Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

One of Us Is Lying – Karen M. McManus Review

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Expected publication: May 30th 2017

Rating: ★★★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book blew me away. It didn’t want to put it down, and I wish it was possible to wipe my memory and start it from the beginning again, because there were so many intriguing mysteries, surprising plot twists, and shocking revelations.

One of Us Is Lying starts with five high school kids who all end up in detention after having been found with phones in class. Bronwyn is ‘the brain’, a straight-A student who is heading to Yale. Cooper is ‘the athlete’ and is already a bit of a baseball star, hoping to be scouted for a major league team. Addy is ‘the beauty’, with a perfect boyfriend and a whole gang of friends. Nate is ‘the criminal’, on probation for dealing drugs. And then there’s Simon, ‘the outcast’, hated throughout Bayview High for his school gossip app About That. Five students go into detention, but only four come out. Simon dies from an allergic reaction, and police believe that someone poisoned him, and it must have been one of the students in the room. They all had motive to kill Simon, but they all insist they’re innocent, so who is lying? Who killed Simon?

This book’s plot is a thrill, a rollercoaster ride. Each of the characters is harbouring their own secret that comes out over the course of the novel, and then more secrets, and more. It was as if the book was peeling away layers to the characters, which I loved. I also enjoyed that each of the four characters had their own chapters told in first person narrative. Although sometimes, multiple narrators can make books confusing, Karen McManus really did this well. We get to know the characters intimately, their fears, desires, and feelings, and I never felt like the book was spreading itself too thin among so many characters. I also liked how despite this first person narration, the secrets that are revealed still come as a surprise. We get hints from the characters, but McManus still keeps the big revelations back for maximum impact. It was told as if the characters were lying to themselves, which felt natural and honest, and you suspect each of them in turn several times, even though you do like them. Because they’ve lied to themselves already, you feel like you can’t even trust their own thoughts, and this mystery and suspense was refreshing to read in YA contemporary.

Apart from loving Karen McManus’s writing style, I loved each of her characters. I really appreciate that they are a diverse group – for one, Bronwyn is Colombian (which, being Colombian myself and not seeing Latinos represented in literature, made me so happy), and there are other things that come to light over the course of the novel (that I can’t reveal because of spoilers!). I also loved that, although they look like cliche high school characters at the beginning, they are very intricate and complex characters. My favourite was Addy, who is literally described as a doormat, but who undergoes a real change over the course of the novel’s events. Even before she undergoes these changes, I still enjoyed seeing a female character not be represented as a ‘strong female character’, but the complete opposite. Yes, Addy was weak, but it was addressed as a part of her character and recognised, and her character development was inspiring and made me root for her. I also loved Cooper’s storyline, and generally the overarching theme of the characters not being just their stereotype, but being able to come together to help each other out.

Although this is a murder mystery and a high school drama, this is also a novel about friendship and the normal problems that teenagers face growing up, accepting themselves for who they are and figuring themselves out. The plot was exciting, and the characters were so easy to love. It might only be March, but I’m pretty sure that this will be one of my favourite reads of 2017.

For fans of: We Were Liars – E. Lockhart 

 

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