I did it again. I read another young adult book. I usually only read them when my students read them, love them, and then recommend them to me, and that’s what happened this time, too. Usually, books in this genre leave me rather disappointed and frustrated, since I’ve spent my valuable time on reading books that are all, in essence, very much the same when it comes to the characters, the plot, its inevitable “twists”, and the style. I then have to tell my students that yes, I finished their book, there it is, and no I didn’t like it but that’s because I’m an old fossil so please ignore me and I’m actually quite happy you’re reading so keep doing that because it’s good for you. This time, however, my message to my students will be different: I read a young-adult book I quite liked! One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus seems to be the exception that proves the rule that young adult books are formulaic, annoying, and simply not that good.
One of Us is Lying is about five students who get detention: geek Brownyn, jock Cooper, bad boy Nate, princess Addy, and an outsider, Simon, who moderates an important gossip app. When one of them dies while they’re there, it is obvious that it wasn’t an accident. The other four are suspects in a murder case, because it turns out that Simon knew things about them which they would rather not share with the world. What happens next is that those four students band together to find out what really happened, even though they aren’t even friends… Or are they?
While reading this book, I was reminded of The Breakfast Club (the references are fairly obvious, right?), and, perhaps more surprisingly, Agatha Christie. This is a teen-mystery novel, and I quite liked it. The story is from the point of view of the four main characters, whom we slowly get acquainted with, and whose secrets we learn about. It’s fun to read about their separate lives, with their own issues and prejudices, which eventually come together and solve the case.
These issues are quite cliché at times, however. Of course the geek cheated during one of her exams and is scared that the truth might hinder her chances at being accepted to Yale, and obviously Addy realised that she’s much better off without her seemingly perfect boyfriend (and of course she chops off her perfect blond hair!). Furthermore, I saw the “surprise” about Cooper coming straight from the start, and it was clear that two of these would end up as a couple. And really, my suspicions at who killed Simon were confirmed at least three hundred pages before the main characters came to the same conclusion.
I like to think reading young adult books keeps my mind young. I have a tendency to read old books, watch old movies, and listen to old music, and that means I am sometimes out of touch with the real, modern world. My students have to teach me new words almost every day, and my only excuse for not knowing them is, “Yeah, but, that word isn’t in the books I’m reading, I can’t help it!” (Seriously, this makes me sound like one of them, making up pathetic excuses and hoping to get away with them.) It’s good to be reminded of what it was like to be a teenager myself, and to be confronted with the insecurities and fears I was faced with when I was that age. It really wasn’t that long ago, come to think of it.
So, in short, One of Us is Lying was a breath of fresh air compared to all these formulaic sick-kids-who-fall-in-love romances or independent-girl-saves-the-world dystopian novels. It wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read, but at least I enjoyed reading it. Turns out, I’m not too old for these novels just yet. And that, in itself, is cause for celebration. A small one, that is, since I’m too old to do any proper partying.
What did you think of One of Us is Lying? Which books keep you young at heart? Do let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts!