Last year, at my college reunion, I was lucky enough to spend some time catching up with Karen McManus. After we exchanged the usual pleasantries, she told me something unbelievably interesting: she had signed a deal with Delacourte/Random House, and had a YA book coming out in 2017. Amazing, right?
So, I waited patiently for the book to come out. And the buzz was crazy, so I started to wait sort of impatiently.
And finally, I stopped by my favorite local bookstore and bought it the week it came out. I got the last copy — the store told me that it had been flying off the shelves. And why not, when you tout it as THE BREAKFAST CLUB WITH MURDER!!!
One of Us is Lying is the story of five High School Juniors who show up in detention together one day. There’s Bronwyn, the valedictorian, on the fast-track to the Ivy League; Nate, the drug dealer with a criminal past; Cooper, the star baseball pitcher; Addy, the beauty, and half of the school’s “golden couple”; and Simon, the outcast who runs the school’s secret gossip app and loves to publicize the things that most people hope to keep under wraps — including the secrets of the other four kids in the classroom. The five students have little in common, other than that they were all caught with phones in a “no-phone classroom”. All five claim that they were framed and that the phones weren’t theirs, but the teacher doesn’t care and sits them down to write an essay about how technology is ruining their generation.
And then one of them dies.
And that’s all in the first chapter.
Of course, the remaining students are immediately seen as suspects in the questionable death. We learn what everyone is trying to hide, and why. We see the different ways that the media, the school administration, the parents, the classmates, and the police manage new details and information as it comes out, and how it affects the four kids left standing.
I grew attached to the characters, and got so nervous about which one might end up being the guilty party (SPOILER: I was especially concerned about Bronwyn, who I liked a lot. My oldest kid is named Bronwyn — you may know her as Bunnybean — so I couldn’t help but imagine her as the character in the book. Stressful, indeed!), I had to keep putting it down and taking a break. But that isn’t a criticism! I kept changing my mind about who I thought was guilty and who might be telling the truth, but I didn’t guess WHODUNIT or how or why.
I also enjoyed seeing the remaining four kids deal with the mistakes that they had made and face the consequences, for better or for worse. High school kids (and I know, because I was one once) can be idiots. They make mistakes, and don’t always admit to them or see how their mistake might potentially impact everyone around them. It was refreshing to see each kid deal with their own issues and manage their next steps, some with the support of friends, some with family, and some on their own.
I’m happy to report that this debut lived up to its hype. With a murder mystery that kept me stressed out and guessing until almost the very end (seriously, this book STRESSED. ME. OUT.), I tore through it and was disappointed when it was over.
Karen recently tweeted that she has a new book due out next year. I can’t wait to pre-order it.
4 1/2 stars.