Drama Just in Time for the Holidays
“On Monday 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 criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, 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 Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them are suspects in his murder. Or are they 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” (Goodreads).
Just in time for the holidays, get ready for “The Breakfast Club with a hint of murder.” Karen M. McManus’s One of Us is Lying is the first book in a duology of Young Adult dramas that examine family dynamics and healthy versus unhealthy relationships with friends.
As a group, we all thoroughly enjoyed the book. Unfortunately, we are not necessarily sure whether it qualifies as a mystery, especially since most of us predicted Simon’s dramatic suicide, motive of trying to ruin others’ lives as revenge and the innocence of all four suspects. However, Jake’s role in Simon’s grand scheme was a surprise, but his incentive of sheer pettiness leads us to file this book under “Young Adult drama” rather than the intended “thriller” category. Speaking of drama, any reader would generally agree that One of Us Is Lying is essentially a more modern version of The Breakfast Club with a hint of murder. McManus made sure to include the detention involving all of the main characters, the unhelpful and condescending principal and, of course, the recurring trope of five unlikely friends from separate cliques.
Bronwyn Rojas, the brainiac with a dream to go to Yale and a secret of cheating in a Chemistry class, plays The Breakfast Club’s Brian Johnson as both share similar traits of destructive overachieving and enormous pressure from their families that drives them to commit impulsive and harmful acts which they hide under a mask of “golden-child-perfectionism.”
Addy Prentiss is the “princess” like Claire Standish, who also obsesses over status in the high school social order and faces intense peer pressure while camouflaging a strained relationship with their parents.
Nate Macauley, a stand-in for the “criminal,” John Bender, typifies the “bad boy” trope with his motorcycle, Jim Beam-filled flask and probation for selling drugs to pay for his alcoholic father’s expenses after his mother, a bipolar drug addict, leaves the family.
Cooper Clay is Andrew Clark’s athlete character since they are both star “jocks” whose people-pleasing personalities originate from their respective father’s intense pressure to excel in their sports.
Lastly, Simon Kelleher, the parallel of Allison Reynolds, exemplifies the “outcast” trope as neither belongs to any particular clique while both share a desire to escape.
With all this being said, McManus’s version, however, consists of fun twists: unlike Claire Standish’s continuation of her shallow perspective, Addy overcomes her conditioned co-dependence and begins to develop her own independence and her voice. Cooper, too, recognizes the value in authenticity as the investigation into Simon’s death outs Cooper to the town unwillingly, and he is forced to reconcile his relationship with his father while advocating for LGBTQ+ support and awareness in baseball.
Brownyn not only falls for Nate instead of Addy as featured in the movie but also learns how to deal with making mistakes and that it is natural and perfectly acceptable to be imperfect. While Brownyn abandons her perfectionism, she also encourages Nate to explore his genuine personality instead of falling victim to the disappointing role he feels expected to play. Their relationship honestly carried most of the plot only to finish with an unsatisfying ending, but on the other hand, McManus does present the reality of trying to maintain healthy relationships with a toolkit of toxicity from past connections.
Finally, we come to Simon’s character: while the Breakfast Club accepts Allison and her quirks, Simon represents another outcome of an individual not accepted by society. After his peers shun him and he becomes an outcast, he lashes out in an explosive attempt to bring down those around him. The main characters discover Simon’s fascination with school shootings as the trials play out, and while he obviously does not carry out his fantasies, McManus is clearly depicting the potentially lethal effects of bullying, especially among teenagers.
Although One of Us Is Lying is slightly predictable and the several tropes are cliched, Karen M. McManus does supersede the “walking teen stereotypes,” as Simon remarks to describe the main characters. McManus delves into the psyche of her characters, and unlike The Breakfast Club, a classic in its own right, One of Us Is Lying feels multi-dimensional with semi-realistic characters, with whom readers can sympathize.