Title: One of Us Is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus (Goodreads Author)
Expected Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press/Random House
Rating: ★★★/3 Stars
Genre: YA Contemporary
One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.
Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
I received an electronic advance reader copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
I quite enjoyed how this book set up to portray how teens settle for the stereotypes attached to their labels of being a nerd, a princess, a jock, and a criminal. They did come off to me as very shallow at first but I didn’t let it bother me, I knew there would be more to them than their labels and I was right.
The pacing of this book is slow but I liked it a lot because it gave me so much exposition of the characters and their relationships. The four: Bronwyn, Nate, Addy and Cooper have great support systems that did somewhat at times fall apart because of their secrets coming out to the public but also have one another and family to help them reach a very (to me) satisfying point of maturity.
I thought I’d mention what I liked about their development one character at a time, so let’s start with Addy who had the best character development, in my opinion.
Addy was set up as the shallow empty-brained princess who let her boyfriend walk all over her and even control what she wore. My heart squeezed when she told her sister, “no, he is not controlling me,” when he was controlling her. What I liked a lot was how her older sister Ashton never gave up on helping Addy come to a point where she took her own agency and let her voice out. I also liked how vulnerable Addy is. She didn’t settle into that role of weakness however and blossomed very nicely throughout the story. Besides a controlling boyfriend, Addy’s been raised by a mother who put it into Addy’s mind that her worth was equal with a man who’d take care of her. This ideal was slowly and effectively destroyed as Addy grew more and more defiant by how everyone perceived her.
Warning: Addy’s secret involved infidelity, so if that is someone’s pet peeve, I’d warn you about it.
Bronwyn was the brains who come from a Colombian father and white mom who raised her to be the very best. There was definitely pressure on Bronwyn’s shoulders, which she choosed to take all of, because her younger sister Maeve got diagnosed with cancer early on and left her somewhat vulnerable. Hence Bronwyn didn’t want Maeve to feel the need to be perfect as long as she was. Bronwyn’s arc was more about accepting how her secret was so inconsequential but led a nasty chain of reactions. She also had a good relationship with her sister and her family was very involved. They supported her and were at times tough with her but it showed that they did it purely out of love. I quite liked Bronwyn’s point of view especially since it had a big part of it deal with her revived friendship with Nate.
Nate was the third of our foursome and he’s the criminal. Raised by a bipolar mom (whose diagnosis messed her up but I liked that there was actual talk of her getting help and getting on her feet) and a dad who turned into alcohol when said mom ran off. Nate resulted to a life of crime just to live which kind of made sense since poverty is shit. Nate and Bronwyn had some sort of classmates relationship as kids and it got rekindled when they got caught in the same web of Simon’s mysterious death. His point of view surprised me the most because he tried to come off as gruff and DON’T GIVE A DAMN but he actually cared a lot and stood up for the other three in the group… My murder son… Who I’m totally not biased about.
Last but not least was our charming southern boy Cooper who’s the jock. Cooper was gay. That’s not a spoiler because his sexual orientation, or anyone’s for the matter, should not be a plot twist. I kind of got the sense that it was intended to be used in such a way in this book so that’s why I’m deducting half a star from the rating because of it. I totally read how Cooper was disinterested in his girlfriend. I was peeved that I had to read about him saying anything about his sexuality till chapter 20… which was ridiculous, it was so obvious he had someone who he cared for… Why did it matter that it was a boy? The story gives you reasons that he’s a jock and his father is a homophobe who would not react very well. I get why Cooper was closeted by I don’t get why his sexuality was a big secret. I thought it was unnecessary. My other issue with Cooper’s arc was that he was also outed and that was so shitty to me that I got really angry and considered giving this book absolutely no more than one star. However! This outing was called out by the characters (all three other point of views), and by another gay man who wassort of a celebrity, and I find that satisfying. The outing scene was not treated very lightly, his life did get somewhat dented but come on he’s a white middle class boy who’s good at sports, being gay couldn’t have ruined his life entirely… But still, it was shitty that he got outed and I was glad to see the characters point out how terrible that was for Cooper.
The cast was strong. There were family members, friends outside of the four and also love interests who seemed well-rounded enough to keep me interested.
However, we come to another ugly issue beside Cooper’s sexual orientation: Simon. It was heavily implied that Simon did something extra hideous and one of the reason beside him feeling entitled to things he didn’t get, was that he was depressed. Now this gave me all kinds of bad vibes. I did not like Simon at all even when I found out he was depressed. I did not sympathize with him. He had a nasty app that was very similar to Gossip Girl which blasted everyone’s secrets. He himself outed a boy for cross-dressing and campaigned against a girl’s love life till the point where she attempted to commit suicide. Simon’s “reasoning” kind of felt a lot like 13 Reasons Why and the revenge a mentally ill character could take on others for being mean to them. I really wish that his mental illness was addressed in a better way and that he had more of a character than being the one who wanted to wreck havoc in the school.
Extra trigger warnings: mentions of suicide in somewhat of an explicit manner (verbal only, no descriptive images), physical assault, descriptive mention of contemplating school shootings, a gay boy’s sexual orientation being outed unintentionally by the police.
I just finished this book and I really want to hear more about people who have read this concerning my two points of worry: Cooper’s sexual orientation and Simon’s depression If you encounter any reviews that speak of these two issues, please link me in the comments.
This book comes out in 10 days and I’m a bit conflicted about recommending it. I would suggest borrowing it if you’re very careful but I don’t want any LGBT+ readers picking this up and getting hurt by the outing and the fact that Cooper’s sexuality was used as a plot twist. Also, I don’t want anyone with depression reading about a character who resulted to violence because of their depression. It personally did not hurt me because while the word was used to describe Simon, I didn’t think it truly was the motivation behind his action, it was rather his shitty personality. I just don’t like the attachment of the word depression with this guy. It further turns villains out of people with mental illness, I feel.
Over all, it had great character development arcs and a fairly interesting plot but my two big issues with it could harm other people since we really can’t be loose with what is healthy representation and what isn’t.
I feel like adding a little note: I am not bashing this book. I quite enjoyed it. The characters truly made me feel something good in the past two days I spent with my nose stuck in this eARC but these two issues I came across worried me and I wish I could have some other opinion on them so I won’t be doing this book injustice in case I was simply overreacting.
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