One of Us is Lying


Karen McManus

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One of Us is Lying Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Karen McManus's One of Us is Lying. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Karen McManus

Karen M. McManus lives and writes in Massachusetts, where she earned a BA from the College of the Holy Cross and an MA in journalism from Northeastern University. Her background in journalism helps her to craft the fake news headlines for her novels, which are thrillers and mysteries. After dabbling in writing dystopian fiction inspired by The Hunger Games, McManus found her stride when she decided to undertake a modern retelling of The Breakfast Club—with a serious twist. In just two months, she wrote One of Us Is Lying, and it shot to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List shortly after its publication. She is a single mother who works in marketing, and her second novel, Two Can Keep a Secret, is scheduled for release in 2019.
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Historical Context of One of Us is Lying

The novel is set in Southern California, and focuses on many concerns typically associated with the millennial generation—specifically social media addiction and abuse, entitlement, and the unique financial struggles members of this generation are facing throughout not just the United States, but the world over. The novel also delves into questions of large-scale violence in schools across America; when Simon Kelleher becomes hell-bent on taking revenge against the conformist “lemmings” at his school, he looks up to the work of mass shooters but wants to do something more original. By engaging issues both of social media abuse and mass violence, McManus shows how insidious webs of lies, rumors, and scandals can be turned against popular students by those in less socially advantageous positions in order to incite suspicion, anger, and even violence.

Other Books Related to One of Us is Lying

Many mysteries and thrillers set in contemporary American high schools have been topping best-seller charts over the last several years, and it’s no secret why: more authors than ever are engaging contemporary issues of violence, race, apathy, and the damaging effects of social media and capitalism on modern American teenagers. Dana Mele’s People Like Us and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why focus on revenge plots—or moralistic lessons—taught by deceased high-school students from beyond the grave, while Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall considers the effects of social media, popularity contests, and insidious gossip on a group of high school students. McManus’s use of a rotating first-person point of view and a cadre of unreliable narrators is inspired by popular thrillers for adults, too: Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train, and Alice Feeney’s Sometimes I Lie are all twisty thrillers whose narrators are often less than truthful.
Key Facts about One of Us is Lying
  • Full Title: One of Us Is Lying
  • When Written: 2010s
  • Where Written: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • When Published: 2017
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young adult fiction, mystery
  • Setting: Bayview, California
  • Climax: Addy, with the help of her classmates Bronwyn, Cooper, and Nate, discovers that their classmate Simon Kelleher orchestrated his own death in order to frame the four of them for his murder and get back at them for possessing the social and intellectual gifts he lacked.
  • Antagonist: Simon Kelleher
  • Point of View: Alternating first-person

Extra Credit for One of Us is Lying

Nevertheless, She Persisted. Karen M. McManus maintains an active Twitter account from which she shares writing advice and insider info about the often-cutthroat world of Young Adult publishing; during a #ShareYourRejections campaign, she tweeted that her first (unpublished) novel was rejected by over 120 agents.