Do you like your YA contemporaries with a little murder mystery on the side? Then be sure to get your hands on One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus.
On Monday afternoon, five students walk into detention. But only four walk out. Simon, the outcast, is dead. And the other four detention attendees are all suspects, after all Simon was the creator of their school’s notorious gossip app and on Tuesday, he was going to spill all their little secrets.
The idea for One of Us Is Lying came to McManus when “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, the famous closing song from the 80’s cult classic , came on the radio.
“The phrase ‘, with murder’ popped into my head, and the idea started to take shape. I’ve always loved closed-door mysteries, and I spent a few days thinking about how you could commit a crime in a classroom without anyone realizing what had happened. Then I started wondering why you would do it, and the four characters began to take shape.”
One of Us Is Lying revolves predominantly around the story of the four suspects in the death of their classmate, Simon, or – as the media likes to call them – “The Bayview Four.”
Just as the characters from are known by their stereotypes, so are McManus’s characters. There’s Brownyn, the brain; Addy, the princess; Nate, the criminal; Cooper, the athlete, and Simon, the outcast. But each character is more than their high school stereotype.
Brownyn is “disciplined, ambitious, and loyal.”
Cooper is “dutiful, sensitive, and competitive.”
Nate is “charismatic, protective, and calculating.”
Addy is “social, insecure, and passionate.”
Simon is “arrogant, creative, and contradictory.”
And true to the inspiration, the students are all assigned an essay during their time in detention. Their teacher, Mr. Avery, expects them to write 500 words on why technology is ruining American high schools. For those who share the same idea about modern technology as Mr. Avery, writing a novel so intrinsically linked with technology is a hard sell. But for McManus, the story wouldn’t have been the same without it.
“When you’re writing about contemporary teens you have to reflect their reality — and most have grown up in world saturated with technology and social media. Technology doesn’t have to be as big a focal point in every YA book as it is in One of Us Is Lying, but it would be tough to leave it out and still feel true to life.”
Just as in real life, there are both positive and negative impacts of technology in the lives of these students.
“Technology brings characters together, but it also exposes their secrets. And in the age of social media, once a secret is out, it’s everywhere,” said McManus.
For those who devour One of Us Is Lying in one sitting, McManus recommended other suspenseful, contemporary mysteries for readers.
“Anything by Kara Thomas —The Darkest Corners is my favorite recent YA thriller, and Little Monsters, due out in July, is just as good. The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich has one of the best premises of the year: two boys who are part of a secret spy organization compete for the affection of girl, but end up falling for one another. And A Psalm for Lost Girls, by Katie Bayerl, is both gorgeously written and wonderfully suspenseful. ”
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