One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Published by Delacorte Press
In One of Us Is Lying, a young adult novel by Karen McManus, five Bayview High students are in detention together when one of them, Simon, drops dead. What was the cause of death? Carefully placed peanut oil in his cup of water took away his ability to breathe and without a nearby EpiPen, he was impossible to save. The disappearance of the EpiPens and strange peanut-oil-lined cups, along with the rumors Simon was spreading about them, make the other four as prime suspects for murder.
The book takes the reader through four different perspectives: Bronwyn, the perfect student, Cooper, the popular athlete, Nate, the bad boy, and Addy, the pretty girl. Each character brings a unique flare that adds to the story. The author carries out the plot in a way using one character to reveal a surprise, but keeping the others’ thoughts and actions for the audience to infer.
The way chapters are constantly swapping perspectives keep the audience intrigued. With each new chapter, the previous climax at the end of a chapter resets to a calmer setting with a different character. Character development benefited from the swapping perspectives as it allowed several characters to be developed from different points of view. Though, the thoughts and language are helpful, they aren’t always “family-friendly” since the book does feature high school students. However, the profanity is–for the most part–useful. It gives the words of the characters more meaning and strengthen their opinions. The mature language is not excessive and is rarely used. Knowing of this would not have deterred me from reading this book because the swearing is limited to a few different words and not frequented in the book. Giving readers the thoughts of all four characters makes the projected feelings resonate more strongly. Use of descriptive language also enhanced my experience of reading this novel. One example of this is the chaos happening in the detention room. McManus describes from Cooper’s perspective: “[Bronwyn’s] voice goes from concerned to panicky” and “Simon nods wildly, his hand clawing at his throat.” This style of writing is similar to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series which is told from multiple points of view in the third person. Both stories use different perspectives to capture the important feelings of the main characters making them easy for the reader to empathize with.
The author creates a drive for “hunger” inside the reader by adding a surprising fact or revealing a secret at the end of each chapter as a cliffhanger. Since the book is short, it could be finished within hours depending on how badly the reader wants to satiate their curiosity. This book will have readers thinking, “Oh, that’s why that happened!” or giving them the feeling of solving large parts of the mystery. Although the story is told in the first person, not every thought is revealed. The book made me want to read it again and see if I could notice anything and make connections with the end. The well-organized plot could easily trap a reader in its pages.
The characters in this story are relatable and likable. Whether it’s the witty comments by Nate or Bronwyn’s analytic thoughts, one way or another they’re going to rub off on you. All four of them are special in their own ways, but at the end of the day, they’re all high school students. Along the journey of this fiasco, they must face issues that teenagers encounter daily like peer pressure, mental health, and relationships. An example is Bronwyn: a perfect student, ready to go off to Yale with a perfect GPA. However, there’s more to her story. Behind the scenes she feels pressured to do things she shouldn’t have. The rest of the students have uncovered secrets restricting them from acting normally.
The plot revolved around the usage of social media. When Simon was alive, he ran a website called About That, exposing Bayview students’ deepest, darkest secrets which in turn created countless enemies. This was one of the biggest issues in the story and it is a big problem in the real world. Fortunately, About That doesn’t exist in reality, but that doesn’t mean cyberbullying isn’t happening on smaller scales. I learned a great deal about the struggles of teenagers and I hope it can spread awareness about said issues as well. The novel helps the audience understand that your actions have impact. Something so insignificant to one person could push another into a flurry of anger, depression, and anxiety.
McManus creates a clear line between the Bayview Four and the people who don’t believe in them with the way she tells the story from each perspective. She puts the four in an uncomfortable place, outnumbered constantly by people at school, police, or random people on the street. The character’s true friends come out, which separate them from the others who left them in a time of need. Also, attention is being dragged towards the bunch because of the ups and downs in the investigation. One chapter, their situation would look good; another and the police would find new evidence. This brings four virtual strangers closer together in a dire time.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Karen M. McManus’ debut book One of Us Is Lying is a great combination of suspense, mystery, romance, and addressing issues with teenage life. While it was slow to start up, it was definitely worth the wait. It kept me reading until the wee hours on pure curiosity. The way the author carried out this well-thought out plot had me thinking from beginning to end, “Who really killed Simon?” I was trying to solve the mystery on my own with the few hints I had, questioning every new character who was introduced, “Was it you? You?” I would recommend this book to people who like mystery and suspense. I’m looking forward to the future works of McManus after the impressive first.