It had been a while since I had adventured into another genre, and a long time since I tried reading a thriller. Since I was wanting to get into the genre more, I decided to have a look around the internet to see what would appeal to me. I found One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, a young adult thriller where five students enter detention, but only four come out alive. It sounded like a quick, fast paced plot of murder mystery, and I was hoping for lots of twists and turns to keep me intrigued.
It’s safe to say, I was not disappointed. Not only do you have the fast-paced thriller style of trying to find out who is the murderer, but you see such a development for all four main characters. You have Bronwyn, your typical geek in American high school society. Then you have Nate, the bad boy. Followed by Cooper, the jock who can get any girl he wants, and then Addy, the princess of the school. You have you stereotypical high schoolers, but the transformation that occurs from one fellow students death has you gripped.
The novel jumps straight in with the opening chapters consisting of meeting the four main characters in detention with Simon Kelleher, who dies within the first twenty pages of the book. Then it continues to follow how the four students are thrown into the deep end with being questioned about what truly happened. But I want to focus on all four character individually, as each had a heartbreaking story that followed this one day in detention.
First, let’s start with Bronwyn. In my opinion, she was hit the least out of the four. She kept her friends, and in fact she even gained more due to the circumstances. But no way did she have an easy ride. The amount of pressure she felt to gain her acceptance in the Ivy League schools, to result in her cheating on her chemistry tests in order to keep her grades high. To me, she did what anyone would do in that circumstances. An opportunity was given to her, and she took it in order to gain the future she has been brought up to have. Then when the story was leaked, she risked her entire future. But what I loved about her, was that she had this persona where she was going to not let anything throw her. The strength she had when questioned constantly by the police, to stand up for her sister who’s illness had taken it’s toll on the entire family. But to do all that, and stand by those she cared for and ensure justice was granted. I loved her character, and I felt like this was McManus giving us a version where probably a lot of readers could relate to in some way. I see myself more as Bronwyn, even if I don’t necessarily have the brains or the family background. But I would like to feel I would stand by those around me and not let anyone get away with anything unjustly.
Next, I want to go onto Addy, because, in my opinion, she got hit the most out of the four. She lost everything, all because she made one mistake. But the character development she went on was transformative. To go from the princess of the school, to realise she never really had true friends in the popular group was hard to read, but so riveting. The transformation she took after getting out of her relationship. To me, she cheated because she knew she needed to get away from Jake, but just didn’t want to admit it. The pressure she felt from her mum, that she had to have a nice boy to look after her. When, instead, Jake was nothing but nice. He was controlling, manipulative, and it just proved how dangerous he was with how his character developed. The best thing to happen to Addy was getting away from the toxic relationships in her life. Therefore, even though I felt I related more to Bronwyn, Addy was my favourite. To see her development, for her cutting her hair because she finally had the courage to do what she wanted. I also loved the sister relationship between her and Ashton, how she supported Addy and was the true maternal figure she needed. Yes, Addy’s life might have been flipped upside down due to everything, but the strength she gained from it all — I felt like she got the most transformation out of the four.
Now I want to go onto Cooper, for at the start, it did seem like he was getting an easy ride. Yes, he’s accused of drug use and that put his Baseball future at risk. But he had so many people supporting him, wanting to help and ensure his life before Simon’s death continued after the events. For a while, it did seem he was getting a free pass from it, but then McManus went in and threw the biggest curveball possible. Sure, there were constant hints that Cooper was keeping something else secret, something he was panicking that Simon had figured out, and it was so sad how he felt he had to keep it secret. But, again, like with Addy, it was almost a breath of fresh air for Cooper when it was revealed that he was gay. I hated reading how people changed and gossiped about it. No one should feel ashamed of who they are, or what gender they prefer. No one should be judged for their sexuality, and the fact that Cooper felt he had to hide it from everyone because of his future in Baseball puts into perspective how many people out there do stay in the dark because of fear. But I loved that once it was out, people did begin to show their support. First of all, it freed Cooper to be with the person he loved, but I did love how Nate, Addy and Bronwyn instantly stood by him, and that fact that Luis did too. But I also loved the development that Cooper’s ex-girlfriend Keely began to support him, and slowly his entire family began to understand. No one should be outed by that, and the contrast to how the Police were seen once this story came out was brilliant.
Finally, we have Nate, who took majority of the stick in the end. He had the toughest life before the events, and after, it almost seemed as if he was starting to get a turn around. He got true friends, he had his mum come back who was sober and wanting to try again, and of course he got a true relationship with Bronwyn. But it was entirely flipped when he was to take the fall for Simon’s death, all because he was seen as the scapegoat. McManus did a beautiful job with this character to prove that just because if someone’s background is rough, it doesn’t mean they will turn into a criminal. Sure, he sold drugs, which is illegal, but in his mind it was the only way to support himself and his dad. There are legal ways he could have tried, but with being surrounded by drugs and alcoholism his whole life, that was what he turned to. But it didn’t define his character, and when the blame was placed on him, I was there right with the others routing for them to get him out. But what I loved most about Nate’s character, was the development of trust from him. You could tell his background had shut him off, with the beginning having him only having a booty call and not really any true friends. But, slowly, with the help from Bronwyn, and his mother really wanting to make an effort — you could see him slowly beginning to open up and let people in. It did feel natural when he shut himself off after being arrested, but I did love the ending when he looked to be slowly opening up yet again.
Now I’ve gone through all four characters, now I want to get into the nit and grit of it all, because I was not expecting that ending. The entire time I was trying to figure out who had done it, how it had been accomplished with no one else in the room. But I was not expecting it to be…SPOILER…Simon himself. I will say, I just felt like Simon was an arsehole, and Jake alongside him for feeling that they wanted to take people down, but it did put into perspective how far someone could go for feeling so alone. In my opinion, no matter how far someone goes, no one deserves what happened to these four characters. Not to mention that Nate was used just because the girl Simon wanted had turned to him, and the other three had simply been mistakes that they were then having their lives thrown out because of it. But for a story, I just loved the whole twist on it all. And I especially loved that it was an outsider — Kris (Cooper’s boyfriend) —who actually pieced it altogether. But what a story, to see it all come together, for the pieces to add up. I had wondered about the car accident from the start, so that didn’t surprise me that it was involved. But a simple story Addy told Jake and then it being in the tumblr post, for him having known Addy cheated all that time and hadn’t shown it — that was disturbing, and to me, proved who truly deserved to take the fall for everything. But what a twist. It definitely got me in the mood to read more thrillers, to play the guessing game of what has happened. I defiantly will be picking up the sequel, and I am intrigued with anything McManus writes. Just, breathtaking!