G. Bianco, 2019
When five students are thrown into detention together, the assumption would be for them to leave having a greater appreciation for one another: end of story. Right? Unlike any other classic teen fiction book or movie, this detention session results in a death involving foul play.
In Karen M. McManus’s debut novel One of Us is Lying, five students walk into detention, but only four walk out alive. Amidst this strange tragedy, the fictional Bayview High community looks at the surviving students as the prime suspects: Bronwyn: the studious, Yale-bound brainiac; Addy, the popular beauty queen; Cooper, the all-star baseball jock; and Nate, the drug-dealing delinquent. What makes things even more interesting is that Simon, the kid who didn't make it out alive, runs the schools popular gossip app and has dirt on all four suspects. Dirt that was going to be published the very next day. So who didn't want their secret getting out?
Naturally, the characters who are suspects are brought together by their circumstances and realize that they need each other in order to survive the discrimination and media frenzy that has swarmed their town, while trying to solve the murder-mystery for themselves. Each character must face the guilt that eats away at them over their secrets while dealing with dysfunctional families. The trials these four student must go through show them who their real friends are and that secrets never really remain secrets for long.
With high school stereotypes running rampant throughout this story, it would’ve been easy for this story to get trite very quickly; however, McManus succeeds in taking a cliché high school tale and turning it on its head. This story doesn't feel as repetitive as one might assume, even though it follows the same themes as many other teen narratives. McManus gives this high school story an Agatha Christie-style twist and leave the reader itching to find out whodunnit. One can admit that at a certain point, it may be easy to connect the dots, but with secrets being revealed and characters becoming more and more complex, this story definitely keeps the reader hooked.
This debut novel suitably-marketed as “Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club” (EW.com) will change the way teen mystery is perceived. It will leave the reader guessing until the very end, while also satisfying the itch for a good old fashioned high school story.
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