This is a YA novel that doesn’t disappoint. It was on a list of 24 Books That Make You Stay Up Late Reading, and while I don’t agree with all the choices, this one had me literally reading till the early hours this morning. Which recalled Stephen King’s devilish desire to mess with his readers lives because of “the gotta, as in: “I know I should be starting supper now…but I gotta see how this ends. I gotta know will she live” (Stephen King, Misery, Good Reads).
And McManus’ tantalising debut novel achieves the ‘gotta’ with that rare quality of keeping the reader engrossed in all of the diametrically opposed characters whilst continually guessing – which one of them did it already! And kudos to McManus as I was sure it was someone else up till the end.
“On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention…Only one of them never makes it out of that classroom alive. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. He died on a Monday. But that Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about the other four high-profile classmates in detention with him. Now, all four of them are suspects in his murder.” Karen McManus
Just this short blurb alone is enough to tempt reluctant readers, which is a huge selling point for me. If I can entice someone to read then mission accomplished!
The concept of One of Us is Lying also translates into fantastic pitch for a television show. And this was something I couldn’t shake off as I was reading it, that there was a desire to be cinematically appealing. I don’t know why this should be a critique per say, as both mediums tempt and manipulate the reader, but a feeling none the less. I could visualise the series as a lighter, and less dramatic, 13 Reasons Why. And surprise, surprise it has been picked up.
The novel has frequently been described as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars. I see the connection with both, more so with The Breakfast Club, and McManus agrees it was the original inspiration for the novel, but I think the novel goes further, especially in light of Molly Ringwald’s retrospective analysis of the movie. Through McManus’s choice of multiple perspectives we observe the characters as they all develop and grow throughout the course of events. They are all well-rounded and so much more than their overly simplistic stereotypes, especially Bronwyn the overachiever, and Nate the local hoodlum. But it is of course Addy who shines as the girl who literally cuts off her ties to her life as the controlled socialite, who was only ever seen in relation to her popular boyfriend, and who starts to shine as a confident girl with her own distinct personality and talents.
The only character I couldn’t quite empathise with was Cooper, I enjoyed the quirk of his Southern drawl when he was stressed and I was rooting for him when he appeared to be one of the few in his circle to have a sense of decency. But his angst, which I had anticipated, didn’t feel quite as developed or as real as say Nate’s. But a minor quibble.
The question has been asked, is this novel appropriate for Middle School readers, and I would say yes, but for level-headed Year 8 readers and upwards, as there is occasional explicit language, discussion of drugs and LGBT themes, which requires a degree of maturity.
I am very much looking forward to McManus’ next thriller mystery YA novel, Two Can Keep a Secret, coming out February 5th 2019.