One of Us is Lying is one of those books that I had seen all over Instagram and the cover design was enough to pull me in to read its synopsis, and the second I did I was absolutely hooked. It was self-described as “The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars”. I’ve not seen ether of those, so I went in totally blind to any potential references or parallels and still had an amazing experience.
The premise is that 5 people enter detention and only 4 people leave alive – and anyone that was in the room with the recently deceased Simon could have killed him. Everyone is a suspect and it’s hard to narrow down who did it because Simon was a pot-stirring piece of work who created and ran a gossip app which he used to spread life-altering secrets about all of the students in the school, so everyone hated him. The 4 people in detention all had secrets and Simon knew about them – so which one shut him up before he could open his mouth? Everyone had motive, but who had the courage of their conviction – the jock, the princess, the geek or the criminal?
“You’re all walking teen-movie stereotypes.”
Now you might be thinking a couple of things after reading that. Firstly you might be thinking that this premise sounds like it might have been done before. Well, yeah, it probably has, but what hasn’t? Just because something has been done before doesn’t mean a new adaptation or take on something isn’t good. The second thought you might be thinking is that this book sounds like it’ll be a cliché riddled YA novel full of tropes and stereotypes. On this account you’d be totally wrong. Yes, it has stereotypes and tropes in the novel, but it turns them on their head and develops the characters so that they become three dimensional rather than cardboard cut-outs. The novel takes time to show that, just like in real life, people aren’t always who they appear to be on the outside or how others see them.
One of the best things about One of Us is Lying is the characters. They go from being a just a label (jock, princess, geek, criminal) to each other and the reader, to fully realised people in the eyes of both fictional and real people. Their development is so believable and it’s a nice refreshing change to the genre. Some of the characters get a more drastic development arc than others, but it all stays well within the realms of reality. I found myself really rooting for the characters, which really surprised me.
There was also romance in the plot – several of them in fact. Now normally this sends a little red flag up for me in YA fiction as I usually find YA romance to be predictable, boring, unrealistic and most of all cliché and my eyes usually hurt from rolling so much. But all of the romances in One of Us is Lying are fantastic! First of all they were all different and had different dynamics to each other, but once again, the best bit is that they were grounded in reality. I honestly believed the relationships (both romantic and plutonic) in the novel and it made such a pleasant change!
“It concerns me you’re avoiding a promise not to murder me.”
The pacing throughout the novel is great and doesn’t let any part drag on. This is also true for the time that we spend in each POV. One of Us is Lying is a multi-POV story done right! I’ve seen so many YA novels try to do this just for the sake of doing it but this is a great example of how to perfectly utilise the multi-POV to give the reader more information and insight without being repetitive or overbearing.
I figured out who killed Simon about half way through the story, but it didn’t detract from the reading experience, and I’m sure many people will still end up surprised by the killer if they don’t figure it out. With that being said, there were plenty of things I didn’t see coming that gave me a great surprise! Nothing about this book felt rushed, forced or contrived and I think that shows great skill on McManus’s part. The elements of humour scattered throughout the book also helped keep the atmosphere light considering death is one of the key subject matters.
“‘It concerns me you’re avoiding a promise not to murder me.”
One of Us is Lying is an amazing novel that breathes new life into the genre. It kept me reading all the way through to the end and whilst it is an easy read, it’s utterly captivating. I’m so glad that this is a great example of a book living up to its promotional hype for a change!
This is a fantastic debut for author Karen M. McManus and not only will I be re-reading One of Us is Lying in the near future, I’m also look forward to future work from McManus too.
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.