One of Us is Lying: A Review

Here’s what we know:

Bronwyn always follows the rules. She’s heading to Yale next year and she would never risk that or disappointing her immigrant father.

Cooper is an all-star baseball player. His pitching abilities are sure to lead the Bayview team to victory and pave Cooper’s way to the majors–just like his father wants. But Cooper wants other things that he’s afraid to talk about out loud.

Addy is homecoming princess and not much else. She isn’t ambitious or independent but she isn’t sure why she has to be when she already has the perfect life with her boyfriend.

Nate really belongs in detention. He’s always doing something wrong and has been for years. What do you expect from a guy who’s already on probation for drug dealing.

Simon is the outcast of Bayview but he’s also one of the most powerful students there thanks to the gossip app he created that dishes all of Bayview High’s worst secrets.

All of them were caught using cell phones during school hours. All of them claim they were framed. On Monday afternoon the five of them walk into detention at Bayview High. Only four of them walk out alive. Every one else has a motive for killing Simon. But no one has any proof. Yet. As the investigation heats up Bronwyn, Nate, Addy, and Cooper all have to decide how far they’ll go to keep their secrets in One of Us is Lying (2017) by Karen M. McManus.

Find it on Bookshop.

One of Us is Lying is McManus’ debut novel. This standalone thriller was partially inspired by the 1980s movie The Breakfast Club. The novel is written in alternating first person chapters between Bronwyn, Nate, Addy, and Cooper as they try to make sense of what happened to Simon.

Despite the numerous narrators each character manages to sound distinct and stand out in their own sections. Anyone who is familiar with teen movies or YA novels will recognize some of the plot points (such as staight-laced Bronwyn pursuing a relationship with the resident bad boy) but they manage to feel fresh and interesting within this story. McManus keeps a tight rein on the plot as the story’s twists which are revealed at a satisfying pace throughout the novel. Unlikely friendships, surprising romances, and quite a few surprises make One of Us is Lying a winning mystery for even the most jaded fans of the genre.

While I was a big fan of most of this novel, there are two things I need to talk about. Avert your eyes if you want to avoid spoilers.

——START SPOILERS——

Every character in the book has a big secret. We eventually learn that Cooper’s secret isn’t steroid use as everyone suspects. Instead, Cooper is gay. And he is outed during the course of the investigation. Cooper being outed by reporters during the investigation is rightly treated as egregious behavior but it also felt tiresome and a little sad to still have it be a plot device. Maybe it’s realistic but I wish we were beyond that point already.

Then there’s the big reveal about Simon’s killer. It turns out that Simon was depressed from constantly trying and failing to be one of the popular kids. Refusing to discuss other courses of action Simon kills himself and use his suicide to frame a classmate for his death.

While the suicide-as-murder-frame-up is a familiar trope in mystery novels, it’s a troubling one in a young adult novel. It’s problematic to still have mental illness be treated as a plot device and especially to not have it be addressed in any way beyond being part of Simon’s brilliant plan.f

——END SPOILERS——

Possible Pairings: Take Me With You by Tara Altebrando, The Leaf Reader by Emily Arsenault, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel, Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes, All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

3 thoughts on “One of Us is Lying: A Review

  1. I agree about how it is problematic to still have mental illness be treated as a plot device and how some books don’t address mental illness beyond having it as part of the plot. Because a lot of teens are reading this book, I hope they don’t use the “suicide-as-murder-frame-up” just because they read it in a book. Because teen suicide is fairly high in numbers, I was a little bit wary about reading about how suicide was discussed in the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did not like the ending of this book. It almost felt like 13 reasons why disguised as a murder mystery book. It was all about how one kid killed themself and then blamed people for it after his death. This book is even worse then 13 reasons why though. It paints the character of Simon in all the wrong ways. It paints his death in a positive way by showing how he got most of his revenge on the people he wanted to hurt by killing himself. The book also tries to get you to think that the world is almost better off without Simon? They use some very harsh words to describe him at the end. What kind of message or feeling was this book aiming towards at the end? Some people deserve to be dead?

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    1. These are all very valid points. I enjoyed a lot of this book while reading it but I agree that the portrayal of Simon and his suicide are incredibly problematic. I wish the book had gone in a different direction with the resolution.

      Like

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