Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘young adult’

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus came from Miss S’s bookcase. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself intrigued by this murder mystery featuring five teenagers.

The story begins with Bronwyn, Cooper, Nate, Addy and Simon attending after-school detention. All of them claimed to have been set up for punishment by an unknown person. While the teacher was out of the room Simon took a drink of water from the tap in the room and collapsed. One of the students recognised that Simon was having an allergic reaction but could not find Simon’s Epi-Pen amongst his belongings. The Epi-Pens in the nurses office had also vanished and Simon died.

The immediate investigation focussed on how Simon’s cup came to contain peanut oil and why the Epi-Pens had disappeared. As Simon was the creator of a gossip app that regularly exposed secrets about his schoolmates most of the student body had a reason to dislike him, but the police investigation soon discovered that the four students in detention with Simon had more particular reasons for wanting to kill him.

Bronwyn had cheated on her exams and exposure would have meant she was no longer a contender to attend Yale. Nate was risking jail by dealing drugs while on probation. Cooper was a baseball star whose pitching speed had sped up quickly enough for others to suspect he had been using steroids. The exposure of a past relationship threatened to derail Addy’s present relationship with her control-freak boyfriend.

Simon had somehow found out all of these secrets and had been about to post the details on his app for the whole school to read before he died.

I liked all of the characters, with the exception of Simon who was surprisingly venomous for a boy of his age. The remaining characters interacted well together and although they had made mistakes they had good hearts and I didn’t want any of them to be Simon’s killer. They reminded me of the mix of characters from The Breakfast Club (showing my age here) and before his death, Simon actually referred to himself and his fellow detainees as teen-movie stereotypes.

The only part of this story I didn’t like was how the mystery was resolved. The loose ends were tied up neatly enough but I felt that the reason why the perpetrator acted as they did was far-fetched. Regardless, I enjoyed One of Us Is Lying and can imagine this story being made into a successful movie.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork


Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork was recommended to me by indiefan20 following a conversation about books with autistic characters.

Marcelo in the Real World is Young Adult fiction, which I don’t read a great deal of, but I did enjoy this book. The main character is Marcelo, a seventeen-year old boy whose life is about to change over the course of a summer. Marcello hears and experiences music internally, not exactly by hearing the music, but by experiencing the emotions caused by his internal music as a result of having autism or Asperger’s Syndrome (or something similar, no one, including Marcelo’s doctors, are able to agree on exactly what causes Marcelo’s brain to act this way).

Marcelo attends Paterson, a school which attends to his and other children with specific needs. Marcelo is happy at Paterson and is looking forward to working with the school’s ponies over the summer holiday, then to his final year at Paterson when his father, a lawyer, asks (tells!) Marcelo to expand his world by working in the mailroom at his law firm over the summer, to gain experience in what Marcelo’s father calls the ‘real world.’

I resented Marcelo’s father’s implication that Marcelo’s world was not real. He seemed to me to be too hard on Marcelo, although Marcelo’s mother seemed to me to be too accepting and giving. Perhaps this is often the case with parents in general and that somewhere in the middle there is balance, however because of this, both Marcelo’s parents seemed to me to be flat as characters.

Marcelo worked in the mailroom beside Jasmine, the novel’s other main character. Jasmine was at first angry to have been saddled with Marcelo, but she quickly showed herself to be kind and intuitive, and she and Marcelo became surprisingly good friends.

The bully in this story is Wendell, Marcelo’s father’s partner’s son. Wendell is also working at the law firm for the summer and tries to coerce Marcelo so he can get to Jasmine, who is smart enough to not want to have anything to do with him.

The other villain is Marcelo’s father’s law firm itself, who are acting on behalf of their largest client to shut down multiple claims that the client knowingly sold a faulty product which seriously injured their customers. When Marcelo sees a photo of a young woman who was injured by this product, he acts according to his morals on her behalf, risking his relationship with his father, the law firm and the client’s business in the process.

If I heard internal music and experienced the emotions accordingly as did Marcelo, I don’t know that I would want to live in Marcelo’s father’s ‘real’ world either. However, Marcelo experienced the growth (for want of a better word) that his father wanted for him because of his job. Speaking and working with people was challenging for Marcelo, and he coped surprisingly well with many unexpected situations.

Some of the plot points were over-complicated and felt like padding (Marcelo’s fascination with religion, or his weekend away with Jasmine to see her father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, for example), but on the whole¬†I liked Marcelo’s principled character and I enjoyed this book.


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