Book Review – One Of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

Pages: 372
Published: 7th January 2020
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Trigger warnings: Child death, strong sexual references, cancer sub-plot

This was a buddy read with my friend Ellie. We have now read both books in this series together and are about to start Karen M. McManus’ standalone novel Two Can Keep A Secret. As always, the buddy read was a lot of fun!

It is a year after the action of One of Us Is Lying, and someone has started playing a game of Truth or Dare.

But this is no ordinary Truth or Dare. This game is lethal. Choosing the truth may reveal your darkest secrets, accepting the dare could be dangerous, even deadly.

The teenagers of Bayview must work together once again to find the culprit, before it’s too late . . .

As sequels go, this one was somewhat hit and miss. There are some interesting new ideas and a plot that presented a whole range of possibilities, but the end product was largely underwhelming as the central concept brought little in the way of genuine excitement, only becoming more gripping towards the end with variable results.

Although there are obvious similarities to One Of Us Is Lying, some of the essential elements that made that such a thrilling read were cast aside here. The most obvious and indeed problematic of these changes was that this time we have a whole new set of protagonists, who were much less easy to connect with than the ‘Bayview Four’ of the previous book.

There was nothing really special about the main characters here and as such, it was hard to become fully invested in this particular story, which was also told at a relatively slow pace to begin with. On the bright side, it does deliver a mystery with multiple potential suspects and its fair share of unpredictability, which is only resolved by a surprising twist on the very last page.

A year on from the death of Simon Kelleher and the national headlines that followed, the latest of several copycat forums has appeared, with the aim of spilling the deepest secrets of the students attending Bayview High. This time it is a game of truth or dare, in which somebody is given the option via text message. If they choose a truth, then a deeply uncomfortable fact about that person is widely distributed.

The first person to fall victim is Phoebe Lawton, who is in an unhealthy relationship and has also fallen out with her older sister Emma. She is soon joined by Maeve Rojas and her former boyfriend turned best friend Knox. As the events continue everyone resolves to select the dare in order to protect their secrets, but when one causes a Bayview student to die, they are made to think again.

Determined to learn who is responsible for the campaign, Maeve, Phoebe, and Knox begin a pursuit that begins with the discovery of a series of threatening messages that have been posted online and leads to an incident that places both them and their loved ones in mortal danger. It leads to a race against time, and many revelations.

While the truth or dare game is introduced right at the start, it was difficult to engage with the book early on due to the slow pace and the fact I had no real feelings towards any of the main characters. It only became more intriguing later after certain events had taken place, and to be fair the final chapters contained all the suspense that the ones before had sadly lacked.

There were some sub-plots that felt slightly irrelevant, which included a romance element. Then again, other things that were seemingly mentioned in passing turned out to be very significant and led to some unexpected twists, so there was some intelligent storytelling on show here too. And talking of twists, there is dramatic one right at the end.

The identity of the culprit was not altogether a shock at first, yet at the same time I was not really anticipating it to play out the way it did. I had several theories, but none of them were exactly right, so the author really executed the surprise factor well. As for the final twist, well that was just impossible to predict! It was effective, but also a little far-fetched by my reckoning.

As opposed to One Of Us Is Lying, this book switches narrator at the start of each chapter, rather than within them. The story is told almost entirely in the first person, alternating between the perspectives of Maeve, Phoebe, and Knox. I liked Maeve the most, but none of them were especially memorable or enjoyable to read about.

Maeve was already a familiar character as she had played a supporting role in the previous book. It was good to get to know her a little better, but apart from having impressive online detection skills, she did not play so much of a crucial role in the story. A lot of time was instead spent on her burgeoning romance with Luis, and the constant reminders of how attractive he was soon became awfully tiresome.

It seemed as if Phoebe would be unlikable at first, but she definitely grew on me as the story moved and she was given more development. Meanwhile after an uneventful start, Knox’s chapters became more meaningful and he actually had a fairly good character arc, even if I did not connect to him a great deal either.

The Bayview Four do appear in this story occasionally, and it perhaps says a lot that I remained more invested in them than any of the newly introduced characters. It was wonderful to see how Addy and Cooper were making such a success of their lives, while Bronwyn and Nate was still the only romance in this series worth reading about.

Overall, there were several positive aspects of this sequel such as the innovative truth or dare idea, the way the mystery was unravelled, and the all-round sense of unpredictability. Unfortunately, these things were undermined by a slow pace in the first half of the book, and a trio of main characters that pale in comparison to the Bayview Four. It left me with mixed feelings.

A very average sequel, but there was also enough things to like not to look back on it in too much of a negative light.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

18 thoughts on “Book Review – One Of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

  1. Great review. I ordered my copy of this last week (still yet to arrive) knowing about the pacing issues in advance is a godsend, it will let me know to keep slogging on through so the story gets better.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is a fantastic review Stephen and I think it has put the story back in my head and will hopefully help me to finally write my own review ahah! I agree with you on all these points, this one was a little disappointing and I’m really not sure about that ending, but I loved seeing the Bayview Four again. This was another fun buddy read, so thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review, Stephen! This is the only one of McManus’ books that I have still to read and I’ve heard some pretty mixed reviews about it. It does sound a little underwhelming though especially as it’s more closely connected with OOUIL and that was so good! It’s pretty hard to feel invested in a thriller about these characters when you’re not invested in them either. At least it sounds like the twists held up though! ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Dini! The twists definitely made it a more memorable book as it does take a long time to get going. It was not the sequel I was really hoping for to be honest – hope you like it more than me! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been meaning to check out some more mystery books as I’ve yet to find any I really like but it is such a big genre that I am determined to love it a bit more. After hearing so many things about McManus’ first book I would like to check it out. It is interesting to see how this sequel lived up to it and it is shame your didn’t like the characters as much as you wanted, I always find that quite disappointing in a book. I’m glad there were still good qualities present though. Great review !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sophie! 🥰 I’d recommend the first book, but this sequel was mostly underwhelming for me. It definitely had some redeeming features though, hence the 3-star rating. Hope you find some great mystery books soon – my favourite one last year was A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder!

      Liked by 1 person

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