McManus, Karen M. One of Us is Lying. Penguin Books, 2017.
I’ve noticed an emerging trend in Young Adult literature—the use of multiple narrators. I’ve seen this form completely flop if the speakers lack a unique voice or if the differing stories are too scattered and lack cohesion.
Karen McManus’ One of Us is Lying is an excellent example of an author who uses multiple narrators effortlessly.
Detention is full one fateful afternoon at Bayview High School; Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy, and Nate all find themselves held after school for an offense they didn’t commit. Also staying for detention is Simon, the infamous creator of About That, a Bayview based gossip website. As Simon delivers his usual quips and insults, he takes a swig of water and then collapses to the floor in anaphylactic shock. The four remaining students frantically search for his EpiPen and summon help to no avail. Simon is transported to the hospital where he is later pronounced dead.
When the police suspect foul play, the newly coined “Bayview Four” are prime suspects. Particularly damning is a queued-up entry to About That revealing secrets belonging to all four students. The murderer was someone in the room—but who? Was it Bronwyn, the studious perfectionist who may not be as squeaky clean as she seems? Or Addy, beautiful and popular and nursing her own share of guilt? How about Cooper, a burgeoning baseball star who is desperate to hide his true identity? Or Nate, the Bayview bad boy with an extensive rap sheet?
McManus is an expert in characterization. Each member of the Bayview Four is unique and deals with their share of hardship. Particularly poignant is the breaking of stereotypes. Addy, away from the influence of her controlling boyfriend, becomes athletic and independent. Nate, a drug dealer who doesn’t seem to think deeply about anyone or anything, dotes on his pet lizard. This book serves as a good reminder that, no matter how idyllic someone’s life might seem on the outside, no one truly knows what another person is dealing with.
One of the few flaws in One of Us is Lying is found in many other books that elect to use multiple narrators: the amount of characters can quickly become confusing. There were several characters I confused throughout my read—Leah and Jenae, for example, or Luis and Jake.
Excerpts from One of Us is Lying would be a great way to teach the characteristics of mystery and literary suspense. Students who are looking for a well-written novel that keeps them engrossed from start to finish will relish McManus’ novel.