*Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy (ARC) of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. If you’d like to check out my review policy, click here.*
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?
One Of Us Is Lying combines High School drama with first love, social media, the deep desire to break free from labels and stereotypes and oh, y’know, a bit of light murder. No biggie. This book is pretty much what I would expect the difficult and wayward teenage love child of The Breakfast Club and Gossip Girl to look like.
The book opens with the five main characters rocking up to detention for having their phones out in class. It’s a pretty familiar set-up, and one that will be instantaneously recognisable if you’ve ever seen The Breakfast Club. The author even goes as far as to label each of the characters in the same way as the iconic film, which you might find either satirical or cliche depending on your outlook. Either way, five go in and only four come out, so which one is lying?
This entertaining and skillful debut is told from the point of view of four different characters, namely Addy, Bronwyn, Nate and Cooper. It’s a big ask to pull off a complex mystery using four different perspectives, but here it works well; allowing the reader to identify with and emotionally invest in each of the characters as individuals. As the book switches between voices chapter by chapter, we learn a little bit more about each of the protagonists’ lives and the secrets they’re desperately trying to keep hidden. The characterisation is a little surface-level in some places, but for the most part there is some really interesting development. I ended up quite invested in both Cooper and Addy, who went through some really empowering emotional journeys that ended up changing both of their lives for the better. I must admit, I went into the book feeling pretty indifferent towards the ‘jock’ and the ‘princess’ of the bunch, but once I’d turned the last page they were easily my favourite characters.
Despite the focus on the four main suspects, McManus somehow finds the time to develop some of the secondary characters, each of whom had their own stories to tell. I really enjoyed getting to know Addy and Brownwyn’s sisters, Ashton and Maeve, and the way that the author portrayed the complexity and strength of emotions between both sets of siblings. I love seeing genuine family relationships and two dimensional parental figures in young adult books, and One of Us Is Lying succeeds in cracking open family life and showing the reader how different upbringings and family backgrounds can have an impact on the decisions you make growing up.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a young adult thriller, and One Of Us Is Lying pressed pretty much all of the right buttons. There’s no messing about in this book – the scene is set within the first ten pages and the pacing doesn’t let up one little bit as the story twists and turns towards a satisfying conclusion. Although I worked out what had happened just before the big reveal, it didn’t impact on my enjoyment. The plot is compelling, with just enough red herrings and diversions to snag your attention and keep you guessing about who, what and why. The clever thing about this book is that while you’re trying to solve the main mystery of who killed Simon, there are also lots of mini-mysteries ticking away as the secrets of each of the main characters come to light. I also really rated the way the author used the dominance of social media to bring a sense of reality into the book, and despite the overt parallels between Simon’s gossip app and Gossip Girl, I felt like the technology wasn’t too advanced or complicated to make the story unbelievable.
As the characters battle against accusations of murder and the very real possibility that one of the group is not only a coldblooded killer but a dangerously skilled liar, they find themselves pitted against the expectations of their parents and friends, the do-or-die social pressures of high school and all of the emotional bumps that come with the territory of being seventeen. The story beautifully sums up the difficulties and diverse pressures of growing up, as well as how facing the worst events and most deeply hidden secrets in our lives can sometimes help us to grow and morph into adults. Tempered with a little bit of humour, a touch of sizzling romance and a plot that you just won’t be able to stop thinking about, One of Us Is Lying sets the bar stupidly high for the YA thriller genre in 2017.
Stars out of five:
- Publisher: Penguin
- Pages: 368
- Publication Date: 1st June 2017
- For fans of: Agatha Christie, Sarah Pinborough, John Hughes movies, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl.