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One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

BOTTOM LINE: Good mystery fun


Genre: Young Adult; Mystery
Publication Date: 30 May 2017
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“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?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

My Thoughts: Cue the comparisons to The Breakfast Club; after all, they are warranted to some extent. One of Us is Lying does involve five students from very different social spheres. It does involve detention among the five of them. While the detention scene itself is but a brief portion of the novel and most of the bonding occurs outside of the school environment, the five students do learn that there is more to a person than the clique s/he inhabits or his/her appearance.

The fun of One of Us is Lying is not in its similarities to that iconic movie but in its differences. It is not just a coming-of-age story; in fact, one might argue that aspect of the story is a side effect of the main plot. Instead, it is an old-fashioned, locked-room whodunit with all of its trademark clues and red herrings but set for the Internet generation. It even has an air of a cozy mystery about it with its surprisingly close-knit community and limited setting. It is an interesting twist to a traditional coming-of-age YA novel and one that is far more entertaining.

Any murder mystery revolves around secrets and One of Us is Lying is no different in that aspect. In fact, secrets are at the heart of the novel and the reason the murder victim is so reviled throughout the school. The secrets being kept by the murder suspects are not surprising; in fact, most readers will be able to guess them well before the big reveal. The reactions to the big reveal are equally expected. What is not so mundane is how each of the murder suspects react once their secrets are public knowledge. Given that the characters are teenagers, one would expect much wringing of hands and angst-fueled monologues. While they do carry on in such fashion to some extent, they mostly act in a fairly adult manner, accepting the public’s reactions and not letting it scare them away from carrying on as normal. It is a most welcome surprise.

The rest of the novel follows the murder suspects as they attempt to unravel just what happened in the detention room and why. There are some entertaining twists that keep readers guessing, albeit not for long. Most adult readers will be arrive at the answer fairly early into the story, but knowing who the murderer is does not ruin the story. If anything, it adds just a little something extra to the story as it allows you to focus on the clues and piece them together while you stumble upon them rather than after the fact.

One of Us is Lying is not going to make you more intelligent or help you learn something about society or yourself, but it does not present itself as such. Instead, consider it as a hybrid cozy, locked-room mystery and coming-of-age story that is merely meant to entertain rather than teach. It is fun, compelling, and completely satisfying.

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