2 Sentence Summary
In One of Us Is Lying, Karen McManus crafts a gripping tale of deception and suspicion as four high school students find themselves embroiled in a suspicious death during detention. With secrets and motives aplenty, this young-adult thriller explores the corrosive nature of gossip and the impact of stereotypes on teenage lives.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 416
First Published in: 2017
The novel had such a good reception that Peacock bought its rights and came up with a TV series in the year 2021. There’s also a sequel to this book titled One Of Us Is Next which came out in 2020.
Below is the detailed yet quick One Of Us Is Lying summary:
The book is divided into 3 parts and we will sharing the summary in a similar fashion by breaking it into those 3 parts.
Part 1: Simon Says
The story kicks off when five students at Bayview High find themselves in an unexpected detention for a cell phone violation they didn’t commit. Among them is the school brain, Bronwyn, the homecoming queen and king, Addy and Cooper, and Nate, a notorious troublemaker. Simon, the operator of the infamous gossip app, “About That,” rounds out the quintet. A sudden allergic reaction leads to Simon’s untimely demise, sending shockwaves through the school.
An anonymous Tumblr post surfaces soon after, claiming responsibility for Simon’s death and suggesting it’s linked to the controversial gossip app. This mystery escalates when the anonymous user admits to being in detention that day and removing all epi-pens from the nurse’s office. This casts suspicion on Addy who had visited the nurse’s office earlier.
Detectives Wheeler and Chang arrive to question the students, unveiling Simon’s unpublished exposé. They accuse the four students of various indiscretions: Addy’s cheating, Cooper’s suspected steroid use, Nate’s continued drug dealing, and Bronwyn’s academic dishonesty. With a potential conspiracy theory in the air, the students are left reeling. Nate halts his illicit activities, while Addy, foreseeing her secret will come out, confesses her infidelity to Jake, resulting in their break-up.
Part 2 – Hide-And-Seek
In the aftermath of Simon’s funeral, the Bayview Four – Bronwyn, Addy, Cooper, and Nate – find themselves in the media spotlight when Simon’s post revealing their secrets hits the ‘About This’ Tumblr page. Their infamy grows as TV reporter Mikhail Powers intensifies his coverage. Yet, amidst the tumult, the students grapple with their personal issues. Addy tries to comfort Janae, Simon’s only real friend, while Cooper distances himself from his girlfriend, Keely. Cooper’s secret affair is later revealed to be with a boy named Kris, adding another layer to the unfolding drama.
As they navigate the twists and turns of their newfound notoriety, the Bayview Four also gear up for their legal battles. Both Addy and Cooper seek legal representation while Bronwyn secures the services of defense lawyer Robin Stafford and also consults with Eli Kleinfelter, a lawyer from the non-profit ‘Until Proven’. A romance blooms between Bronwyn and Nate, underlined by a shared sense of uncertainty.
Bronwyn’s sister Maeve takes a proactive approach and hacks into Simon’s app, hoping to uncover clues. The sisters, who have their share of past grievances against Simon, face further complications when an old post resurfaces, revealing Bronwyn’s heated words towards Simon in defense of Maeve. Nate is seen grappling with the sudden appearance of his absentee mother. That makes it clear that the fallout from Simon’s death continues to ripple through their lives.
Part 3 – Truth or Dare
As our tale unfolds, Nate reconnects with his sobered-up mother. While Maeve uncovers Simon’s distressing online activity in support of school shooters. She promptly shares this information with the media and encourages Leah, a victim of Simon’s gossip, to share her story.
Meanwhile, Cooper finds himself confronting his feelings for Kris and the daunting prospect of revealing their relationship to his father. When the police unearth a modified entry about Cooper’s love life on Simon’s app, Cooper’s secret is unwillingly shared with the world. Despite the ensuing schoolyard taunts, the Bayview Four, along with Cooper’s friend Luis, stand by his side.
As Cooper, Nate, Addy, and Bronwyn navigate the evolving mystery surrounding Simon’s death, their suspicions turn towards Janae, Simon’s friend. Her peculiar behavior since his passing adds on to it. They also consider the significance of a red Camaro, involved in an accident on the day of Simon’s death. The plot thickens when Nate is arrested for Simon’s murder, spurring Bronwyn to seek help from Eli Kleinfelter. Bronwyn, Cooper, and Addy delve into the anonymous Tumblr posts in search of clues. They unearth intriguing leads, including a suspicious car accident orchestrated by Simon and hints pointing towards Jake, Addy’s ex-boyfriend, as Simon’s possible accomplice.
In a dramatic climax, Janae confesses to Addy that Simon orchestrated his own death, implicating Jake as his partner in the nefarious scheme. When Jake arrives unexpectedly, a daring plan is set in motion to capture his confession. A physical altercation ensues, leaving Addy and Janae injured but leading to Jake’s arrest.
Finale & Epilogue
In the wake of these revelations, the Bayview Four each find ways to move forward. Cooper plans to apologize to Keely and dreams of attending USC with Kris. Bronwyn dates a friend, Evan, while waiting for a Yale admission decision. However, Nate’s emotional baggage and feelings of inadequacy prompt him to break up with Bronwyn. Three months later, Bronwyn performs a piano solo at the San Diego Symphony. Nate shows up with flowers, indicating the potential for their relationship to rekindle.