Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

This read was a lot more fun that I was expecting upon picking it up. “One of Us Is Lying” is very true to its blurb – “Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars” (though one could probably throw in a “Gossip Girl” element in this too). The story opens up with a group of five teenagers serving detention for having cell phones in each of their backpacks when they weren’t allowed in class. The common thread among them is that none knew how the cell phones ended up in their possession in the first place, especially since the phones didn’t belong to them. Nonetheless, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper, and Simon all end up serving detention at the same time. A freak accident and an allergic reaction later – Simon ends up dead, and the remaining four eventually end up as murder suspects with every revelation that the police investigation makes. What’s clear is that all of the remaining have been set up to take the fall for Simon’s death, but the question remains as to whom is framing them and why.

What I liked about this book is that the cast of characters in this novel aren’t your stereotypical carbon copy cutouts , but rather very real characters whom you can feel for as the novel progresses. Every single one of them has something to lose with their secrets exposed, from status to educational opportunities to criminal punishment. They’re all thrown into a massively insidious plot by a puppeteer who continuously plucks at their strings. I’ll admit some parts of this kept me guessing but I did figure out the ending a little sooner than the revelation handed down. That didn’t stop me from the anticipation of seeing how it would unfold. The relationships between the four are realistic, particularly with the description of the strengths coupled with their flaws, notably those that peel away at the perfect life and persona they try to create for themselves, but ultimately they end up growing out of that picture. The way the novel showcases their home life, school life, ambitions and relationships connected me with the characters in a way that made me care about each of their plights and desperation to figure out the truth. I wasn’t even sure what Cooper’s secret was for a time, particularly since it was revealed that he didn’t have any doping charges brought against him, but after the story digs a little more into his background, I was like “Ahhh, now I understand. Poor kid.” It shows the characters going through a growth arc while wrestling with the respective secrets that, once unearthed, have the conflicts hitting the ground running.

Also, if it’s something to say – Simon was a total jerk who had one too many axes to grind, which makes you understand why he had more than his fair share of enemies. In the end, I enjoyed the read for the showcase of characters, the overarching mystery, and the march to the resolution that even by the last page I felt satisfied with how it chose to tie things off. There were moments when the pacing could’ve been a little tighter, but I think it did a fine job of distinguishing Bronwyn, Abby, Cooper, and Nate’s voices to stand on their own dimensionally.

Overall score: 4/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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