Back to Bayview: A Review of One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Remember back in January when I reviewed One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus on the day that the sequel dropped? And remember how I enjoyed One of Us is Lying more than I wished I did, thus saying I would eventually review its sequel? Well that day has come. Today, I’m going to be reviewing One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus, and let’s just say I have a lot of thoughts.
Firstly, if you haven’t read my review on One of Us is Lying, I highly suggest doing so. You can click here to read it.
Now I typically start with the characters when I do reviews, but I just need to state my overall thoughts on this book first. One of Us is Next is horrible, it’s worse than the first one. I enjoyed One of Us is Lying much more than its sequel. You can tell by the ending of One of Us is Lying, that there was never supposed to be a sequel. The mystery and character arcs were all wrapped up nicely with a bow on top; there was no need for a sequel!
Thankfully, McManus did not drag the four main characters of the first book into some convoluted mystery. Instead she chose three new characters to focus on from the same world of One of Us is Lying.
The main focus of the story is on Maeve, who readers met in One of Us is Lying. In the first book, she was a supporting character helping her older sister Bronwyn hack Simon’s gossip site to find evidence for that murder mystery. Now she gets to play the role of leading lady. She’s still technologically savvy, witty, sarcastic, and still feels as if people view her as either the “cancer kid” or “one of Bayview Four’s younger sibling.”
Since we spend the most time with her, she gets even more fleshed out. She’s smart, funny, hates going outside as she prefers to spend her time in a local café, and is semi-closed off from others; which is what her character arc focuses on. I relate to this girl so much; I absolutely adore her. I would say that I need to protect her from the world around her, but she’s highly capable of doing that herself.
The other two characters this book focuses on are brand new to readers.
The only main male character is Knox. He is Maeve’s ex-boyfriend, but the pair are still friends. It’s quickly revealed that he’s the baby of his family, is a theatre performer, is the intern at Until Proven; thus putting him in Bronwyn’s position of being there for exposition dumps, although Maeve also does that from time to time as well. But on top of all that, he tends to be more reserved, and has a semi-strained relationship with his father because his father lowkey thinks that Knox doesn’t follow through on things. And if you couldn’t tell, his backstory makes up his personality.
Finally, there is Phoebe. She is the last POV character this story has, and much like Knox, her backstory makes up her personality. She’s the middle child, living with her mother and siblings in a too small apartment for four people since her dad died a few years prior in a freak accident at work. The only other notable thing about her is that she works at the same café Maeve and Knox frequent. There’s really not much to say about her other than she’s hard working.
For fans of the first book, McManus does feature the four main characters from One of Us is Lying throughout the new mystery. Bronwyn and Maeve obviously converse throughout the book, thus throwing Nate into the picture given his and Bronwyn’s on-again-off-again relationship. The café I keep mentioning, Café Contingo, is the same café Addy begins working at at the end of the first book. Copper is the least seen throughout the story. His college baseball games are featured on occasion, and he also makes a physical appearance at Café Contingo once, but he’s rarely heard from in this book. Which was fine by me considering I didn’t care all that much about his character in the original.
There is one other notable character from the first book who, like Maeve, gets to play a larger role in the sequel. Luis, Copper’s best friend who stood up for him when the majority of Bayview high bullied him for being gay, is Maeve’s love interest in this book. Luis’s family also own Café Contingo so we see a lot of him in this book.
I do have to give McManus credit for her characters this time around. The characters in One of Us is Lying seemed very one dimensional, and while that is the case for some in the sequel, they do have more personality and backstory than those in the original.
Unfortunately, one of the things I prided McManus off in my review of One of Us is Lying was the pacing of the book. The pacing was perfect in that book. Each piece of evidence was revealed at points where it was needed. Nothing was thrown in haphazardly, the evidence wasn’t thrown at readers one piece after another, everything came in its own time and when needed. That doesn’t happen in this one.
Firstly, the murder doesn’t happen until half way through the book. Instead a game of truth or dare jump starts the story. Idle gossip is nothing compared to a character randomly dropping dead. Literally nothing happens for the entire first half of One of Us is Next. The three characters that are featured do nothing to figure out who is behind the truth or dare game, and the only stakes in the first half are teenagers trying to fix their relationships that were affected by said game. That’s not the most entertaining when, as a reader, I know what McManus is capable of.
Once the stakes do pick up, every piece of evidence is presented in what feels like the last minute. Events will occur in the second part of the book, and then the characters either think nothing of it or will forget about the event until the relevant information is needed. The climax of the book goes from zero to one hundred in a span of seconds because there was no build up for it.
One of Us is Lying is bad in a good way; One of Us is Next is just bad.
The characters from the first book are also part of what make this book bad. Firstly, the dialogue some of these characters have is absolutely atrocious; specifically, some lines from or about Nate and Bronwyn.
Yes, as I reader I ship fictional characters all the time. I see fangirls and boys coupling fictional characters up on Tumblr. I know that lingo, it’s nothing new to me. That being said, I don’t do that with real life people. Outside of celebrities, I don’t know people who have ship names. Nate and Bronwyn are treated by others as if they are a fictional couple in a popular TV series. Nate at one point even says that he and Bronwyn are “endgame.”
Who the hell talks like this in real life!? I know I’m quite a few years removed from high school at this point, but do teenagers really talk like this? Gen Z, can you confirm that this is how your generation speaks? I don’t think so, and it takes away from the story because it’s so weird and frustrating to read.
What was also frustrating to read was Luis and Maeve’s relationship. Maeve is 17-years-old, and Luis is roughly 18/19-years-old. While the age gap isn’t much, Maeve is still technically a minor and is only a junior in high school. Their relationship gets into red flag territory given their ages, and it made me uncomfortable to read. Each time they were flirting, alarm bells were going off in my head; especially when the flirting was getting closer to something of a more sexual nature. No amount of witty banter could make it less uncomfortable for me.
Want to know something else was setting off alarm bells in my head? Knox being a theatre. Each time it was mention that he was cast in Into the Woods, I kept waiting for him to be outed because, you know, a straight guy can’t ever like theatre. I mean, figured that this was going to be a copy and paste of the first book. Thankfully that did not happen!
The use of theatre in this book is still a problem for me, and I’m about to go off on a tangent regarding the theatre. Sorry, not sorry for what I’m about to rant about.
I am a theatre lover, a Broadway Baby, a theatre kid. I am all of those things, and have actually performed in Into the Woods; it’s one of my favorite shows. So I tend to go a tad crazy when someone says a musical is a play. Those are two separate entities! Please, keep them separated. Yes, they are similar, but they deserve to be regarded as two distinct, appreciated art forms.
Now that that part of the rant is over, here’s the second part. McManus claims that Knox is cast in the principle male role in Into the Woods. When I was reading this, I figured he was cast as the Baker, but that is not correct. McManus writes that Knox is cast as Jack, as in “Jack and the Beanstalk” Jack, a supporting lead. Jack is not the leading male role, yet McManus writes One of Us is Next as if he is. I’ve seen authors do this with many other musicals, and it automatically makes the book poor in my eyes because the information, while trivial to most, is incorrect. There is a small handful of readers who this information matter to, and I just want to see it correct.
These are easy facts to get right, and it bothers me that no one pointed these out. And if anyone thinks I’m making a mountain out of a molehill, you’re most likely right, but you can fight me on this. This is the mountain I shall die on, and I’m okay with that.
Will this bother many people though? No, probably not. Is it bothering me? Yes, yes it absolutely is.
Okay, tangent over; it’s time for my final thoughts. Like I said, One of Us is Lying is a fun bad. That book was camp-y, clichéd fun. One of Us is Next is just bad. I’ve never said this in one of my reviews before, but don’t bother reading One of Us is Next. If you are on the fence about reading this book, you can easily pass on it and miss nothing.