One of Us Is Lying

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
One of Us Is Lying Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Dirty secrets abound in fun but intense high school mystery.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 99 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Information on how police investigations work and suspects' rights. Story shows the media's influence on public opinion in high-profile crime cases. Some classical piano pieces and Walt Whitman's poem "Song of Myself" are mentioned.

Positive Messages

Trust your gut instincts. Don't lie. Treat people how you want to be treated. Don't listen to gossip. Get to know people firsthand before assuming you know everything about them. Own up to your mistakes. Reach out to people in need.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the teen characters have lied and cheated, but most learn from their mistakes and are basically good people. All four main characters have people in their lives who step up and help them when they most need it.


Graphic description of boy dying of allergic reaction. Teen boy punches a wall when arguing with his girlfriend. One girl intentionally trips another and injures her. A girl is knocked down and choked. A lot of social and online bullying, including publishing secrets, name calling, and harassing.


Lots of flirting and descriptions of attractiveness or hotness of characters. Much of the story revolves around romantic relationships. Make-out sessions described in detail. Kids hit on each other at parties. Kissing, groping, and references to having sex.


Most of the characters swear, but infrequently, including "s--t," "a--hole," "f--k" and variations, "God," "hell," "Jesus Christ," "whore," "slut," "ass," "goddamn," "bulls--t," "bitch," "pissed," and "f-g."


Most brands mentioned used for scene or character setting, including iPhone, iPod, Starbucks, Lysol, Red Vines, Victoria's Secret, Seagram's, Jim Beam, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Kindle, US Weekly, People Magazine, Diet Coke, Xbox, Cartoon Network,  TMZ, Abercrombie & Fitch.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Kid has a past as a drug dealer. Teens drink in parking lot after school. A few parties with teens drinking, many getting drunk. Drunk girls hit on boys at parties. One kid has parents who abuse drugs and alcohol. One mom shown drinking wine frequently. Kids in background at a party smoking pot. A girl offers a boy what appears to be acid.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Karen M. McManus' One of Us Is Lying is a murder mystery set in a high school. Four teens are suspects in the death of a classmate. They were in detention with the boy when he died, but no one saw anyone do anything to him. The mystery has many twists and turns, plus romance, social drama, and bullying of all types (verbal, physical, and online). Teen make-out sessions are described in detail. Kids drink and get offered drugs at parties, spread rumors, and gossip about one another, and occasionally swear, including "s--t," f--k," and "a--hole." Much of the plot involves kids keeping big secrets from friends and family, which provides good discussion topics. The online bullying in the book raises lots of ethical questions and will give readers much to discuss.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byarm17 September 3, 2019

Great read - grabs reluctant readers

I can see where someone would push for 16 and up, but when you realize the exposure and access to similar ideas in social media and with peers I would, and do,... Continue reading
Adult Written bymxa September 20, 2018

Fun, a little dark at times

It was a very engaging read. It does however have some darker topics (like murder, one of the characters is pretty much in an abusive relationship). I'm 18... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written August 2, 2017

The Best Book I've Ever Read

This book was a very, very good story. It had unique characters all with their own personalities. It was like a crime version of The Breakfast Club. Amazing all... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 7, 2019

This book keeps you guessing!

This book is a murder-mystery story, with romance and family situations on the side. Thr book gets started with your typical high school stereotypes- The Brain,... Continue reading

What's the story?

ONE OF US IS LYING opens with four students heading into detention, all thinking they don't deserve to be there. Before long, a fifth student -- Simon, who runs a popular gossip app called About That -- is dead in the classroom, and the four students are murder suspects. Not only were Bronwyn, Nate, Addy, and Cooper the only people in the room with Simon when he died, but they also all have devastating secrets Simon was close to publishing. As the story unfolds, it's possible the students have been framed, but they keep unraveling more of one another's secrets, leaving them all confused as to whom they can trust. They also learn Simon had plenty of enemies on campus, as he had wrecked many lives by posting students' darkest secrets and misdeeds. Romance, bullying, cliques, secret lives, cheating, and family issues entangle the four main characters as they try to figure out which of them did it or who would want to set them up for a murder conviction.

Is it any good?

This fun, engrossing murder mystery will keep readers guessing until the end. If The Breakfast Club and Gossip Girl had a baby who was raised by Agatha Christie, the result would be One of Us Is Lying. Author Karen M. McManus starts with character clichés --  the smart overachiever, the pretty and popular airhead, the good ol' boy jock, and the handsome but possibly dangerous drug dealer -- but moves past that to show most people are more than what they seem, for good and for bad. Overall, the book is a page-turner of a whodunnit.

The story is told in alternating first person by the four main characters. This approach allows the reader to see how each character views the others and gives insight into what the character is hiding. The downside is that the character voices are too similar early on in the book, making switching between them confusing at times. Even though most of the book is fun, fast reading, the action bogs down in the middle and the romance storylines get tedious. The character arcs are very good, and the story picks up after the halfway point, with lots of great twists and turns.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the portrayal of high school in One of Us Is Lying. Do you think the social scheming, cliques, and gossip in real high schools are as bad as what's shown in the book? Why do you think books, movies, and TV shows play up this part of high school?

  • Would you read a blog or use an app that exposed people's deepest secrets? Do you feel talking about a person's private life in an online forum is OK?

  • Do you ever judge people based on appearances or gossip you've heard about them? Has there been a time when you got to know someone and found out he or she was different from what you first thought?

  • How honest are you with your family about important things going on in your life? Where do you think the line is between regular privacy and keeping secrets?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries

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