Review Blog

May 30 2017

One of us is lying by Karen M. McManus

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Penguin, 2017. ISBN 9780141375632
(Age: 15+) Recommended. Mystery. Five students are sent to detention for having a phone in class. Only four walk out. One of them lies dead from anaphylactic shock, having drunk water that was contaminated by peanut oil. All of them have secrets that they wanted hidden from Simon, the dead boy who had a vicious gossip app that was followed avidly by everyone in the school. And his death wasn't an accident - who is telling lies and who is the murderer?
McManus has written a very suspenseful, high interest mystery with all the ingredients that readers could wish for to maintain their interest. The four student suspects' characters and secrets are gradually revealed as each gives their story in separate chapters, showing their strengths and weaknesses and their perspective on what has happened. Bronwyn is the brain and normally wouldn't break a rule; Addy is the homecoming princess, who clings to Jake, Mr Popular; Nate is the bad boy on probation for dealing drugs and Cooper is the all-star athlete. When it is revealed that Simon intended to reveal their secrets they all become suspects and as the police focus on one and then another, their secrets are revealed and they decide to gang together to get to the truth.
Seasoned mystery readers may not be confused by the many red herrings and work out the end, or at least part of it, but the novel is engrossing and the suspense continues to build right to the very end. The characters are well rounded and not just the stereotypes that could be expected from the brain, the jock, the bad boy and the princess, and the plot is twisted enough to keep most readers totally enthralled.
This was a quick read and it is easy to see it being produced as a movie. It has all the elements to attract teens, a theme of the problems of social media, a little romance and a strongly plotted mystery.
Pat Pledger

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