REVIEW: One of Us is Lying, Karen M. McManus

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
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 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.

As a person with The Breakfast Club included in their top 5 movie picks of all time, I was always going to be critical of a book that lifts most of its plot from the film. But, my main issue with One of Us Is Lying is how shoddily and haphazardly that lifting is done - the UK cover of the book reads, "A Geek, A Jock, A Criminal, A Princess, A Murder. Who would you believe?" which is an obvious nod to the letter Brian writes in the final moments of the film. Only, as anyone with a brain could spot, with one stark difference.
What I am basically saying is, that if you are adamant on turning a John Hughes classic into a trope-filled murder-mystery, do not do it in a way that gives away the bloody ending! I mean, come on. On behalf of Ally Sheedy (and lord knows Allison was one of my least favourite of the gang but that is not the point), I am seriously offended. Did Karen M. McManus think that none of the readers would have seen the inspiration source and not noticed the one glaring change? I mean, there is no way she could've, because The Breakfast Club is THE film of the 80's. The film was even selected for preservation by the Library of Congress, for god's sake.
Aside from that glaring issue, One of Us is Lying holds more than a few more and, if I am being honest (and believe me, I always am), I probably would have been able to ignore the Breakfast Club fuck-up if they hadn't shown up too. This book relies on the subversive power in our society of heteronormativity to make a conclusion to a plot-reveal a character coming out and no, I am not tagging that as a spoiler, because fuck you. Repeat after me, guys: sexuality shouldn't be used as a plot twist. Then, as if One of Us is Lying couldn't piss me anymore, that character is then outed against his will. This happened to one of my friends a few years ago and honestly, my stomach turns just thinking about it all this time later. It is disgusting and there is no way in hell it should have been incorporated into a book like this just to create 'drama'.
And then - THEN - just to put the fucking cherry on top of my waste of an afternoon, we have the villanisation of mental illness. Oh WOW, I've never come across THAT before... People go on and on about reducing the stigma around mental illness and yet authors, most of whom make the point of speaking out in support of it, continue to incorporate villains with mental health issues into the plot lines of their books. It is not nice nor is it fun to read a book which makes you feel as though people will think that you have ambitions to be a school shooter, just because you have depression.
Nor is it fun reading reviews in which people find the book 5*-amazing-best-book-ever because they are saying that representations of mental illnesses such as these are normal and non-problematic (however much I hate that word), and that they should be accepted instead of challenged. Saying that you're against the stigma that surrounds mental illness and yet continuing to applaud books that contain this level of discrimination and villainisation is impossible - you cannot say it is wrong one minute and then legitimise it the next.
I am done. I just... I am done with this book and tomorrow it is going to the charity shop because honestly, I do not want it inside of my house. Or maybe I should just burn it, after all I do not want someone dealing with a mental illness or a part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum like me, to read this and feel like shit as well.

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