Book review: One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

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Accused of the cardinal sin of bringing their cell phones to class, five high school students end up in afternoon detention. There’s Bronwyn, the brain, Nate, the criminal, Addy, the princess, Cooper, the jock, and Simon, the… gossip. When Simon goes into anaphylactic shock and dies in the middle of detention, the other four students become prime suspects in what’s now considered a murder. After all, everyone had something to hide, and Simon’s notorious gossip app surely would have made all their secrets public.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book for months and I finally got the chance to read it. I’d only seen glowing reviews, so my hopes were pretty high that I’d love it. The book was entertaining enough, but I just kind of liked it. (I definitely didn’t love it.) This was, I think, partially a case of my expectations being too high and partially due to some problems I had with the book itself. It’s going to be hard to keep this spoiler-free, so apologies in advance for how vague this review is going to be.

Let me start with the good:

  • The book is easy to read.  It flows nicely with even pacing.  I was interested from the first page to the last.
  • I’d never read a murder mystery quite like this one, so bonus points for that.
  • It relies pretty heavily on the tropes of The Breakfast Club, which is one of my favorite 80s movies, so it got some nostalgia points as well.
  • Addy, the princess, starts out as your stereotypical pretty, popular girl. Her character development was by far the best of the bunch and she finishes the book as much more than a cliche.
  • Nate, the criminal, was the one character whose life felt absolutely real, and my heart broke for him. He’s been dealt some terrible cards in life and I loved how he was given a backstory that doesn’t necessarily excuse his actions but does at least explain them.

Now for the bad:

  • I figured out the murderer literally as the murder was happening. I don’t even read that many mysteries and thrillers, so I was kind of disappointed when I ended up being right. There are a number of red herrings as the book goes on, so I did question myself a little bit, but honestly, my assumption was the only one that made sense.
  • One of the big twists involves a character’s sexual orientation and I felt it was handled poorly. I can’t really get into this without getting into spoilers, but the reveal was very sensationalized and it took up more of the plot than the actual murderer reveal.
  • Again, it’s hard to keep this spoiler-free, but it seemed that every girl who was shown to be sexually active was vilified for it. Either she cheated or she was too promiscuous or something. Meanwhile, we have a prominent male character who carried on a long-term affair and it’s only mentioned in passing.
  • The mental health representation left a lot to be desired.

All in all, One of Us is Lying is an entertaining book with some pitfalls to keep in mind. I’d recommend it as long as you’re okay with the caveats above.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

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