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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus - Review

Friday, November 29, 2019

Where did I get it? Amazon, I bought it. 

What's it about? Let me tell you this is one of the best YA books I've read in ages, I absolutely loved it. 

It's set near San Diego in California and is a contemporary YA novel. In it, five teenagers end up with detention with a teacher, Mr Avery. They're a bit of a motley crew - there's Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy, Simon and Nate. The five of them have their phones confiscated and are supposed to start an essay, but then a car accident outside distracts them. Simon, who is the owner of a gossip app about the school, drinks some water, and ends up writhing on the floor having suffered an allergic reaction. No EpiPen can be found, and despite paramedics' best efforts, Simon dies from the reaction.

It turns out his cup of water was laced with peanut oil, so police start looking for a murderer. It then further transpires that he was about to publish posts about Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy, and Nate, and that each one of them had a reason to want him dead. The four of them are suddenly in the spotlight and somehow unlikely friends - but one of them is lying. 

I guessed some of the twists and turns in the book, but that only added to my enjoyment of it. I thought it was a really fantastic book told from four points of view. 

Bronwyn is a super high achiever who wants to go to Yale. She lives with her parents and her sister Maeve, who I also loved. Cooper is a star baseball player who is getting attention from scouts. He can't let down his father, who is really into him being a major league player. He has a girlfriend, Keely, but he also has a secret he really doesn't want anyone to find out. 

Addy is a popular girl with a popular boyfriend, Jake. Everything looks perfect in her life, but her mum is a bit of a mess and her sister has moved out. Plus Jake dictates everything about Addy's life, like the clothes she wears and the parties they go to. Addy's secret is that she slept with a friend of Jake's over the summer, and feels really bad about it. 

Nate is the school misfit. He's on probation for selling drugs, although he's still doing it. He lives with his alcoholic father and his mum isn't around anymore. He and Bronwyn end up getting close, which I absolutely loved - he is a perfect brooding YA hero and I loved him. I think my favourite bits were Nate's bits, followed by Bronwyn's. 

Then there's Simon. Simon has tried hard for years to fit into the popular cliques at school, but has never quite managed it. He has this gossip app that doesn't spell people's names out specifically, but gives their initials. And the thing is, the gossip on there is never wrong. Each of the four of the suspects want to keep their secrets safe, and Simon has come up against each of them before. It's a real whodunnit!

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, no spoilers though. I did see some criticism that there was some internalised homophobia here, and I don't quite agree. I think the person concerned is worried about how their family will react, which is totally a valid thing to worry about. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Bronwyn's family is Colombian, but it's not a main part of the story. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No I don't think so. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not graphic and people always use protection. Again, I saw criticism saying that Addy is slut shamed, and while I agree that she is, it's other people's reactions to her. It's not her internal thoughts - she realises she has the right to have sex with anyone she likes. The author doesn't slut shame her, but characters in the school do, if that makes sense. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yeah, as Nate is a dealer. It's not graphic, but it is there. 

Is there any talk of death? Yep, obviously. Simon's death is quite graphic for sure. 

Are there swear words? A few, not many 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none. My only one really is that there are a couple of gaps sometimes when the book skips between different narrators. Gaps in the reader's knowledge and in time. But you can fill in those gaps so it's not a big deal. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well, you see, I bought Karen's next book Two Can Keep A Secret, and I thought that was a sequel of this, so I thought I had better read this first. But it's not a sequel... But whatever. I'll read that one soon. 

What do I think of the cover? I prefer other covers to this one, but this was the Kindle one. 

What other books is it like? I thought it was a lot like A Good Girl's Guide to Murder. 

How many stars? Five out of five. Excellent, fun, intriguing book. 

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