What happens when life-altering secrets don’t stay secret for long? In the popular young adult fiction book, One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, readers find out. After five high school students find themselves in detention together, their lives take a turn: four become the primary suspects of a murder, but one of them never finishes detention. McManus tells the story through the lens of the four student suspects as they try to not only prove their innocence, but to also solve the mystery of what happened that day.
The book masterfully uses different perspectives to build suspense and character development, while adding small plot twists to build the mystery. McManus uses multiple points of view in order to build up thrill. By narrating from different perspectives, readers not only understand the different motivations of each character but also question whether or not the narrators are reliable. Also, because we see each of the characters through the eyes of others in the group, we are able to see exactly how they are perceived by their peers and how they grow from that image of who they were at the beginning of the story. McManus also incorporates minor plot twists within the story to build tension and to add depth to the mystery.
While smaller elements of surprise earn the book a placement in the mystery genre, the overall mystery is somewhat predictable. The book’s elementary language forces the reader to expect a “happy” ending. Ultimately, the reader is able to predict the possible killer list. However, McManus makes up for this through an added element of shock not only at the end, but also throughout the book. Additionally, the book serves as more of a light-read, not topic wise, but because of its level of thought provocation. While the topics have great social relevance, McManus does not provide enough commentary regarding the topics for depth to be created. Originally arising more so in the later half of the book, McManus begins to explore topics of mental health and sexuality, but does not take a deep dive into either of them. Overall, the book’s minor mysteries leave the readers on the edges of their seats, making up for an easily anticipated ending. However, its surface-level dive into highly important and relevant topics places the book in a “fun-read” category.
If you are looking for a simple and captivating read, we would highly recommend One of Us is Lying. While it does have its flaws, including its lack of commentary and connection to the real world, it is an enjoyable read that draws you into the lives of the characters. If you wouldn’t call yourself a “reader,” then One of Us is Lying is the book to start you on your reading journey.