I know what it’s like to tell yourself a lie so often that it becomes the truth – Karen M. McManus.
The first thing that intrigued me about this book, as with most books I suppose, was the title. Books with lies as the focus always entertain me. They are twisted, compulsive and there is almost always a plot to try and figure out. The second thing that caught my eye was the word murder. I am a fan of anything crime-related, thrillers and trying to guess whodunnit. I am like the geek, Bronwyn, in that matter. Throughout the story, it is her who tries to make sense of the entire scenario with her post-its and her theories. It is in her nature, but is murder too?
A cross-over of The Breakfast Club, Law & Order and Gossip Girl is how I would describe this book with a wave of my hand. Five students from different social groups head to detention together. Bronwyn, the geek; Cooper, the jock; Nate, the criminal; Addy, the princess and Simon, the outsider. They are virtual strangers despite being in the same year at school. One thing only unites them. They have never been on About That, a gossip app Simon created about the school, or rather, the people in school. He is the more sociopathic version of Gossip Girl. Little do they know that fifteen minutes after their arrival in detention, they will become more interlinked than ever before as the rest of the world watches them, stares at them, makes their worlds turn upside down and their futures ruined messes.
Simon dies in that detention. The police are calling it murder. Everyone in that room has a secret they have been keeping and those secrets were about to get out, but who is capable of killing their schoolmate?
I have to admit, my first guess was correct. I changed my mind a couple of time and rolled through a few different suspects; if I had stuck to my guns, I’d have been right all along. However, that is why this novel by Karen M. McManus is such a compelling one. She gives each of the characters motive, and despite it only being 358 pages long, I feel like I know every single character inside-out. That is a miracle sometimes with debuts. Some authors tend to waffle and on occasion there is too much filled air that means nothing to the story, or to me. Nevertheless, through the four points of view (Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate), I truly feel like I know their personalities, their goals and their weaknesses; how they want to be seen and how they portray themselves. Imagine each character takes roughly a quarter of the book, that is 90 pages for one character. Ninety. That is nothing in terms of characterisation. McManus is a seriously good writer for sucking me into all of their lives equally and making me pray none of them committed murder.
The friendship blossoms between the four suspects. They turn to each other out of necessity: nobody else knows exactly what they are going through apart from each other. The necessity turns into something more; a kindling of friendship that holds a fierce protectiveness no matter the cost and the unlikeliness of being friends with someone outside of their usual “clique”, then enjoying their company more than those they had naturally clicked with in the high school norms of society. I guess it comments on the social aspect of teenagers that continues – that we all fall into groups and never really leave them until after high school, or even later than that.
As with all young adult, there is a little bit of romance in One Of Us Is Lying which always tugs on my heartstrings because I am a sucker for teenage romance and there is nothing anybody can do about it. I live for it.
One Of Us Is Lying is a brilliant debut that comments on the depths of society and high school as well as how damaging social media can be to anyone, especially teenagers who live every second of their lives trying to be accepted by everyone both online and offline. Nowadays, it is so much harder, even from when I was a teenager. “Back in my day”, Myspace and Bebo were the go-to sites and I didn’t feel the inundation of pressure to be on it every second of every day. I can’t even remember when my phone started to connect to the internet properly, leaving the internet-roaming hours to after school only. These days, if you don’t have Instagram or SnapChat, even as young as eleven or twelve, you are classed as an outsider, and that’s just wrong. It is so harmful to any child which is why I think this book should be read by young adults everywhere. Teenagers need to acknowledge the depths of their words, and understand that they can have an everlasting effect on someone, even when it is done from behind a screen.
McManus’s debut also illustrates mental health – an extremely important topic that more books need to portray in order for readers to accept that it is a part of everyday life; that people should be open and honest and talk about their emotions, their feelings and their traumas. Not everything is as it seems. This is an ongoing theme throughout this book which may speak louder about the other themes which are unsaid for the majority of the story.
I strongly urge people to read this book. Not only is it a fantastic murder mystery that brings together four lives, it is also an important book about the world we all live in nowadays, whether we like it or not.
Love, Faye xo