One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus

It’s clear that One of Us is Lying was trying to be the teenage answer to acclaimed domestic mysteries such as Big Little Lies and Gone Girl. While it did succeed in creating a fun mystery in the young adult space, it definitely falls short of being a memorable and lasting entry to the genre.

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.

My main issue with this book was it’s poor character management. While a bigger cast of core characters can be fun, it requires a lot of plotting and balance that this book sorely lacked. Most of the five characters were pretty bland and didn’t have a lot of personality, not to mention that they weren’t used very effectively. All five characters should have been utilized to keep the reader on their toes and to maintain more of a whodunit vibe. Sadly, at least two of the characters could have been cut with little impact to the story, which really speaks to their poor character definition and lack of contribution to the plot.

The plot itself of this book is nothing new, but it’s still a fun ride. It has a strong Pretty Little Liars vibe – the main plot focuses on an anonymous figure releasing the group’s darkest secrets. The story is mildly twisty, and is a decent mystery – though it is easy to guess the ending. Further, the mystery was pretty forgettable. I’m writing this review about a week after I read the book, and already the details are getting pretty fuzzy. One notable thing about the plot was that it was largely driven by cliches. Each character represented an overused trope from every popular high school movie, and all of their fears/secrets/motivations, were just as cliche. Any one of the characters could have been swapped out for a different cliche driven character with little impact to the book overall.

This book strives to be taken seriously and clearly wants to be considered in the league of modern mystery giants such as Gone Girl or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It fell leagues short of that bar, but would still be a decent (and easy) read if you wanted a lighthearted mystery. 3/5

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