I suppose we can blame Karen McManus for this, but is that really fair? The thrillers she writes are fantastic, while remaining plausible for the teens who inhabit the worlds where she wreaks havoc.
I guess I can kind of blame her; after she all she pulled me into this YA thriller world but the problem is, most of the books I read that are in the same genre are not nearly as good. Not even by half.
And I can say all of this because for the first 68% or so (I don't remember exactly where it happened, I didn't take note of it at the time, unfortunately), I did not hate the book. I had already figured out who one of the guilty people was (thought this person was the killer, was wrong about that aspect but definitely knew this person was involved) and I knew someone else was involved somehow but it did not work out the way I expected. Not a problem, I was still enjoying the story.
Then, out of no where, we were suddenly and without warning dropped right into the fucking middle of I Know What You Did Last Summer.
For fucks' sake.
Disclaimer: I LOVE I Know What You Did Last Summer. In fact, I have read nearly every Lois Duncan book ever and that one, along with Killing Mr. Griffin, remain among my favorites of all time.
The problem with books that want to top One of Us is Lying is that they try to out-do McManus in the twists-and-turns department (and fail MISERABLY), and by the end everything is so convoluted they have to count on readers being confused and just accepting the ending at face-value.
I refuse to do that, so here we go.
First of all, Pippa is a terrible person and that seems to be okay with everyone at the end. She makes some remarks at her capstone speech whatever about how she should be disqualified because she did not complete the project alone, Ravi helped her. Um, maybe you should be disqualified because of the super unethical way you got your information? You know, when you committed crimes like blackmail, and breaking and entering? And had your little B&E been successful, you would have also committed the crime of stealing. Right there at the beginning of the book Pippa signed her name agreeing she would conduct herself ethically while researching this 'project'. I guess this is for the benefit of the reader, and somehow we should be okay with this seventeen year old running around being completely the opposite, because in the end she proved that Sal was innocent so, no harm no foul, right?
Wrong. Wrong, WRONG WRONGGGGGGGGG.
As evidence we also have the examples of how, once she founds out about the thing that landed us in I Know What You Did Last Summer territory, with the friends involved in the accident where they hit a guy, thought he was dead, and left him on the side of the road, she decides to not go to the police. Her reasoning is that even though she hates Max the serial rapist (she does not yet know that he is drugging girls at parties, we will get to that later) because he is a douche, but she wants to protect Naomi, who is like a sister to her. Naomi's younger sister Cara is Pippa's best friend, and the girls lost their mother to cancer some years prior. So basically she doesn't want to hurt their family. Even though there is proof that they were involved in a hit-and-run that left a guy either paralyzed or as a paraplegic, I honestly don't even remember because this fuckery was just too much. AND someone knew they were involved in the hit and run, and that is why this group of friends lied and said Sal was not with them, even when he was. Some friends, huh?
THEN! When Pippa figures out who the actual killer is, her dumb ass goes right on over to the house and basically tells the killer that she knows she did it, and ol' Pip is giving her the chance to get away, leave the country, get out before the cops figure it out too. Because Pippa is just soooooo smart and FIGURED EVERYTHING OUT. I read that and thought, seriously? You're warning the killer to leave so she does not get caught? And you went by yourself to the killer's house to tell the killer you know, instead of going to the police...
Like I said, what fuckery is this?
But there's more! And all of this is JUST AS PLAUSIBLE AS EVERYTHING ELSE...
So Pippa and Ravi find the dealer who was supplying Andie so she could deal to her high school friends and the people she partied with (Max bought a ton of Rohypnol; FYI, it is not rape if they don't say no). Pippa magically realized she needed leverage to make the drug dealer talk. She waited him out, scoping out the location she found where he dealt, at the train station. (Related, but not to this point directly: Pippa found a lot of info in Andie's planner during her B&E. Andie recorded all the dates and times she was supposed to meet Howie, the dealer, at the train station. These were labeled in her planner as TS, just so five years later Pippa could solve her murder. I mean, seriously. Who would go far enough to have a burner phone ((HEY NATE AND BRONWYN, fancy meeting your here)) but then write the fucking meeting dates in her planner? NO ONE WOULD DO THAT. NO ONE.)
Anyway, so they follow Howie to his house, and he just happens to live on the street where Andie's car was found abandoned, her blood in the trunk. With no common sense or fear for her own life, Pip walks right on up to the door and knocks, tells Howie she has pictures of him dealing, and says he has to talk or she goes to the cops. Know what a normal drug dealer does when people threaten them? Drug dealers kills them. Or at the very least would take the phone themselves (but he can't do that, because Pippa will need it later on in the story for other ridiculous ways to track more clues and find the killers). They don't make deals and then magically forget that nothing is ever really deleted, at least not right away. But nope, he spills what he knows, Pip deletes the photos from her phone, and he lets she and Ravi go on their merry way. He trusts that even though they know who he is, where he deals, and where he lives, that they will not go to the cops. Of course.
Aside from One of Us is Lying and the nod to Nate and Bronwyn with the burner phone sitch, this book is pretty much Pretty Little Liars all over again, condensed into one book - although I did notice a sequel is coming out and, what the fuck, more murders for Pippa and Ravi to solve? Anyway, I binged the entire PLL series in one week a couple summers ago. I never watched the show but I LOVED the first four books. I did not even mind the second set of four. Everything from book nine and on was so fucking ridiculous and crazy and implausible that I had to read through book sixteen just to see how far the author would take it. Turns out, pretty far.
ANYWAY. The book here is pretty much the PLL premise:
Andie was pretty and popular and disappeared. Just like Alison.
Andie in reality was mean and manipulative and a bully. Just like Alison.
Andie taunted her friends with secrets. Just like Alison.
There are a lot of other parallels too, or honestly things that are blatant rip-offs that I don't even want to get into because the review will end up being five times longer. But they are there and if you choose to read this, and have ever read Pretty Little Liars, you will see the similarities.
As for the writing, it fell pretty flat. Things alternated from Pippa tying out her capstone log entries, to us then following her (and often Ravi) as more and more clues were discovered. I couldn't decide if it was better to be out of her head for half the book, or in it. Sometimes I could not understand what the fuck she was thinking or what her justification could possibly be for whatever stupid thing she was doing, and half the time I wanted to shake her because her justifications made no fucking sense at all.
Pippa does other terrible things besides the blackmail and breaking into the home of the girl whose murder she is investigating. On top of all that, she pretends to be a reporter from CNN working on a piece about drinking and partying, in order to get people to talk to her who attended the high school house parties with Andie, Sal, Max, Naomi, and the others ones from their group that I can't remember because no one had an personality. She also straight-up catfished Andie's best friends, using one of those anonymous number apps to get the nice one to talk, because the bitchy one wouldn't. I can't actually remember the names of the nice one and the bitchy one, because they also had no other personality. So, she got info by pretending to be people she was not. AND she also manipulates her own friends into helping her, like the thing with getting into Naomi's Facebook, blah blah blah. AND EVERYONE IS JUST OKAY WITH THIS SHIT AT THE END.
The only people I truly cared about in the story were hardly in it at all. Mr. and Mrs. Singh do not appear until the end. They have remained in the town, as has Salil's younger brother Ravi, and he makes a point early on when Pippa first asks to interview him that she would not be in their home if his mother was home, because they do not talk about what happened. It was such an awful event for their family to go through, their son to be accused of murdering his girlfriend, then supposedly committing suicide within days after 'confessing' via text. People are super shitty to them and Ravi, and I was relieved for the family that Sal's name was cleared. Unfortunately that actually meant he was murdered, and none of it would bring their son and brother back, but at least the truth was out there, finally.
As soon as it was revealed that the person I thought killed Andie actually killed Sal and only thought he had killed Andie, I knew who Andie's real killer was. That ending made no sense and I really feel like this author was trying to go for maximum surprise, but it ended up just being stupid and tired.
The book had potential, really truly. But the suspect list got overwhelming and there were just too many twists, red herrings, etc to even be believable. Plus, it took too much from Pretty Little Liars in terms of plot points, and tried too hard to be a constant maze of 'who is guilty now?' I would like to point out I am not trying to discourage YA thriller authors from writing. But these 'twists and turns' need to make sense. Even I was cautious when I read there would be a sequel to One of Us is Lying. I'd devoured that and Two Can Keep a Secret within hours. I loved them. But how would a sequel to OOUIL even work? Kids can't just keep getting accused of murder (And I would also like to point out that the Murder Club never actually broke any laws when they were trying to find out who was behind it all - aside from sneaking into the housing development to talk about who could be trying to frame them) and solving crimes. They have to go to school at some point, after all. Yet One of Us is Next worked, and worked well. It made sense. And if other writers realized that teens and young adults are not as stupid as they seem to think, they would work on writing thrillers that also make sense, so we could enjoy them instead of dissecting how ridiculous they are.
Not recommended. At all.