Published by Delacorte Press on January 1st 1970
Reading Challenges: 2017 20 Book Challenge
Source: Purchased from Barnes and Noble
A New York Times bestseller
One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
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.
I’m not a fan of describing books as “X meets Y,” but I feel in this case that the comparison is necessary to give potential readers a heads up to the feel of this book. So I’ll go ahead and say it: this book is The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars.
One of Us Is Lying is essentially a locked-room mystery featuring four high school stereotypes as our primary murder suspects. Bronwyn is the Yale-bound over-achiever, Connor is the jock, Addy is the homecoming queen, and Nate is the juvenile delinquent. While serving detention one afternoon, they all witness the death of Simon, the school gossip king. When Simon’s death is eventually discovered to be a carefully-calculated murder, we learn that these four characters are our primary suspects because each has something to hide.
Unlike a typical Agatha Christie locked room mystery, we as the readers are not solving this mystery through the eyes of a charming detective. Instead, the story is told through alternating chapters told in the point of view of each of the four murder suspects. The reader is unsure if one or all of them are unreliable narrators. Are the narrators lying to us? Do any of the stories not fit in with the others? Are they all in this together? Or did someone outside of the detention room manage to orchestrate a brilliant crime? The clues are there, and we get to put them together as the four protagonists piece together what happened to Simon.
Throughout the story, we also learn more about the murder itself, the victim, and each of our four protagonists/suspects. Simon was about to publish dark secrets about each of the suspects, but we begin to learn additional secrets that each character has been hiding. SO MANY SECRETS. We also learn about many secondary characters, and how they might tie some of the suspects together in ways not initially revealed.
I’ve been in a reading slump for some time now (like all of 2017…and most of 2016), and One of Us Is Lying is the first book in a long time to pull me in for an immersive reading experience. I read this in two days and had trouble tearing myself away from the story each time I had to put it down. A good mystery story can do that to me, as I race to put together the clues and figure out what happened. The pacing in the story was particularly good! There were new secrets and clues revealed almost every chapter. Normally I don’t love stories with multiple POVs, but here I felt it worked well — four characters meant four times the clues, secrets, drama, and speculation. I can’t exactly say that I figured out who the murder was right away, but the correct solution was definitely one of my three working theories throughout much of the novel. Kudos to McManus for keeping me guessing and turning the pages until the very end!
However, this was a bit more than just a murder mystery. The book had some layers to it that I also appreciated, specifically in terms of diversity and character development. Even with four protagonists, I felt that each was fully developed and nuanced. Each surprised me in some way, and each grew over the course of the story. That’s pretty difficult to do in just 350 pages. I didn’t really care for any of the characters except Bronwyn at the start of the story, but I was fiercely in love with each by the end. And while the story could have been a bit more diverse, I do have to give it props for including an LGBTQIA character, a Colombian character, and a character living in poverty. Though some of these diversity elements were a touch cliche in their execution (eg, the character living in poverty is the misunderstood bad boy with the criminal record), I did appreciate them.
FINAL GRADE: B
One of Us is Lying earns a B from me because the book was better than I expected. I never got bored, I couldn’t outright guess whodunnit, and I loved the development of the characters. It was the perfect book to read in the middle of a reading slump. I paid full price for this at the book store, and I’m glad I can add it to my shelf collection — and maybe even lend it to a friend in the future! I highly recommend this book for fans of Pretty Little Liars, plot twists, and Agatha Christie novels.
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