetuated by a vapid mother and a controlling boyfriend. Cooper is a star athlete whose family is riding on the idea of him getting a major league offer because of his pitching arm. And Nate, oh my sweet sweet Nate, is a dealer on probation living in a ramshackle home with a drunken father. And all of them have secrets, which is why all of them are viable suspects when Simon, app creator and provocateur extraordinaire, is murdered while they are all serving detention together.
All of these characters had realistic and believable voices, and I saw the vulnerability and desperation in each of them as their secrets started to come to light. It became pretty clear from the get go that none of them were actually suspects to be taken seriously, and while I don’t know how I feel about that, it was a delight to be able to see them hide other things instead of throwing an entire barrel of red herrings my way. And while some of them had secrets that weren’t that hard to guess, getting to the answers was a heck of a ride, especially since all of them grew and evolved so much as they got there. Addy especially went on a character arc that felt so organic and so heart-wrenching and yet empowering that I was especially happy to get to her perspective chapters. This storyline brings up questions of relationships, romance vs domination, and what sort of value we put on women and girls who are attractive but not encouraged to be much more. I also really liked reading how Nate and Bronwyn’s relationship progressed and evolved. There of course was going to be some romance in this book, and of COURSE the geeky girl and the bad boy is a trope that’s ripe for the picking. But I liked how McManus had these two interact and complement each other without making either feel like they were out of character. I also liked that we got to see Nate’s backstory and how it wasn’t the usual ‘my Dad’s abusive and that’s why I’m a nasty prick’ sob story. It wasn’t much more than that, but it did address the struggles of families with mental illness, especially when resources are limited when it comes to getting help.
The big mystery itself though? Well, while I had a super fun time just going with the flow and following it to it’s conclusion, I did find the final answers to be a bit disappointing. True, I did like that our four main characters were pretty much in the clear from the get go, I still think that had there been some more twists and reveals instead of things being pretty easily explained and neatly finished it could have been a seriously stellar mystery. As it was, I was pretty much satisfied with how it all shook out, but it wasn’t much to write home about. The strengths in this book were definitely in the characters, and the supporting characters that they each had in their lives. I would have been completely content if there was no murder mystery at all and it was just about a bunch of kids from different groups learning that they could, in fact, become friends….. So, basically, “The Breakfast Club”, but without that bullshit makeover scene.
“One of Us Is Lying” was a fun and entertaining read. The side mysteries were fun, the characters were well written, and I would totally read something else from Karen M. McManus down the line. With the right amount of mystery and suds, it’s the perfect read for the dog days of summer.
Rating 8: Though the solution felt a little bit thrown together and convenient, I quite liked learning the various secrets of all the characters in this book, as well as seeing them all grow and change.
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