Catch the book first: “One of Us is Lying” review

By Luke Lombardi

Whenever a book is adapted into a television show or movie, I want to check out the book first to see what it’s all about. I did just that with “One of Us is Lying” by Karen M. McManus.

The book was released on May 29, 2017 with the television show premiering on Oct. 7, 2021, on NBC’s streaming service Peacock. The story follows five teenagers serving high school detention. When one of them suddenly dies, the book follows the other four students as they tru to figure out what caused the death of the student.

My favorite aspect of the book is how well McManus builds character. Writing any book from the perspective of four different characters is an admirable task to take on due to juggling multiple points of view simultaneously. The fact that she portrays each character so differently, yet equally amazing is a testament to her writing ability. In particular, I like how she portrays one of the characters named Cooper.

Cooper’s dynamics and school life were the most interesting to read out of the four main students, and the way McManus articulates his thoughts as the events unfold to make the reader feel sympathy for him is masterful. Cooper is such a deep and fleshed-out character, a type that does not generally get written in a book with so many perspectives to address.

Another thing McManus does well is making the book feel unique. A high school murder mystery isn’t the most original plot. What makes this book different, though, is how well McManus understands teenagers. Some writers will make every teenage character they write seem bratty and unrealistic. McManus does not.

McManus handles every character like they are a teenager who is going through a traumatic experience while also experiencing normal high school things, like dating and coming to terms with who they are. The mystery is definitely the main element of the book, but the side stories are fleshed out and drive the book from good to excellent.

While I love how McManus handles the main characters, I do feel that some of the background characters are too one-dimensional. Certain characters feel like they are going to be expanded on and eventually become important characters only to just go back to being a simple cog in the story. If an author is going to start to flesh out a side character, I want them to become an integral part of the story. But there are some characters that McManus just neglects for decent chunks of the novel that I wish were more involved.

As a whole, this book is made perfectly for television. The story and the way it is presented were made for the small screen. Many TV viewers love teen dramas and this is a great one. Even though I believe the book is going to be better than the show, I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite is true. The book draws obvious
inspiration from shows like “Gossip Girl,” which will make it easy to succeed with templates to use and modify.

All in all, I highly recommend reading this book before the television show premieres, as some of the character’s thoughts and monologues may get lost in translation. If you are a fan of mysteries and thrillers, this book should be read immediately.

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