A brain, an athlete, a princess, a criminal, and a “basket case” walk into detention — but only the first four make it out alive.
While The Breakfast Club — what Karen M. McManus’ One of Us Is Lying will rightly be likened to most — saw its characters grow and evolve over the span of their few shared hours at school together on a Saturday, what links McManus’ foursome is the fact that they’re all suspects in Simon Kelleher’s death. And thanks to McManus shifting narratives between the four murder suspects, readers have front-row seats to the twists and changes that befall the Yale-aiming Bronwyn, potential baseball star Cooper, popularity magnet Addy, and horror-loving bad boy Nate as more details about the socially shunned (and depressed) Simon’s self-created high school gossip app About That continue to emerge. The book takes a page out of the Pretty Little Liars playbook in this regard, and it’s one that unfolds effectively as each member of the core four has their secrets come out without their knowledge.
McManus knows how to plot out a mystery, but the real charm of the novel lies in the journey each of the characters goes on as the writer deftly avoids stereotypes and adds nuance to her characterizations while still managing to plant the occasional red herring. Even Simon, the victim at the center of the whole case, is a fully realized character — not bad for someone who readers will only interact with briefly.
If there is one hitch in this pretty stellar summer read, it’s that certain secrets could have been revealed a little earlier in order to spend more time with the thusly changed character. But even that is the tiniest of nitpicks. So make room for One of Us Is Lying in your bags, because this is one carry-on you won’t want to put down. B+