This was a book where the premise hooked me from the start. Five high-school seniors—a nerd, a jock, a rebel, a princess, and an outsider—are in detention together. One of them is murdered, but only someone in the room could have done it. I saw it on an amazon ad, and although it is not my usual genre, I flipped immediately to my kindle app and got the sample. By the time the sample was over, I was dying to know who did it.
The book is told through the perspective of the four surviving students: Bronwyn, the overachieving smart one; Cooper, the baseball star; Nate, the bad boy on probation for selling drugs; and Addy, the popular girl glued to her boyfriend’s hip. Each of them had motive. The victim was Simon, the loner outsider, who ran a notorious gossip app which had ruined students’ lives—and he was about to post an update with secrets that every suspect wanted to keep hidden.
The book is told through 1st person perspective throughout. Although each new scene is marked with the POV’s name (and the date, which I ignored entirely) it is a little difficult to keep track sometimes. Yet each character is compelling and sympathetic, especially as much of the narrative revolves around the investigation and how it ruins the lives of each suspect and those around them. I identified most with Bronwyn, having been an overachieving nerd myself in high school, but I think I enjoyed Addy’s and Cooper’s narratives the most.
The last time I read a book in this sort of ‘high school thriller’ genre (Premeditated by Josin McQuien), I figured out the (frankly obvious) twist about halfway through, which dampened my enthusiasm for it. One of Us Is Lying kept me on my toes. I did guess the culprit correctly by the end, but more because my mind was whirling trying to figure out every single way each of them could have done it rather than anything else. What’s more, the solution doesn’t feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. Hints are there throughout, and the build up to the narrative climax means that is also a satisfying solution.
The whole book is well-written (or at least, I was engaged enough that I didn’t notice the writing!) and very well plotted (I’m sort of into story structure, and this one hit plot points exactly where I would expect). There are a number of different subplots that feed into the main narrative very well. The inevitable romance plot is probably the most clichéd, but is enjoyable nonetheless because the characters make it believable. There is an LGBTQ element to one of the character’s narratives that I thought really rounded out that character arc and also fit well with the high school genre as something that some teens would struggle with. But most interesting to me—and, knowing the Pajiba audience, I suspect would be also to many of the readers here—is a narrative thread that pulled more weight than it initially suggested: the idea of entitlement (and especially male entitlement), and how toxic such a thing can be.
I’ve tried my best to avoid spoilers and giving anything away, and I highly recommend the book to anyone who wants a quick and engaging read! I read 60% of it (thanks, Kindle) in one evening, and my subconscious was going all night trying to figure out the solution. Luckily, I’m on holiday so I was able to wake up and finish it by breakfast.