McManus’ Young Adult crime novel is a gripping and enjoyable read that intrigues right from the get-go. The novel follows four American high school students: Bronwyn Rojas, Cooper Clay, Addy Prentiss and Nate Macauley as they become suspects for the murder of their fellow student, Simon Kelleher. By accompanying the classic ‘whodunnit’ plotline with the themes of romance, friendships, sexuality and self-discovery, One of Us Is Lying is an ideal novel for first-time crime readers because it pays attention to the multiple other motifs that YA readers know and love.
As many YA novels do, One of Us Is Lying switches point of view between the four main characters from chapter to chapter. Personally, I always enjoy when authors write in this structure because it allows you, as the reader, to see each character’s perspective and therefore their character development first-hand. Furthermore, it is both ideal and highly effective for a McManus’ novel because each character is a suspect so by them each narrating their own side of the story, there is no bias so you really get to formulate your own opinions and ideas in regards to who murdered Simon. The way that each character comments on their own situation, as well as each other’s, contributes to the overall reading experience because you feel involved just like when speculating school gossip and rumours.
Karen McManus has created a narrative that strikes a wonderful balance between fiction and reality because the clichés are there in the personas of the nerd, the outsider, the bad boy, the popular girl and the jock but the four protagonists and the individual situations quickly become much more authentic and three dimensional. The novel is also clever because, from my experience of it, you warm up to Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate because McManus has crafted characters that are relatable and feel like real teenagers, making it difficult to believe any of them murdered Simon. However, once the killer is revealed it seems too obvious for words and you think, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!”.
With short chapters, this novel is perfect for a quick read before heading out for the day (or in the current climate, before turning on the laptop for online lessons) but is equally enjoyable for a mega reading session in the evening because it is a story of pace and momentum that keeps moving, whether that’s by characters, plot or both. If you do decide to pick up this bestseller, there is the risk that by the time you put it back down, you’ll have finished it because, as many crime novels do, it evokes the attitude of ‘just one more chapter!”. Ultimately, I would recommend One of Us Is Lying to crime novel lovers and novices alike because it underpins messages of self-respect, kindness and honesty, along with being a compelling murder mystery, of course!