CATSS Critics: One of Us Is Lying

This entry has been published on October 15, 2021 and may be out of date.

One of Us Is Lying, by Karen McManus (YA FIC MCM)

Reviewed by Zoe R. (12th Grade)

“She’s a princess and you’re a jock,’ he says. He thrusts his chin toward Bronwyn, then at Nate. ‘And you’re a brain. And you’re a criminal. You’re all walking teen-movie stereotypes.”

Except, they aren’t. None of them are. In One of Us Is Lying, Karen McManus brings together five high school students—each, at first, resembling a common cliché—in after-school detention. The result? One of them is murdered, and the remaining four are prime suspects. Inspired by the Breakfast Club, with a criminal twist layered in, the story’s narratives alter between the four as they learn truths about each other, and acknowledge lies they’ve told about themselves.

The author is thorough in offering possible routes and red herrings, and while you may clue in on the results earlier on, the novel has far more to offer than a mystery. Its main strength may very well be something else entirely: The characters. The four protagonists hold their own secrets, strengths, weaknesses, pasts and side stories, fleshing them out beyond two-dimensional to becoming real. Their stories touch upon abusive relationships, drug usage, academic pressure, rumors and gossip, falling in love while drifting apart, finding new friends while losing old ones, and accepting parts of your identity while challenging other aspects of who you are said to be. All of this makes them relatable, and most of all, alive.

With these two core elements, as well as a simplistic, entertaining writing style, One of Us is Lying firmly stands as an engaging novel. It is not simply a mystery—it is a time capsule of how it feels to be young, to be flawed, and to be human.