A game of school-wide Truth or Dare turns deadly in One of Us is Next, the highly anticipated sequel to Karen McManus’s One of Us is Lying. It’s been a year and a half since we left Bayview High, and since then, no one has been able to successfully carry on Simon’s gossip legacy. Everyone has moved on with their lives.
But as the reader, you already know it won’t last. The novel opens with a news report about the death of a Bayview High student, followed by posts from an online revenge forum, where two anonymous users discuss someone who’s ruined their life. One user writes, “I can’t do anything about it,” to which the other user ominously responds, “There’s always something you can do.” With this in your mind, you flash back to several months earlier. Our three main characters are doing fine, relatively. Maeve is applying to colleges and desperately hoping that a random nosebleed doesn’t signal the return of her leukemia. Knox is interning at Until Proven, secretly hoping to win his father’s approval. Phoebe is still struggling with her father’s death, which happened three years earlier, but at least things are settling into normal.
Then one morning, all the students at Bayview High receive the same anonymous text: it’s time to play Truth or Dare. A random person is selected and they must pick Truth or Dare — will their darkest secret be revealed to the entire school, or will they be challenged to a wild dare? Phoebe is the first selected, and she refuses to play along, thinking no one else knows the secret she holds closest. Unfortunately, she’s wrong, and the secret wrecks havoc on her already tenuous relationship with her sister. Maeve tries stalking the revenge forums, hoping to find who’s behind it all, without much luck. She’s the next target of Truth or Dare, and her secret isn’t pretty either. These truths are causing a lot of grief, and the message is clear — always take the Dare. The dares, however, prove not to be so safe either. The game has spiraled out of control, and at this point, maybe no one can stop it.
I’ve been on a huge thriller kick lately, and this novel really impressed me with all its twists and turns. Several times, I was able to predict things, but McManus has a way of constantly throwing me off and making me question everything. And just when you think everything is finally falling into place, on the last few pages, she hits you with the ultimate twist. I am still reeling.
What really shone in this novel were the characters and their relationships, not just with each other, but with all the people around them. Phoebe and Knox both have complicated relationships with their families — Knox is the only boy in his family, feeling significant pressure from his tough father to be more masculine, and Phoebe has a strained relationship with her older sister since their dad died, which in turn has affected her relationship with her younger brother. Maeve is also struggling with trying to hide the signs of her potential relapse from all her loved ones, because she doesn’t want anyone to worry. All of these struggles felt so real and personal to me as I read. It was so refreshing to see a book like this deal with hard family issues so honestly. The characters themselves are also delightful to be around. Maeve is incredibly smart and mature for her age. Knox is sweet and awkward in the best ways. Their friendship is absolutely adorable! Phoebe was a little harder for me to get into because she’s more of the pretty, popular girl type, but as you get to know her, you see that she’s a straight-up badass.
This book is an absolute pleasure to read and guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Give it a try, I dare you. 😉