Rereading old favourites: One of us is lying (Karen M. McManus) | this book is problematic in so many ways…

After I briefly mentioned not liking my reread of One of us is lying in my monthly wrap-up of April, a lot of you seemed to be interested in reading more about what changed my opinion and what’s exactly problematic about this book. And guess what? Your enthusiasm sparked an idea in me. No, not just for this book, but for an entire series in which I will be rereading some of my past favourite books!

Karen M. McManus’s debut novel totally stole my heart the first time I read it. I remember reading and loving it very vividly, but it’s been years since then! So I decided to reread it and relive everything which…did not work out as planned. But before this intro turns into the actual review, let’s take a look at the book!

One of us is lying by Karen M. McManus
Genre: Young adult, Mystery/Thriller
Read first: Two or three years ago

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.

Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.

Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.

Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.

And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.

He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.

Everyone has secrets, right?

What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.

This post doesn’t include any spoilers, but I do want to warn people that it will include mention of suicide.

Listen, I know I am a bit murder-obsessed now, but you should’ve seen me as a twelve year old kid. I don’t think it was healthy to be so into it at that age, but whatever. When I saw One of us is lying on the shelves with its simplistic cover, beautiful red sprayed edges and the word MURDER on the cover, I just had to read it.

So I obviously did just that! It was one of the first books that kept me up at night reading because I was pretty addicted. I mean, the romance between Bronwyn and Nate literally gave me life! And those characters? Loved them with all of my heart. I liked how they were flawed and all that stuff, and how real they felt, of course. They felt like friends.

The plot though? Young Birdie didn’t care about that! Throw it out of the room if you must! Seriously, I guessed each and every twist in this book when I was, like, twelve years old. I think that tells you quite a bit about their predictability but still! Who cares when it’s addicting, has amazing characters and makes you cry?

Though I don’t have an old review of this book, I do still remember having all the thoughts written above, but also this: I left it as a sobbing mess. I was obsessed with the characters and I just wanted more of them. Especially Nate and Bronwyn because, well, as I said: they had practically taken over my life! It was just such an amazing book.

One of us is lying was one of the first books I actually rated and it was a definite five star read for past Birdie.

My memories seem to have betrayed me. Sometimes you read a book and think: yeah, I get why younger me enjoyed this, but I just grew out of it. With this book though…I can’t help but wonder how I even enjoyed it, and then I’m not even talking about loving it!

I used to think these characters were very unique and I loved the way Karen M. McManus broke stereotypes with their characters…I don’t have words for what I just had to write down. If anything the characters in this book are walking stereotypes. Everything about them is really typical, which doesn’t have to be bad, but in this case it just was, I guess. Plus, their secrets are meant to be shocking and rarely-done-before but I just couldn’t help but think that they were the most obvious choices for those characters.

Does that mean I didn’t enjoy reading about them? Hmm, that’s a hard question because if I’m being really honest: this book would’ve been a three star without the problematic aspects. Were the characters original? No. Was the plot good? No. But did I have a great time reading it? Ehm, hell yes! The romance was kinda cute and it helps that I have a lot of nostalgia towards this book and its characters, so it was a fun time and it was just different from the though-provoking books I read most of the time. Like a vacation, I guess?

Then it went downhill. And it wasn’t like falling from a hill or anything; it was literally like teleporting all the way to the bottom.

Listen, I do want to say that I’m in no way judging anyone who likes or loves this book. Yes, I didn’t like this at all, but that doesn’t take away that everyone is entitled to have their own opinion and express it. What I am asking you though, is to try and see where I’m coming from with the problematic aspects of this book. I truly think the way it handles some things in a very harmful way, even with the author’s good intentions.

There’s so much to look at here, but let’s talk about the way the author uses mental health as a way to shock people and push the plot forward. Reading about this truly disgusted me because 1) this book doesn’t include the trigger warnings it should, and I believe it is because they don’t want to “spoil” the reader. Suicide is one of the main themes in this book and it should include a warning in the first place, but the fact that this book shows it in a very dark way (nothing wrong with that, of course) and, well, without any hope, I think people should be warned.

And 2) people with depression, mental illnesses and especially suicidal thoughts are being villainised and stereotyped. They are seen as people who do it for attention and all that stuff. They are being portrayed as awful people…I just can’t look past that.

Another problem is the LGBTQIAP rep. It just didn’t sit well with me how it was used as a plot twist and even worse as a plot point. There’s something else that I’d like to add here, but it includes spoilers so I recommend checking out my Goodreads review if you want to know.

And lastly, not gonna drag this one: there’s slut shaming in this book that is never addressed. It’s literally right there and the author doesn’t channel it, not even in the inner monologue!

You can probably tell I’m a bit frustrated, but here’s my conclusion either way: though the nostalgia around this book was nice, the countless stereotypes, weak plot and problematic elements ruined a book that should’ve been quick and fun for me.

Or a shorter variation of the conclusion: never again.

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it: I love writing posts like these! They’re just easy to write I guess, but that’s not the point here. I hope I’ve warned some people or made others realise what’s wrong with this book! Either way, what book would you like to see next in this series: The Selection by Kiera Cass, City of bones by Cassandra Clare or Divergent by Veronica Roth? Let me know!

Oh, and before I forget…

29 thoughts on “Rereading old favourites: One of us is lying (Karen M. McManus) | this book is problematic in so many ways…

  1. This was great! There are so many books that I loved back in the day that I know I just wouldn’t stand now. To be quite honest I’m scared of rereading them (ignorance is bliss, right?) so I applaud that you actually did it and got through it!


  2. birdie this series is such a fantastic idea!! i’ve never read this one but i loved reading your past and present thoughts hahaha

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel like so many times I really do not see problematic points until someone else points them out to me, because it isn’t even the first time it happens. I really liked One of Us is Lying, and I am not a big re-reader, so I’ll leave the critiques to others. However I do have the author’s latest novel “The Cousins” on my TBR so I’ll look out for problematic aspects in that one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely know what you mean, things like these can be easy to overlook so don’t worry; it kinda happens to everyone! And I, as you probably guessed, wouldn’t exactly recommend rereading one of us is lying lol! I have two of the author’s latest works (two can keep a secret and the cousins, too) so I’m definitely gonna do the same haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. birdie!! okay so i haven’t read one of us is lying, but i was interested in it a while ago – whereas now it just sounds AWFUL 😭 it’s so disgusting that karen mcmanus would do that, especially because so many people read her books, and she had such a huge chance to include positive representation!! also like jiyoon and katie said i would LOVE to see you re-read the selection and city of bones!! love this post!! 💖💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. omg i’m glad i could safe you from whatever this problematic mess was…but yeah, i definitely don’t think she did it with any bad intentions but still, more research and talking to actual people could’ve saved this book. i own two of her newer books so let’s hope they are a lot better! and i think i might do those very, very soon heheh! thanks ahaana!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I LOVED this post! I enjoyed reading about what you said on the depression representation. It seems that it was a bit problematic, which is unfortunate. A book I originally gave 3 stars, but had lowered my rating to 1 is The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali. The book is very frustrating. Great post Birdie!! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. THANKS Saniya!!! It definitely was problematic which is actually really sad for such an unbelievably popular book? I hope more people will speak up about it in the future to be honest…But omg no that’s so sad! I haven’t read it but I really wanna read the author’s new book, so let’s hope that one isn’t as frustrating. Thank you love!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ahhh, it’s always interesting to come back to books that we loved as adolescents. I’m sorry that One Of Us Is Lying didn’t live up to your childhood memories, though. The way you talked about this book and its problematic elements made it sound like it was published circa 2002 or something, when those kinds of tropes were more common and people weren’t raising so much awareness about how problematic they are — but nope! I was really shocked when I checked goodreads and saw that this book was published in 2017. You’d think we’d have moved on from those tropes by now, but apparently not! I hope you find some five star reads ASAP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really shows a lot about how you’ve grown as a person and a reader! But yes, it’s pretty sad, especially since I expected to love it a lot! And indeed, now that you point it out, it does kinda sound like a very old book…There’s definitely been progress but the bookworld still has a long way to go, I guess. Thank you so much Jessica!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. omg birdie!! i literally love this series idea, it’s so much fun! i never got around to reading ONE OF US IS LYING, but i definitely can relate to the feeling of returning to old beloved books but realizing that they’re kind of garbage (LOOKING FOR ALASKA, anyone…)

    personally, i would LOVE to see you re-read either THE SELECTION or CITY OF BONES. the hype surrounding THE SELECTION was so insane back in the mid-2010s, and i’m so curious to see what you’d think from a 2021 perspective, hahaha. great post, as usual! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thank you so much, i’m really glad you like it! and omg yes that’s a really relatable feeling lol (and i’m SCARED NOW because my all-time fave is looking for alaska but i haven’t read it in over a year…).

      i’ll definitely try to do both soon because, not gonna lie: it’d be a lot of fun to see haha. but yes, it’d definitely be interesting! thank you again, you’re the sweetest!!


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