One of Us is Lying was my gateway drug to the world of YA fiction. It is the first YA thriller I ever read, after seeing it EVERYWHERE for MONTHS. I gave it a try because of all the hype and am glad to say it is one of the best decisions I ever made. Because of Karen McManus and her incredible characters and plot twists, I branched out from my non-fiction-Euro-history-cave and found more of her work, as well as new authors that I have come to adore.
McManus has become an auto-buy author for me, no questions asked. If you've followed my blog for any amount of time at all, you know that I do not buy books to keep unless they are reeeeeeally special to me - looking at you, Dan Jones. I love the characters McManus created for Bayview, and the characters either introduced or given their own time to shine in the sequel, One of Us is Next.
I also fan-girled real hard HERE when she announced there will be a final installment to the OOU books in 2023, One of Us is Back. I've badgered her for months about one more, as have untold numbers of other fans. Now that I am getting what I want, I am kind of fucking terrified that she is going to meddle in their lives one more time. Bronwyn and Nate were fine and happy the last time we saw them, even if his arm was in a sling from the surgery to remove the shrapnel from when he threw himself over Bronwyn to protect her from the bomb blast.
Since it is clear how much I love the OOU books, you can imagine both my excitement and wariness when it was announced that a show based on the books was in the works. I was excited to see characters I love and hate brought to life on-screen, but let's be realistic: the shows and movies based on books we love are rarely as good as the original source material.
I feel like my concern was justified right off the bat when I saw photos of the actor chosen to play Nate. He had blond hair! Nate is not blond. Looking at the rest of the cast however, specifically the actors hired to play Simon and Jake, I guess it made sense to not have three actors with dark hair. Plus the actor playing Cooper has black hair. This may not seem like a big deal, but the dark hair/blue-eyed combo played a brief but important part in the book when the group was trying to track down the drivers involved in the “car accident“ in the parking lot that drew them all to the window and sent Mr. Avery downstairs to see what was going on. Plus, I am a stickler for details. Luckily his hair is darker in the show than in the headshots I saw, so that helps. Even so, I was rightly concerned about bigger changes coming.
And believe me, there are plenty.
At first I swore up and down I was not even going to watch it. I was so nervous that the show was going to absolutely destroy a book I loved so much. A book that holds a special place in my heart not only because the twists and turns took me by surprise at every turn, but because it also led me to a few other books and authors I love so much - Courtney Summers, Tiffany D. Jackson, Hannah Capin, and more.
Plus, I absolutely love Nate and Bronwyn and they’re probably my favorite book couple ever. Nate might even be that weird thing I used to make fun of other readers for having - my book boyfriend.
Thanks to Greg, who shares my love for all things McManus, I learned that the first three episodes of the show were free on Peacock. I could create an account and watch the first three episodes, and then just go on my merry way knowing I was right and the show was terrible and I didn’t ever need to watch the other five.
Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
I blew through the first three episodes and didn’t hesitate to sign up for the streaming service the minute that third episode was done. I had to know what was going to happen, how they were going to resolve the mystery, which threads would lead to a wild goose chase, and which would bring them closer to an answer.
I loved every second of it.
Naturally there are a ton of changes to the story, some are minor that you probably won’t even notice if you have not read the books in a while (GREG!) and some are so fucking massive it completely goes off the rails away from the book. Even with the latter, the show is compelling and the storytelling is so tight. It’s such a well–put-together show that even had I never read the book I would probably be just as invested because it’s so, so good.
That’s not going stop me from noting the major changes though because I am loyal to the book first.
If you are planning to watch the show, you should stop reading now. There will be major spoilers from here on out and trust when I say they will completely ruin the show for you if you know ahead of time what is coming. Believe me when I say the color of Nate‘s hair is the least of these changes.
So, here we go. Changes I don’t love and changes I don’t hate, but all are changes that are big fucking deals.
- Simon dies on the first day of school.
- Simon didn’t kill himself and he is not the sole villain - or even the biggest villain. Jake orchestrated Simon's death by stealing the EpiPens from the nurse’s office; Jake basically bullied Simon into pulling this prank on the four, but then Jake swiped the EpiPens after signing Addy’s name into the log book. In the book Addy went to the nurse herself to get some Tylenol for Jake.
- Simon was not suicidal or on meds.
- Janae was not involved at all. She posted the four secrets only because she guessed Simon's password and saw them in his drafts and she thought at the time that one of them really killed Simon. She changed Cooper's secret because she did not want to out him.
- As a result, Janae eventually becomes part of Murder Club.
- The way everyone gets detention is different, only Bronwyn has a phone put in her bag. Addy had a mysterious alarm set on hers that goes off in class, Cooper was late because he couldn't find his phone after P.E., and Nate's locker was jammed so he was late as well. All four had physics at different times with Mrs. Avery.
- Bronwyn and Evan start off as a couple. No Kate, and Yumiko has become Miko.
- Vanessa is dating TJ
- No Ashton, Eli, Luis, Leah
- Bronwyn steals Simon’s laptop in the library when no one is looking after Simon has been taken to the hospital
- Nate’s sex life is far more subdued. It was a major highlight in the book because Simon was always posting about Nate's hook-ups and dealing. He was on the app more than anyone.
- No probation officer for Nate, he’s one strike away from doing time for selling drugs
- Janae is gay, and in love with Maeve
- Maeve and Simon had a thing
- Simon’s mom is the mayor; they live across the street from Bronwyn’s family
- Mr. Avery becomes Mrs. Avery and plays a much bigger role, including helping Vanessa get an abortion
- They all go to Homecoming
- Murder Club has more secret meetings
- Everything comes to a head at Jake’s Halloween party
- Nate breaks up with Bronwyn twice, once when she visits him in jail (which also didn’t happen in the book, because he refused to let her come see him in jail) and then at the end of the finale when he says they’re not each other’s normal
- Jake presumably dies in the last episode, and it’s unclear who shot him. The three with him were Addy, Coop, and Janae. Nate and Bronwyn lagged behind Cooper and Janae because Bronwyn hurt her ankle when she and Addy had to jump from Jake’s bedroom balcony to get the Xbox away from him that contained the chats of him and Simon planning it all. Nate wouldn’t leave her behind, so they moved much slower until the shot rings out and they get to the clearing in the woods where everyone else standing
- Someone knows what happened in the woods, or at least knows something happened for Jake to have disappeared, and the final scene of the finale shows as much, as the four and Janae receive a text from someone using the tag ‘Simon Says’
- No construction job for Nate
- Vanessa becomes a TikTok sensation with her videos/photos about Murder Club and doesn’t believe the story that Addy told the police about Jake disappearing from the Halloween party because she confronted him about seeing the chats
- Nate love Japanese horror flicks in the book, and the first movie they watch “together” is…The Birds?! Seriously?! WTF.
There are more, but these are the big ones. I can one hundred percent absolutely positively unequivocally say that I love the show. I don’t love all the changes. Simon and Jake were the bad guys. Simon still comes across as a dick that everyone hates because he is always posting their secrets, but his mental health was a compelling part of the story. One of the scenes that sticks with me from the book is when Janae tells Addy that if Simon had been taking his meds and in his right frame of mind he "wouldn't have wanted this for" her. I thought that was really powerful.
However, if the following seasons are as well done as the first one, I will watch the show as long as they make it.
Things I Loved:
- Music is on-point. Fucking perfect.
- So many of Nate and Bronwyn’s important moments are captured perfectly, even if they happen differently from the book: Nate giving Bronwyn a ride home after detention, Nate holding Bronwyn‘s hand when they are meeting with Detective Wheeler to stop her from admitting to having Simon’s laptop, them promising not to murder each other, their phone conversations, Nate telling Bronwyn he ‘stole Jesus from her’ during the nativity play when they were in elementary school
- The casting really is fucking perfect. I got over the fact that Nate has blondish brown hair. Jake, Janae, and Addy especially are perfectly cast.
- There are honestly 1000 little ways the show references things that happened or were mentioned in the book that are honestly too numerous to mention. Every time I rewatch I notice more and more little things that just make me smile because even though the show veered in different directions at times it’s clear that they paid attention to the details of the book.
- I loved the flashbacks that showed how Simon got the secrets and how he traded up for better and better information
- Despite it meaning giving up Nate and Bronwyn’s very public kiss in the cafeteria, I am really OK with the traumatic scene of Cooper entering the cafeteria after his real secret being leaked not be part of the show. It’s my least fave part of the book because it’s so terrible for Coop; though Nate calls out Vanessa for being such a bitch in the book which I always appreciate
Things That Irritated Me:
- Where the fuck is Cooper’s accent? In the book he moved from Mississippi freshman year and his accent still comes out. In the show he arrived at Bayview junior year and has zero trace of any accent despite still being from Mississippi
- There was a very minimal build-up of Bronwyn and Nate's backstory. From the book we learn they have known each other most of their lives because from Kindergarten to 5th grade they went to St. Pius together. Both bring up memories of this time in the book, how they had crushes on each other back then, what Bronwyn observed of Nate's mom's behaviors when she would show up to school, etc. You don't get a feel for the length of time they have actually known each other just from the mentions on the show. Not knowing this, and not even getting to see all of their phone conversations, makes it seem like Bronwyn telling her parents she loves Nate kind of soon.
- In the book it was always very clear that Nate didn’t do any drugs despite being a dealer. Personally I don’t care about he and Addy smoking a joint, but it was an important distinction to Nate.
Final verdict: I fucking love this show and I swear to God if Peacock does not order a second season I will lose my fucking mind.