Friday, December 1, 2017

Young Adult Fiction: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus just might be worth my time. I do not know how many times it I saw it on the New York Times Bestseller list before I finally added it on Goodreads. I also do not know what it was that made me ignore it for so long. The premise is interesting, it's YA, it has a decent rating...what was wrong with me?

The Situation: On a fairly regular Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High School have managed to score themselves some time in detention. It is a veritable The Breakfast Club situation with Bronwyn Rojas, the Brain; Addy Prentiss, the Beauty; Nate Macauley, the Criminal; Cooper Clay, the Athlete; and Simon Kelleher, the Outcast. All five go in, but only four come out alive. Simon goes into anaphylactic shock after taking a drink of water, and is taken to the hospital. Moments later, everyone is informed that he didn't make it and was pronounced dead. There is much suspicion as Simon had a severe peanut allergy, but all he did was drink water; all of the epipens were mysteriously missing from the nurse's office; it is later revealed that Simon's cup had peanut oil in it; and the epipen he usually keeps in his backpack was also missing. Oh, and there is also the small detail that Simon ran a gossip app that ruined many of his classmates' lives, and his next scheduled post was going to reveal secrets about the four people he was in detention with.

The Problem: High School is hard enough when you aren't being investigated for murder. But not only do the Bayview Four now have their lives under a microscope, but someone is still posting messages on Tumblr regarding the murder and the most likely suspects. Though Simon is no longer around to post to the app, someone is still spilling secrets, and insisting that not only were they in the room when it happened, but that they are the one responsible. Each one of the Bayview Four had a reason to hurt Simon, but so did everyone else in school. Everyone also has something they want to keep hidden, and Simon knew that. With more secrets coming to light with every passing day, and the police no closer to finding Simon's killer, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper realize they will have to figure things out for themselves, and hope they get to keep some secrets hidden in the process.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a young adult fiction novel in which the action begins in September, just after the semester begins, and ends before Thanksgiving. The first-person narrative switches between the four prime suspects as the time moves along. Only two of the Bayview Four can be said to be close, as Addy is dating Cooper's best friend, Jake. The two of them, along with Bronwyn, may have the most to lose from Simon's gossip, with Nate having the least. Nate already has a record, and reputation, although getting caught dealing again would land him in serious trouble. Naturally, a murder conviction wouldn't help either. Possibly the biggest theme of the book, if you can call it a theme, is that high school sucks and teenagers are awful. Also, being innocent until proven guilty seems to be something people just say but do not actually believe. And real friends are a precious resource. Going through a hard situation will quickly show you just how many you actually have.

My Verdict: This book is a crazy ride, but not so crazy that it becomes hard to follow or believe. A student ends up dead and of course everyone wants to know how and why. But it is absolutely nuts how quickly people are willing to turn on someone wants they attract the wrong kind of attention. I would attribute this to the whole high school sucks and teenagers are awful thing, but really, adults do it too. McManus' portrayal of just how quickly things can spiral seems painfully accurate. And even more painfully accurate is the character of Simon: A student who creates a gossip app and posts terrible things about people, all because he actually craves what these students have, and wants nothing more than to be the center of attention at Bayview High. He feels like he is owed something he never earned, and then dies because he went too far. Entitlement is a thing people. I highly recommend this book to all lovers of YA as well as murder mysteries.

Favorite Moment: When Addy's sister rents an apartment that has built-in bookshelves. It may or may not be my dream to have such a thing in my house one day.

Favorite Character: While I never would have guessed it at the beginning, Addy becomes my favorite character. At first she is the typical girl with the high school jock boyfriend that she can't stand to be separated from, but through some painful trials, she begins to get the hang of thinking for herself and choosing what kind of person she wants to be.

Recommended Reading: I recommend Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner. It may not be a murder mystery, but it is a YA novel that deals with death, secrets, and those who stick by you when times are tough.

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