One of Us Is Lying

Written by Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Lying is marketed as a kitschy re-imagining of The Breakfast Club. Five students walk into detention—the brain, the beauty, the criminal, the athlete and the outcast—they come out of detention closer than before, but that may be because one of them is murdered. (That’s just chapter one!) One of Us is Lying takes the overused Breakfast Club trope and spins out a fantastic mystery with enough twist to keep you hooked.

The book is written in first person, but with four different narrators. Each remaining student from the detention tells his or her part of the story. Karen M. McManus does a great job giving each student his or her own voice. The reader can differentiate between Cooper, the athlete and Addy, the beauty. There is no confusion on who is telling the story at that moment. I thought I would be annoyed at the multiple narrators, but I think it really helps grow the potential of who would want to read the book. Each character has a different personality and will be able to relate with a different reader. I consider myself more a brain than a beauty (especially in high Sschool), so if the book was only told by the beauty, Addy, I might not pick it up. The choice of four separate personalities narrating the book gives the possibility of many different students picking up and enjoying the book.

The four characters—Cooper, Addy, Bronwyn, and Nate—start off the book very stereotypical to the roles they’ve been assigned, but the book does a good job fleshing them out and making them three-dimensional characters. Each character also grows through the book. The circumstances of being investigated for murder changes them in some drastic ways. This is one of my favorite things about the book, because in real life, we are constantly changing and we don’t always see that in fiction. Sometimes the characters we read our static, but McManus’s characters grow to combat their challenges.

The book does have many themes that may be unsuitable for anyone outside of high school. It swears multiple times; several f words. There are many students being bullied by their peers due to a gossip app and blog called “About That.” There is some violence. One of the characters is a drug dealer and he talks about those that use drugs. There are several sexual situations in the book; nothing too graphic, but enough description that you know what happened. There is an abusive relationship in the form of emotional manipulation. And one boy does come out as homosexual in the book, so there is mention of LBGTQ themes.

Overall, One of Us is Lying is a thrilling mystery that keeps you hooked from beginning to end. It is full of great character development and storytelling. It is definitely only for high school students, I would say only for senior students due to mature themes. However, some of those mature themes may resonate with some students: if they are thinking of coming out or if they are facing an abusive relationship. Sometimes fiction can help those facing a difficult decision come to a resolution.

Review by Alyssa Carraway, Granite Educational Technology Dept.
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
Interest Level: 12th Grade

One of Us is Lying
Written by Karen M. McManus
Delacorte Press
361 pages
Release Date: May 30, 2017
A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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5 thoughts on “One of Us Is Lying”

  1. We just got a copy of this and the students that have read it love the book. One of my Advisory Board kids did a book talk on it and more kids (and at least one teacher) want to read it now. The first girl that read it is fairly conservative and while she said it had some language and questionable content, she felt it was OK for most junior high kids (probably 14 and older or mature 7th graders too) and I trust her.

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