One Of Us Is Lying

One Of Us Is Lying was written by Karen M McManus and first published in 2017. It is a mystery novel set in an American high school, where four students find themselves suspected of murdering one of their classmates. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of McManus’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Bronwyn is a diligent student with high hopes of getting into Yale. Cooper is a brilliant pitcher who is already been scouted for several baseball scholarships. Addison is the beautiful homecoming queen with a perfect boyfriend. Nate is a known drug dealer, one slip-up away from being sent to juvie. Simon is the notorious editor of the school’s gossip app.

All five students find themselves in detention when banned mobile phones are planted in their bags before a spot check. While the students believe themselves to be victims of a practical joke, things take a sinister turn as Simon suddenly goes into anaphylactic shock and dies in the room. While it looks to be a tragic accident, it turns out that Simon’s water had been spiked with peanut oil – something that he was deathly allergic to.

As no one else could have entered the room, it seems clear that one of the four others must have poisoned him. Suspicion grows as it is discovered that Simon had dirt on each of them and was planning on making it public. As Simon is renowned for always being right, it’s clear that none of the suspects are as clean as they first seemed. Every one of them hides a secret, yet would any of them be prepared to kill to protect it?

One Of Us Is Lying has an incredibly simple premise. Five students enter a room but only four leave. Although each of the suspects profess their innocence, it quickly becomes apparent that none of them are being entirely truthful. The remainder of the story is told from the perspective of four potentially unreliable narrators, each of whom have good reason to hate the victim. While I’m not generally a fan of books with multiple narrators, in this instance it really worked. All of the protagonists have very different voices and it was interesting to see the way in which they each perceived their situation.

I’m going to be very careful with the rest of this review, as I don’t want to spoil this novel for you. One Of Us Is Lying is a story that’s full of twists and turns, with every character hiding layers of hidden depths. As you might already be able to tell, the title of this book is actually a little misleading. There isn’t just one liar in this novel – almost every major character in the book has something to hide. In fact, virtually everyone in the school seems to have a good reason for wanting to Simon dead. The creep’s gossip app is bullying of the worse kind, ending countless relationships and even driving a girl to attempt suicide.

One of the things that kept me reading was curiosity. For the most part, it wasn’t simply the fact that I wanted to know who was the killer. I was just morbidly curious what the protagonists were so desperate to hide. While not all of the secrets were sinister, they were all big enough to have serious impact on the teenagers’ lives, ranging from damaging family relationships to uncovering illegal activities.

In terms of a mystery, the novel certainly kept my attention. While I did predict the ultimate twist quite early on, I must admit that I actually discounted it because it seemed so unlikely. My biggest gripe with this story was that all of the protagonists were a bit too likeable. What the novel was really lacking was a sense that anyone could be the killer. While characters did occasionally voice their suspicion about something one of their fellows did (querying things like how Nate knew about Simon’s allergy), they banded together to uncover the truth surprisingly quickly. I also think that the conclusion will divide readers. While it isn’t completely out there, I did personally find it to be a bit unsatisfying. Again, I don’t want to say more because I don’t want to spoil this book for you, but I do think that some readers will get more of a kick out of it than others.

The absolute best thing about this novel was the characters. At first, the protagonists felt like typical high school stereotypes. A jock, a nerd, a delinquent and the homecoming queen are all cookie-cutter characters that we’ve seen in hundreds of teen dramas before. However, the protagonists did develop beyond this as the story progressed. Each of them felt like very real teenagers. They came from different backgrounds, faced different pressures and responded to these in a convincing matter. Some writers really struggle to make teenagers sound like teenagers but McManus handled this perfectly.

The character with the best development was probably Addy. Her early chapters show a girl who is completely worn down. She is a doormat, so blinded by her desperation to keep her boyfriend that she can’t see that he’s an abusive douchebag. As the story progresses and she begins to see his violent side, she slowly finds the strength to sever her ties with him and find her independence. The other character of note was Cooper, the jock. He’s initially portrayed as being nice but a little dim but as the story progresses it becomes clear that there is far more to him than this.

This review is running a little short, but there isn’t an awful lot more I can say. All in all, One Of Us Is Lying is a very strong debut that kept me hooked from start to finished. The plot is full of twists and turns, and the characters are far deeper than you might initially think. I’m certainly going to be keeping an eye out for whatever McManus decides to write next.

One Of Us Is Lying can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. femaleinferno
    Jun 04, 2017 @ 22:21:29

    Great review! *click* added ‘One of Us is Lying’ to my shopping cart.


  2. Trackback: The Sobeks 2017 – Part 2 | Arkham Reviews
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