The Breakfast Club with a murder. What’s not to like? 4/5.
Thank you to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. One Of Us Is Lying is published tomorrow, June 1st.
The blurb: Five students go to detention. Only four leave alive.
On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the bad boy, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the jock, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident.
On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
I can imagine the pitch for this book: “The Breakfast Club set in 2016, but the nerd dies and the other 4 are suspects”. As high-concept pitches go, that’s a cracker.
The execution isn’t quite as brilliant as the idea, but it’s very entertaining. The 4 main characters are all believable, rounded teenagers. They leap off the page and are a laudably diverse group with depth and a mix of motivations. I have to admit that, because of The Breakfast Club thing, I could only picture them as 1985 Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald… even though it’s clear that the characters in this book look nothing like them! Anyway, it did nothing to dent my enjoyment of the story.
I’m a fan of multiple-viewpoint stories and, as the four main characters tell their part of the story, the switching between voices is handled extremely well and helps to keep us in the dark. The POV switching also helped to make the growing friendship between the four entirely believable, as we see how their priorities and outlooks shift with Simon’s death and the events of the aftermath.
I did have a few niggles, although I doubt the biggest thing that irritated me would even be noticed by the core target audience for this book. More than once I huffed and rolled my eyes at the unbelieveable level of incompetence demonstrated by the police. Their entire investigative approach seemed to boil down to assuming one of the four main characters is guilty (even though everyone in the school seemed to hate the murder victim and would have had opportunity too) and then putting pressure on them to confess or rat on each other. And this when the suspects are all technically children.
Of course, as in many books, police incompetence is essential if our heroes are to play a crucial role in uncovering the truth, but I still find it annoying.
The final reveal contains one element which is a little disappointing (although it is the only solution which makes any sense at all), but is balanced nicely by a far more shocking revelation which is a calalyst for a high drama climax.
Overall: a story for fans of YA looking for a dose of high-school drama, secrets and lies.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul