Take a classic, high-stakes, locked-room mystery, add some spicy drama, and you have a real page-turner.
Favorite quote: “I know what it’s like to tell yourself a lie so often that it becomes the truth.”
First lines: “A sex tape. A pregnancy scare. Two cheating scandals. And that’s just this week’s update. If all you knew of Bayview High was Simon Kelleher’s gossip app, you’d wonder how anyone found time to go to class.“
Bronwyn– the student council, Yale-bound nerd, Addy – the homecoming court, shallow popular girl, Cooper– the baseball star jock headed for the minor leagues, Nate– the drug-dealing delinquent, and Simon– the outcast who runs the school’s notorious gossip app.
Five students enter detention one afternoon. Only four leave with their lives.
Someone planted peanut oil in Simon’s water bottle during detention, causing him to have a deadly allergic reaction. No one could have possibly done it except for the four kids alone in the unsupervised room with him. Now they’ve all been sucked into a murder investigation, and the plot only thickens when the police uncover draft gossip posts that Simon had been planning to make public the next day- posts that would destroy each of their reputations. They all have a motive, and no one is above suspicion.
“That’s the kind of person you can get away with killing: someone everybody else wants dead.”
So what really happened that day in detention?
Hmm… I have mixed feelings about this book.
For such an immensely popular mystery, the solution was kind of obvious. I guessed who did it towards the beginning-middle of the story, as soon as a certain plot line was introduced, and I spent the rest of the book getting progressively more irritated at the rest of these supposedly smart characters who couldn’t put two and two together when it was right under their noses AND their presumption of innocence was on the line. However, the beginning of the book was super suspenseful and the way the story was set up made it super hard to guess the killer at first.
The middle of the book dragged a little, taking a recess from the mystery to spend some time on typical YA drama/angst/romance. The entire book had a very “YA” feel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I found myself wishing certain characters would forget their boyfriend drama for a second and maybe try to solve the MURDER they are allegedly about to be WRONGFULLY CONVICTED FOR.
However, I’m not going to lie to you and say I didn’t find the drama entertaining. There were a lot of “big reveals” about the characters’ dark, juicy, reputation-decimating secrets, and it really made me want to keep reading even though I was impatient for them to solve the actual murder.
I also really enjoyed the multi-perspective style; the chapters alternated between each person’s point of view, giving you lots of opportunities to second-guess yourself and try to discern the answer to the titular question: which of them is lying?
I’ve seen lots of people criticize this book for the very stereotypical characters, but this aspect of it didn’t bother me. I feel like McManus was going for stereotypical characters to represent basic teenagers and make it extra dramatic. The book was almost satirical in its adherance to high school stereotypes, but I liked it that way.
McManus also did a great job crafting likable characters; I found myself rooting for all of them, and I sincerely didn’t want any of them to be guilty, which only added to the suspense.
Overall, this was a pretty entertaining mystery, and if you’re looking for a book full of “spill the tea!” reveals (albeit with some filler drama), I would definitely recommend this.