Book reviews

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus:

“You find out who your real friends are when stuff like this happens. Turns out I didn’t have any…” 
― Karen M. McManus, One of Us Is Lying

If you are a murder mystery fanatic, you are in for a treat. An ordinary classroom detention turned into a crime scene when Simon Kelleher dies from a severe allergic reaction after drinking from the cup with traces of peanut oil, leaving the other four in detention as suspects; Bronwyn Rojas, the nerd, Addy Prentiss, the popular prom queen, Cooper Clay, the baseball enthusiast, and Nate Macauley, the bad boy with a criminal record. 

‘Everybody’s got secrets’ and those secrets were made public on Simon’s gossip app, About That, serving as a possible motive for his savage murder. As rumours float around about the darkest secrets of the Bayview four, after being broadcasted on the new blog, About This, post Simon’s death, the audience is compelled to believe one of them is to be held accountable. But who could go this far to guard their secret?

The four suspects narrate each chapter (first person point of view), which is quite commendable as the author wrote from the perspective of four different people, switching the tone of writing each time to better suit their personalities. While Addy’s concerns revolved around being the second-runner up at the beauty pageant, ‘homecoming princess, not queen’ at one point, Bronwyn was someone who took pride in not being featured once on Simon’s app, claiming she was ‘too squeaky-clean for that’. On the other hand, Nate’s gauche personality as a result of his broken family was apparent in his speeches, with the constant use of slangs. And lastly, Cooper was simply in the endeavour to live up to his image and father’s expectations, and not let any distractions come in his way of becoming the baseball star. McManus made sure you get a sneak peak into the lives of each one, to build empathy and connection, and give an opportunity to draw conclusions. 

One of the recurring themes in this novel is friendship. You will encounter friends showing their true colours and turning their backs, in unpleasant situations, leaving the protagonists to confide in each other and those outside their social circles. Even Maeve’s character, transitioned from just Bronwyn’s younger sister to being her deuteragonist and a trustworthy friend. Her clever, courageous and determined self makes her my favorite among all.  

As a final verdict, I would rate this fast-paced, contemporary YA fiction a 4.5/5. This page-turner is packed with a rattling good climax, filmic narration, convincing characters and a hard-luck antagonist – all the ingredients present for a gripping suspense read. 

It only happens in the movies by Holly Bourne:

“The class divide”. Check.

“The bad boy who changes his ways just for you”. Check.

“The chance encounter”. Check.

“The formal event”. Check.

“The big mistake”. Check. 

“The grand gesture”. Check.

The happily ever after?

This is what you’d expect to find in a typical love story. But not this one. Rather, you will find Bourne mocking the stereotypical depiction of perfect relationships and cliché endings, in romantic movies. 

Audrey, just seventeen, has not only seen her parents drift apart but is going through a dreadful breakup phase. While she was trying to get over love and relationships, she meets Harry and it all seems too perfect but for how long?

After every few chapters, you will come across the practical-Audrey ranting about how ‘it only happens in the movies’. For instance, how everyone bumps into everyone in romance movies, especially their love interest, the chance of which, in reality, is nearly impossible. But it happens! The light-hearted humour in these little sarcastic segments in-between will make you grin. 

Moreover, the protagonist, while firm about her believes about love is quite vulnerable to love too. The uncertainty and the internal conflict (of Audrey), will keep you at the edge of your seats, as to what decision will she make next and whether it will prove right for her. 

Bourne also touches upon some sensitive and serious themes such as depression and gender discrimination. Bourne illustrates the miserable condition of Audrey’s mother after her divorce in a way that will break your heart. On the other hand, the author also emphasizes upon the male-dominated culture, where men can get away with anything. Be it Audrey’s father, who left them for another woman, yet escaped the blame, or her brother, who always got away with all the responsibilities.  

Another reason to pick up this book this instant is the ending. The ideal end you would expect from a book that defies the norms. While it will make you weep, you will be content with the way it concluded. I personally would have hated it if it were otherwise. 

My rating for this book is a strong 4.5/5. The kind of book you would prefer picking up after a long stressful day to lighten up the mood. All the emotions gathered in one place, you would resonate with the characters and lose yourself in the story. 

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