‘The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars’ screamed a blurb. That got my attention. One of Us is Lying is a young adult, mystery novel published in 2017. If you have read it, you would know that it reflects traces of clichés at high school, young adult tropes, and the most popular yet conflicting show on Netflix, 13 Reasons Why.
It’s a regular Monday at Bayview High when five students (a couple unexpected ones) get detention. The Brainiac, Bronwyn suggests that it is a conspiracy because she would never break the rules. Addy, the homecoming Princess neither agrees or disagrees. Cooper Clay, homecoming King, and Good Boy Supreme find Bronwyn’s theory believable. Nate, the drug dealer/kid on probation/bad boy turned badder doesn’t care. Simon, the outcast and creator of ‘About That’, an app that shares gossip about Bayview High is enjoying the tension and the drama.
An innocent detention, carefree bantering turns wrong as Mr. Avery, the teacher steps out of class. Simon dies in the detention room in front of his classmates in what seems like an accident. The kids are shocked, numbed, and the center of the attention. A careful investigation reveals that on Tuesday, Simon had planned to drop juicy, real yet revealing secrets about the other 4 students in the detention room. Jokingly called ‘The Murder Club’, the name begins to stick as the students unravel their lives and how they each had a motive to want Simon dead. Can Bronwyn grit her teeth and get into Yale like her father wanted? Or will Simon’s death darken her future prospects? Does Nate turn into the proverbial bad kid turned murderer? Can Addy step out of Jake’s shadow and confess her secrets? Does Cooper become the baseball star he deserves to be?
Simon’s death (like Hannah’s suicide in 13 Reasons Why) opens up a Pandora’s box to a school that is blissfully ignorant, parents who seem to either care too much or not care enough, and kids who seem to be taking bullying as an art. Was Simon bullied or did he aggrandize himself and create an imaginary world? Does Maeve, Bronwyn’s sister have the answers the kids may need to solve this mystery? The police have ready pasties in the name of four kids who have a lot to lose and a total lack of interest in actually catching the murderer. McManus’s strength is her narrative, the slow weaving of threads and secrets which build up a suspense worth reading for.
One of Us is a light read, though one that can trigger uncomfortable memories for those bullied or victimized at school. The fear, the urgency, and the microscopic view teens have where the minutest problem seems like the end of the world is nicely reflected in the book. Bronwyn is predictable if not relatable, Nate too, and their relationship or friendship has what we would call a very high school feel which makes it interesting yet tiring at times. The ending feels slightly too wrapped but it’s happy so there’s that. Addy is the biggest surprise of all and one that I truly cheered for. A character arc that shows growth and development with substance.
One of Us has a sequel, One of Us is Next, a book about Bronwyn’s sister, Maeve who was a strong supporting character in the first book. If it’s anything like the first book, it will be fast paced, intriguing, and a good read generally if you like young adult and mystery.