To Catch a Killer: A Review of One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
It's the last post of Reading Has Ruined My Life’s inaugural week.
I’m so used to posting everyday it’s going to feel odd not scheduling a post for tomorrow. Like, what am I going to do with my free time now that posting is going to be once a week now?
Ever onward though, today we’ll be talking about One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus.
Now, this book has been on my tbr list for awhile now. I finally got around to reading it after this past Christmas. I put it off because I read the synopsis and first page at a book store this past September, and I burst out laughing. My first opinion of this book was that it was The Breakfast Club and Gossip Girl fanfiction.
I am not making fun of fanfiction. I have friends who are fanfiction writers, I understand the appeal of it; I need that to be clear before I continue on.
Anyway, like I said, I burst out laughing upon opening this book. I had kept hearing about and seeing this book on social media, and I had heard some good things about it, but no one had every told me that it was basically The Breakfast Club meets Gossip Girl; or at least the first few chapters were.
Honestly though, the fact that One of Us is Lying starts out as a combination of an iconic film and a trashy TV show sealed the deal for me. I was totally on board for some campy fun. Also, take a shot anytime you read the word "campy."
In some ways, this book also reminds me of Riverdale; which I love to hate on. We have four teenagers, the popular girl, the jock, the nerd, and the boy from the wrong side of town, on a mission to solve the murder of one of their peers and clear their names. These characters typically would not talk to one another had something scandalous not happen to them. I kinda love to hate on this trope, and I knew at some point my desire to laugh at said trope would lead me to finally read this book.
So, once I got past my initial reaction to the book, I found myself getting sucked into it. As you may have guessed from the amount of times I’ve already written the word “trope,” this book is very trope-y and clichéd; which makes it a quick read. I always end up enjoying books that are trope-y, can suck you in, and can finish fairly quickly more than I probably should.
That being said, the pace of the book is very well done. I never felt that the book was too slow or too fast in places. I felt that every piece of drama, and every clue uncovered happened in a timely matter. It never felt like things were coming out of left field.
While the pace of the book is great, the characters on the other hand were hit or miss.
Nate is the best character in the book. Yes, he’s a walking cliché and trope being the “bad boy with a heart of gold.” He definitely has a shitty life and deserves better. He, out of the main four characters, was the one that I cared about the most. Actually, he was the only character in the book I really cared about. But is this because I am in love with the idea of said bad boy with a heart of gold? Yes, that is correct.
Bronwyn, our smart girl, was never a possible killer in my mind. She was always there just to dump exposition onto the reader, and also for the trope-y romance between the good girl and the bad boy. I don’t feel that she had any true character arc. She was just there for the romance subplot.
Copper and Addy are the two popular kids of the four. Copper is the baseball star who is hoping to eventually go pro. Addy is the runner up for homecoming queen. That’s the majority of the background we get on these two for awhile outside of they both are in serious, committed relationships, yet neither of them are in love with their significant other.
This is where things in the book get problematic. There will be spoilers ahead, and there is also a trigger warning. I typically don’t post many spoilers, nor do I talk much about the triggers in the books I cover in my blog posts, but I need to do so for this one. If you are triggered by abusive relationships, please read this blog post and/or book at your own discretion. If you are triggered by self harm, please read the book at your own discretion; I will not be talking about self harm in my post, but it is very prevalent in the book.
We’ll start with Copper. Copper is gay. That was very guessable when I was reading this book. It was clear to see that he wasn’t in love with his girlfriend, and it was fairly obvious that he was cheating on her with someone else. It wasn’t hard to figure out that he was cheating on his girlfriend with guy instead of another girl. Now, we’ll get back to the cheating issue in a little bit.
The fact that Copper is gay is treated as pure shock value and as a plot twist. This book was published in 2017, and I don’t feel that someone being part of the LGBTQA+ community should be treated as shock value or a plot twist in this day and age. Copper being closeted is relatable to many people, and while I can not speak about the struggles those in the LGBTQA+ community go through, I am a proud ally and can see how problematic this can be for some. After being outed by the news media, Copper is made fun of by nearly the entire school; another thing I imagine many people have gone through. And while I can see how that may be realistic, the way his sexuality is treated in this book just seems problematic.
Finally, there is Addy. She has the best character arc out of the four main characters. She begins the book in a serious relationship with her boyfriend, Jake. As the story progresses, it is clear that Jake is very controlling towards Addy. Eventually the pair do break up, due to Jake finding out that Addy had a one-night stand during their relationship, and Addy is free to find out who she is as a person now that she is not in a toxic relationship. Throughout the story she grows as a person, going from the superficial, popular girl to being the one to figure out a way to get someone to confess to the crime the book is centered on. Her character arc is the most prevalent in the book.
Let’s go back to the cheating issue though. Cooper and Addy both cheat, Cooper continues on a long-term affair, and Addy has a drunken one-night stand. Guess which character gets slut-shammed and is defined by their cheating throughout the entirety of the book?
If you guessed Addy, you are correct. I do not condone cheating in anyway shape or form, but there is definitely a double standard in the way both characters are treated after both cheating scandals come to light. Copper’s cheating is glossed over, mainly for the fact that his being gay is a bigger plot point, while Addy is defined by what she did for the entirety of the book.
I don’t know what the author really wanted to say with the cheating that happens in the book. I don’t know if McManus wanted to highlight the double standard that occurs in this type of situation, but I have not seen McManus say anything on this matter one way or another. Take what you will on this matter then.
To be honest, I liked this book more than I probably should. I love the campiness of the story, and I’m lowkey on board with the Gossip Girl meets The Breakfast Club fanfiction. But a lot of what happens in the story is easy to guess. And the more of the book I read, the more problematic it got. Part of me wants to hate it for its problematic issues, but part of me wants to really like this one for its campy nature. Am I going to read its sequel though? Yeah, probably. And if that one has problematic points in it, I’ll point those out too.