Sunday, July 30, 2017

One Of Us Is Lying - Karen M. McManus



One Of Us Is Lying
Karen M. McManus
Delacorte Press

Young Adult

It begins like every clichéd teen movie does: in detention.  All the ‘types’ are there.  Bronwyn, the genius with all the extracirriculars, pointed straight at Yale; Addy, the pretty princess with no thoughts of her own;  Cooper, the star pitcher, whose biggest problem seems to be whether to take a college scholarship, or go straight to baseball after graduation; and Nate, the outlier, the bad boy with a juvenile record for dealing drugs.  Also serving detention today is Simon, the guy who runs an app that reports all the (remarkably accurate) gossip at Bayview High.  During detention, Simon takes a drink of water and falls to the floor, convulsing.  He’s dead practically before he gets to the hospital.

The police quickly determine that the cup Simon was drinking from (he couldn’t find his ever-present water bottle) was laced with peanut oil.  Pretty much everyone in school knows that Simon has a deadly peanut allergy.  All four students and the teacher running detention are questioned at length.  Although everyone is in shock, no one has anything much to tell the police.  Interestingly, along with Simon’s water bottle, his EpiPen was mysteriously missing.  And so was every EpiPen in the nurse’s office.  That looks like premeditation to the cops.  And then there are posts that keep appearing, written by someone who claims to be the killer. 

Bronwyn tries to interest them in the fact that everyone was in detention in the first place for bringing phones to class.  Everyone knows better than that, and everyone can produce the phones they left in their lockers.  The confiscated phones don’t belong to them.  Not that the teacher cared, of course.  But shouldn’t that be a clue that they were all framed for detention?  It’s pretty clear that the cops are convinced it’s one (or maybe all) of them.  While parents arrange for lawyers and tell them to stay away from each other, the students try to ride out the notoriety that comes with being accused of murder.  Of course, hoping for an end to it is the same as hoping that one of your classmates committed a murder in front of you.

While the story begins like every teen movie, it quickly moves in different and fascinating directions.  There are sections narrated by each of the four witnesses.  The Bayview Four (as they become known in the media) didn’t have much in common before that day, but they now feel bound together by that afternoon’s events.  It’s clear that they’re the only suspects.  Separately, and then as a group, they come to the conclusion that, by working together, they might have a shot at figuring out what really happened.  In the meantime, each one has to life his/her life.  Or try to, anyway.  Not easy when news vans are following you around several times a week.   

This is a mystery, but also a story of how a huge event can change lives in ways both good and bad.  None of them come out of the experience as the same people they were that day at detention.  For each person, that means something different.  Since they each get to narrate their own stories, we get to see exactly how they’re each affected and how it changes them.  I was turning the pages as much to solve the mystery as to find out what happened to each character.  Be prepared to be surprised.  Maybe it’s true that you don’t really know someone until you walk in their shoes. 

Rating: 8
June 2017

ISBN# 978-1-5247-1468-0 (hardcover)

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