“I guess we’re almost friends now, or as friendly as you can get when you’re not one hundred percent sure the other person isn’t framing you for murder.”
Happy Monday All!
The last Monday of January in fact. Don’t know about you, but that month absolutely flew by for me!
I finished One of Us is Lying earlier today, the debut novel of Boston based author Karen McManus. This one had been on my TBR pile for a while now. It’s been on the New York Times Bestseller list for weeks, and has often been described as a murderous reimagining of the 1985 movie, The Breakfast Club.
In One of Us is Lying, five classmates at Bayview High School enter detention on a seemingly run of the mill Monday, but only four of them walk back out. Simon, creator of the notorious school gossip app that every student fears seeing their worst secrets published on, is the victim.
The rest of the group is comprised of: Bronwyn, the straight-A student who has never even been in detention before. Nate, the school criminal on probation for drug dealing. Addy, the blonde, beautiful and popular homecoming princess. And Cooper, the hotshot baseball player who seems destined for a college scholarship and the big leagues.
At first, it seems Simon’s death could have been a tragic accident. But when it emerges that he had found out some dirt on the others in that detention room that he planned to post on his app the following day, suspicion immediately falls on what becomes known as the “Bayview Four”. Undoubtedly, they all have secrets…but just how far are any of them prepared to go to keep them hidden? Could any of them be capable of murdering Simon to ensure their own sins stay buried?
Firstly, the nod to the characters of the aforementioned Breakfast Club is clear from the outset. In that film there was a criminal, a princess, a brain, an athlete and a basket case. Here there is a criminal, a beauty queen, a brain, an athlete and an outcast. Some similar, but some different also, which is interesting!
I really loved the structure of this book. The story plays out from the alternating points of view of the four suspects in Simon’s murder. As such, all four are unreliable narrators and you are immediately aware that these characters might seem like they’re being truthful, but also aware that they will be looking to paint themselves in an innocent light to hide something darker. It’s an interesting way of setting up the story, because you as the reader has to pay close attention to every little detail of these alternating view points, because even something seemingly small and inconsequential could be the key to exposing a murderer.
While I liked this structure, I also had a slight issue with it in the beginning. The narrative is quite fast paced, and does jump often between the four main characters. Sometimes I found myself having to stop myself and think which character viewpoint I was currently experiencing, because something may have happened or come up in the previous one that holds your attention there. Now, this was minimal (and likely an issue with my own attention span in the beginning or something) but I thought it was something worth noting.
On another note, I thought the book was a great eye-opener to the struggles that many teenagers have to go through now in the age of social media, the pressure to succeed and an ever increasing lack of privacy. One particular character goes through a harrowing time when something extremely personal is leaked about them, and it it heart wrenching to read the taunts and jeers they endure because of it. Another strives for popularity all the while losing who they really are, while another is so afraid of failure they are driven to do something that was previously seen as way out of character.
I’ve always said that the best Young Adult books will have enough to satisfy their core audience, but also have something in it that older readers can appreciate too. McManus poses many questions for the reader to contemplate in the telling of her story: how far would you go to keep a secret? When it’s all said and done, who are your true friends? Is bending the rules ok to help you advance in something? Should you change who you are for love? OOUIL may seem like another teen novel on the surface, but it trusts its reader with the harsh realities without sugar coating them, and is all the better for it!
Perhaps my only complaint is in the books ending. It looks as if the author is going to end on a bittersweet note, rather than the cliche happy ending for all. I love when authors take it somewhere unexpected so was happy with this when I read it. Then I turned the page, and an epilogue undid all of this and sees two characters given their happy ending. Is it a bad thing? Ultimately, no, because the book was good all the way through, and there is supposedly a sequel to this story coming out in January 2020, so maybe there is a reason for this seemingly last minute change of heart!
Lastly, you might have heard that a TV series based on the book is in the works at the E! network. I think this could be cool if they do it as a one off, 10 episode, event type series. Rather than going the Pretty Little Liars route and dragging it out for 7 seasons. Or like what they are doing with 13 Reasons Why, which should have ended after the second season and never been given the go ahead for a third!
When I read books, I often imagine what it will look like if it were adapted and who would be a good fit for the characters. With this book, I had a pretty clear idea in my head as to who should play the main five when this is eventually cast. Here they are:
Isabella Gomez. Best known for playing Elena Alvarez on the Netflix series One Day at a Time. Bronwyn is Colombian/Irish, Gomez is Colombian.
Logan Shroyer. Best known for playing the teenage version of Kevin Pearson on NBC’s This is Us. I immediately pictured this guy when Cooper is introduced in the book, he just seems the perfect fit for the character!
Natalie Alyn Lind. Another one I instantly had in mind for this character, she’s best know for playing Lauren Strucker on The Gifted, Fox’s spin off of the X-Men film franchise.
Bryce Cass. An up-and-comer, he had his big break last year in the second season of 13 Reasons Why, playing the role of Cyrus.
Asa Butterfield. Child star with a lot under his belt already, from Nanny McPhee to Ender’s Game, and most recently in the Netflix hit Sex Education. He’d make a perfect Simon!
Have you read One of Us is Lying? What did you think of it? Are you excited for the series? And what do you think of the casting suggestions above? Let me know who you would cast instead below!
If you haven’t read it yet…happy reading!!