Note: This review contains spoilers regarding One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus.
So I just finished reading One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus (and by just I mean in the last hour) and I thought that I might just write down some thoughts on it right now and see where they take me.
First, the premise of the book. It is roughly a YA murder mystery where five kids go into detention, one of them dies and the police discover that it wasn’t an accident. I had a look at this novel in a bookshop a few weeks before I actually bought it and was completely hooked by the blurb so that was a good start!
The novel is narrated in parts by each of the four kids who made it out of detention, namely Bronwyn who is identified as a geek, Cooper, who is the classic jock, Addy who is the girl in school going out with the most popular guy and Nate who is on probation for dealing drugs. Something I really like about these characters is that they are set up as fitting into classic steretypical characters even on the cover of the book, but through the novel and their narration you learn that they’re much more than that, and subsequently that everything is not so black and white and easily categorised.
The four principle characters were also all very interesting and engaging and seemed very real and mostly very relatable. I genuinally believe that these four characters could have been sole protagonists in their own books. The single issue with this is that occasionally a situation wasn’t explored as much as I would have wanted. Take, for example, when Nate gets out of jail and briefly discusses feeling useless. Skip forward three months to the epilogue and he’s beginning to get over that and feels ready to be with Bronwyn again. I would have really liked more from his point of view regarding how he worked through those issues. The same with Cooper and his Dad and coming to terms with being openly gay, especially in a sporting context, following his coming out. Like I said though, all of this might have taken a novel each for the protagonists, so settling with this one novel, it was nice to have four such interesting characters narrating.
Aside from the four narrators there were cool characters everywhere, especially Bronwyn’s sister Mauve (who could also be the main character in her own book). Again, I would have liked to know more about some of the characters like Kris, Cooper’s boyfriend, who ends up being key to figuring out the cental mystery. However, this book must be pretty great when the only complaint I have is that I didn’t get to learn more about the characters!
In terms of the central mystery, it was really engaging trying to piece together snippets of what the characters told you, the reader, and trying to figure out what you knew about a character and if the other character’s knew the same information. It also had me asking questions of the characters even while they were narrating (confession: when Nate got arrested I questioned his innocence for a second, if only because it could be a double bluff i.e. the criminal actually commited the crime, but I quickly came to my senses). The eventual resolution was satisfying because it was a twist but didn’t take away from the rest of the novel up until that point.
So, basically, I really enjoyed this novel. The murder mystery was interesting enough but it was really the characters that hooked me. I loved finding out about them and seeing them really progress throughout the novel and break out of the stereotypes teenagers are so often forced into. I would have loved to hear more about them and some of the situations they were in but that was because I had come to care for them so much, which can surely only be a good thing!