“I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to admit that sometimes they’re just assholes who screw up because they don’t expect to get caught.”
To simplify the synopsis as much as possible, Karen M. McManus’ One Of Us Is Lying is essentially The Breakfast Club meets Gossip Girl meets murder mystery novel. Don’t know if that sounds ridiculous or awesome? I’m still on the fence too. The story begins in detention, where five students find themselves after being caught with phones in their schoolbags – phones that, oddly enough, aren’t theirs. During detention, Simon, the creator of Bayview High’s infamous gossip app, has an allergic reaction that winds up killing him. As the details of his death are unveiled, it becomes clear that the event was premeditated. And the other four students are the prime suspects in the investigation.
I’m a little surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed this book. It’s been a while since I’ve devoured pages so rapidly, and this was just what I needed to get me back into reading and blogging. The first word that comes to mind when I think about One Of Us Is Lying is simply: fun. Is this a literary masterpiece that will stay with me? I doubt it. But this novel was an immersing experience to say the least. It will keep you wholly entertained while you’re reading it.
The characters are what kept me invested in this story, especially in terms of development. Watching them grow and overcome the secrets they feared getting out was tremendously satisfying. I do feel that McManus relied too heavily on the “stereotypes” they were meant to represent at times, but it became easier to overlook as they progressed. Plus, you can’t have a Breakfast Club inspired novel without leaning on high school stereotypes, I suppose…
I also applaud McManus on the way she handled the police investigation. At times, I felt One Of Us Is Lying was less of a mystery novel and more a critique on the way law enforcement sometimes botches a case before having all the information. The commentary on the role that media plays in swaying the public’s opinion was also appreciated, and it brings to light the important questions surrounding where we’re getting our news from.
The mystery itself left me with mixed feelings. At the beginning, I honestly wasn’t certain who to blame for Simon’s murder. After McManus started dropping hints, however, it became increasingly clear who the culprit was. And without spoiling anything, I’ll say that I found the ending to be somewhat predictable. I think McManus would have benefited from going the more shocking route – despite how many readers she might have upset in the process. If you’ve ever read Abigail Haas’ Dangerous Girls, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
This novel has also come under fire for its representation of sexual orientation and mental illness. While I can’t speak to the representation of LGBT+ characters, I do understand why so many reviewers were offended by the use of orientation for “shock value.” This is something that’s used as a plot device far too often, despite the criticism that follows. As for the mental illness complaints, I was actually a bit taken aback. I never got the impression that McManus endorsed the actions of the killer, and I didn’t think the twist glorified what happened. I can definitely think of other novels where similar events are glorified, but I just didn’t get that vibe here. If you disagree, I’d love to hear your take on it.
I gave One Of Us Is Lying a 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It was an adventure, but not one that’s likely to stay with me. Have you guys read it? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!