Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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Details & Summary:

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 30th 2017
Pages: 380

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

My thoughts…

When Dimple Met Rishi is one of the most hyped books of this year. Before reading it myself, I’d read countless reviews and most of them were very, very positive. As a consequence, I had high expectations and I was very excited to read it. Sadly, I didn’t love it or like it as much as I thought I would. While Dimple and Rishi showcase a healthy, realistic relationship, which we need to see more of in YA, I had a few problems with the story outside the romance.

I’ll start with the good stuff. Dimple and Rishi are both great characters. Dimple knows what she wants. She’s passionate about coding and she’s going to study at Stanford and hopefully someday have a career like her idol, Jenny Lindt. She’s not interested in going to university for the sole purpose of finding her IIH (Ideal Indian Husband) like her parents want her to.

“She refused to be one of those girls who gave up on everything they’d been planning simply because a boy entered the picture.”

Then there’s Rishi, who values family, tradition, and culture. He’s more than okay with the idea of meeting a girl his parents chose for him. He’s also completely okay and confident about the person he is, which was my favourite thing about him.

“If no one says, ‘This is me, this is what I believe in, and this is why I’m different, and this is why that’s okay’, then what’s the point? What’s the point of living in this beautiful, great melting pot where everyone can dare to be anything they want to be?”

Of course, the trouble starts when they meet. Rishi was aware he was being set up with someone he hoped he would marry someday. Dimple was not; she was kind of tricked by her parents.

All in all, I think the arranged marriage theme was done well. I understood both sides and sympathised with both Dimple and Rishi. I was interested to see how they’d get along after this misunderstanding. And, for a while, I really did like their relationship. Though rushed (they are completely in love in just a few weeks), I liked how it was a healthy, realistic relationship where both sides respect and value each other. Very nice to see in YA.

What I didn’t like was how the romance completely took over the plot. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a romance novel, but still. I respected Dimple so much for wanting a career and being passionate about coding and I felt like that all kind of disappeared into the background. Coding is supposed to be her number one passion, so I was very disappointed about how little time she seemed to spend on her project. It was mentioned a couple of times here and there, but I felt like she didn’t work on it that much. All of her time seemed to go toward dating Rishi, dealing with the Amberzombies (rich, mean kids? Really? Enoug with this overused trope already), and the talent show. Basically, the project kind of served as a background to their relationship, which is a real shame since I know how much hard work, time, and dedication it takes in real life.

I also wasn’t a big fan of how literally everything turned out okay in the end.

SPOILER ALERT….

Dimple and Rishi didn’t win but she did get a chance to meet Jenny Lindt who just so happens to love her idea so much she’s willing to invest in it. Dimple contacted Rishi’s role model / idol who also contacts him back. I mean, I really wish these kind of things happened in real life and I could get an answer from Elon Musk or J.K Rowling or anyone else who’s famous (and extremely busy!), but they rarely do.

The same thing goes for other plot points, such as Rishi’s relationship with his brother Ashish. They were all wrapped up rather fast and easy, which felt all a bit too convenionent to me and not very realistic.

While Dimple and Rishi deserves credit for showcasing a healthy, realistic teenage relationship and I loved reading about a different culture than mine, it’s a shame the romance dominated the plot as much as it did and their goals and interests were pushed to the background.

Rating

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Mini-reviews: Fangirl, My Heart and Other Black Holes & Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist (e-ARC)

Hello, friends!

Since I’m WAY behind on reviews, I thought I’d do something different today. Instead of writing a full review for all the books I’ve read in the last couple of weeks (which is too daunting!) I thought I’d get a couple out of the way by doing mini-reviews. I’ve seen these type of posts around for a while now and I really enjoy reading mini-review myself, so why not try it out and see how it goes?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905I’ve mentioned it in the New York Times “By the Book” Tag already but Fangirl kind of disappointed me.  I’d heard so many good things about it and everyone recommended me reading this one ASAP, but after reading it, I’ve come to the conclusion that this book isn’t for me. Maybe the expectations were too high? I don’t know.

The biggest problem I had was not being able to relate to Cath. Which is strange considering I spent most of my time in Uni locking myself up in my dorm as well. And I totally get not wanting to go eat in the cafeteria because there’s just too many people and noise and you don’t know where to sit and … Yeah. The anxiety was done really well.

However, I thought she was too stubborn and naïve. Why was she so offended when her professor told her she couldn’t hand in fan fiction as an assignement? Everyone knows it’s copyright, no matter how much you change the characters or the story. It’s not original fiction. And even after her professor gave her a second chance (I really liked her btw! She was a very caring person), Cath was too stubborn to even give original fiction a shot, which I thought was very priviliged behaviour on her part. In the end, she did do it, but it didn’t seem like she had really changed her mind about fan fiction or original fiction.

I did like the relationships. The Reagan-Cath relationship was GOLD and Levi-Cath was okay, though unrealistic IMO. I loved her dad but didn’t care much for her sister, which was another problem for me.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

18336965Oh my. This is a very bleak but (as far as I can tell) realistic account of two teenagers who’re depressed and suicidal. I loved Aysel’s narration and her personality. Her obsession with physics, particularly potential energy, was very interesting to read about. She’s just a smart, caring girl to whom bad things have happened. The same goes for her “suicide partner” Roman, a.k.a. FrozenRobot. Yes, he made a terrible mistake, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to die.

Before you go, “they’re going to fall in love and save each other, aren’t they?” and dismiss this book, I want to tell you that’s not what happens. Not really. It’s not some cheesy book about love being the cure or anything like that. At the end of the book, neither of them is saved or cured, but they do decide to give life another shot, which is as much as you can realistically expect of them given the state of their mental health throughout the book. To me, the ending strikes the right balance between being hopeful and realistic.

Farewell Tour of a Terminal Optimist by John Young

**Thank you to NetGalley and Floris Books for providing me with a digital copy in exchange for an honest review**

35428869Don’t worry, this one is not as bleak as the title suggests. In fact, this is quite a fun read. Connor might be suffering from cancer, but that boy has got a lot of life in him. He’s a very spirited, kind boy who’s just trying to visit his dad in jail. Much to his surprise (and mine!), his nemisis, Skeates, plays a big role in his journey. Together, they have a crazy adventure while travelling across Scotland.

I liked the characters and the unexpected bromance between Connor and Skeates, but the plot could’ve been tidied up. I had some problems with the pacing, which felt rushed toward the end. Also, some things happened out of nowhere. I can’t tell you because of spoilers, but I can tell you that it has something to do about the reason Connor’s dad is in prison. Basically, the reason behind it was supposed to be this big, astounding event, but the revelation fell a bit flat for me. It was all rather convenionent and worked out too well in the end for it to be realistic.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

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Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

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Details & Summary:

Title: The Serpent King
Author: Jeff Zentner
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House
Release Date: March 8th 2016
Pages: 384

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.
The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.

My thoughts…

“If you’re going to live, you might as well do painful, brave, and beautiful things.”

Many people recommended this book to me, but I didn’t really consider it until I’d read Goodbye Days by the same author, which I loved. I enjoyed his writing style in Goodbye Days and admired him for creating believable and relatable characters. So why not give The Serpent King a chance? I’m happy that I did. Though I prefer Goodbye Days, The Serpent King is a great read that explores important and difficult themes such as being true to yourself and believing in your own capabilities. (Content warning: physical abuse)

The book is split into three POVs for our three main characters: Dill, Travis, and Lydia. Though they each get approximately the same amount of “screen time” so to speak, Dill is inarguably the main character of this story.

Dill is a quiet high school boy, a musician, and the son of a preacher who’s in jail for possessing child pornography. His parents are extremely religious, which affects his day-to-day life. I’d even go as far as say they were emotionally abusive since they told him he could not go college and basically implied he could have no future other than they one they had in mind.

I have to say I found it hard to relate to Dill at first. He was very passive and went along with everything his parents said. His father was in jail (rightfully so) and he was supposed to somehow be okay with that and accept it was all “part of the plan” so to speak. Obviously, he wasn’t okay with it but he felt he couldn’t do anything about it. He felt like he couldn’t do anything that would get him out of town and into a better life. So instead of formulating some kind of plan to improve his situation, he got stuck in thinking his situation was hopeless and lashed out at Lydia for trying to help him and for being ambitious herself. But as the story went on, I got a better sense of who Dill was. He was hurt and nearly broken, but, despite that, he was still a good person.

I had no problem relating to Lydia and Travis.

At 17, Lydia is a famous fashion blogger. She’s very sassy, has the best comebacks, and has worked her way to a future of success. Her parents’ money helps, of course, but it’s mostly her own hard work that got her there. Speaking of, the relationship between Lydia and her father is one of the best and more hilarious ones I’ve ever read. I love their banter.

“I mean, it’s not like she doesn’t like anything. It just has to be Christian. Really Christian,” Dill said.
“Like the Bible barely makes the cut because Christ is only in the second half,” Lydia said.

And then there’s Travis, who’s basically a giant dork who’s obsessed by a fantasy series called Bloodfall and has a secret girlfriend he’s met on one of the forums. Unfortunately, his father is physically abusive but, despite his situation, Travis stays kind and sweet and utterly precious. I loved that guy.

There are several important themes that are tackled in this book, but I love how Zentner handled the theme of “quiet lives”, as shown through Travis. Travis didn’t have any big plans and he was okay with that. He was happy working in town because it allowed him to do the only thing he truly loved, reading Bloodfall after work. In short, he told us readers it’s okay to not want big, “ambitious” lives filled with success. You can still do brave, beautiful things. 

“People live quiet lives and that’s okay. There’s dignity in that, no matter what you may think.”

However, Zentner also tells us you’re allowed to want more, as shown through Lidia and Dill. Lidia is obvious since she had her mind set on a career in New York from the get-go. Dill was a little harder. Like I said, he didn’t believe he deserved a better life. He believe that this was it and that there’s nothing he could do about it. In that way (and many other ways) I thought Zentner handled Dill’s depression really well. I felt just as hopeless as Dill toward the end. However, through an event I can’t explain because of spoilers, Dill realizes he wants more out of his life.

More importantly, he realizes he can have more.

We all can. We just have to be willing to try.

The Serpent King is a story about three teens living in a backwards country town who’re figuring out who they are and what kind of person they’d like to be. Zentner does a great job of balancing light and dark throughout the book. You’ll laugh at some of the characters’ antics, but you’ll also hurt when they do. In the end, Zentner leaves us with a hopeful note that might inspire others who find themselves in similar, seemingly hopeless situations.

Rating

[e-ARC] They Both Die at The End by Adam Silvera

**Thank you to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review**

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Details & Summary

Title: They Both Die at The End
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 5th, 2017
Pages: 384

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure and to live a lifetime in a single day.

My thoughts…

“But no matter what choices we make – solo or together – our finish line remains the same … No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end.”

You all know how much I love Adam Silvera. He tells powerful and emotional stories with realistic, diverse characters and a clear, hopeful message woven through the book. They Both Die at the End is no different. Even though it’s my least favourite of his so far, it’s still a very good book I’ll recommend to anyone who’ll listen to me.

At the start of the book, Mateo and Rufus have one thing in common: Death-Cast calls and tells them they’re both going to die on the same day. This might sound cliché and like an opportunity to shove the same old “carpe diem” slogan down people’s throat, but I promise this book goes beyond that. There’s no danger of rolling your eyes until they hurt.

Don’t get me wrong: They Both Die at The End inspires its readers to live the life you want or always envisioned for yourself without fear holding you back. It’s also about forgiving yourself for mistakes you’ve made along the way. Mateo and Rufus carry out these messages perfectly.

Mateo is an anxious but precious Puerto-Rican boy who regrets not taking more risks, doing more, and, basically, living more when he gets his call. He sets out to go out and do things and I felt so sorry for him knowing he has to cram a whole life of living into one day. Luckily he gets helps from his Life Friend, Rufus, a Cuban-American bisexual boy who’s a bit rough around the edges and has a few skeletons in his closet but is also a complete sweetheart. Together, they make a great team.

Honestly, their friendship was developed to perfection. Mateo being Mateo didn’t trust Rufus at all at first and there was a point where I was sure Rufus would give up on Mateo since Mateo’s anxiety stopped him from leaving his bedroom and doing things Rufus didn’t think twice about. But he doesn’t. Together, Mateo and Rufus experience as much as they can while also dealing with the hard stuff, like saying goodbye to Mateo’s dad who’s in a coma and saying goodbye to their friends. They grow closer, which was inevitable, and, without spoiling anything, I think the development of their relationship and the way it came to a pinnacle was done the right way.

As with all of Adam Silvera’s books, the characters are the stars. Mateo and Rufus are wonderful, but I also have to commend Silvera for fleshing out three-dimensional, realistic side characters such as the Plutos – Rufus’s friends – and Lidia, Mateo’s best friend and a single mom.

“You may be born into family, but you walk into friendships. Some you’ll discover you should put behind you. Others are worth every risk.”

Aside from the characters, Silvera’s writing is as beautiful, poetic, and meaningful as ever. He manages to find the right balance between happy, light moments and feelings, and deep, raw emotions that will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.

The only downside to this book and the reason why I prefer History is All You Left Me and More Happy than Not is the pacing. I found it hard to get into the first couple of chapters. Yes, I liked both main characters separately but, for me, the real story didn’t kick off until they met up. And even though I understand why he did it, I’m also not the biggest fan of the many POVs, but that’s probably a personal preference (also, I wanted to read about Rufus and Mateo as much as possible).     

They Both Die at the End is a story about two young boys who find out they’re going to die within the next 24 hours. Contrary to what you might think, this book isn’t all about death. It’s about life and how you choose to live it, about learning to take risks, about forgiving yourself, about being the person you’ve always wanted to be, and, above all, about not being afraid to live and love until the very last moment.

Rating

Real Rating: 4,5 / 5

Our Story Begins by Elissa Brent Weissman

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Details & Summary:

Title: Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids
Author: Elissa Brent Weissman
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 4th 2017
Pages: 208

From award-winning author Elissa Brent Weissman comes a collection of quirky, smart, and vulnerable childhood works by some of today’s foremost children’s authors and illustrators—revealing young talent, the storytellers they would one day become, and the creativity they inspire today.
Everyone’s story begins somewhere…
For Linda Sue Park, it was a trip to the ocean, a brand-new typewriter, and a little creative license.
For Jarrett J. Krosoczka, it was a third grade writing assignment that ignited a creative fire in a kid who liked to draw.
For Kwame Alexander, it was a loving poem composed for Mother’s Day—and perfected through draft after discarded draft.
For others, it was a teacher, a parent, a beloved book, a word of encouragement. It was trying, and failing, and trying again. It was a love of words, and pictures, and stories.

**Thank you to Wunderkind PR for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

My thoughts…

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while or the ones who take a quick look at my reviews know that I haven’t reviewed anything else but contemporary YA books on my blog. Contemporary YA are the books that I love and will prefer over any other demographic and genre. But when the lovely people of Wunderkind PR contacted me about reviewing a nonfiction book about authors and illustrators sharing their ‘origin story’ if you will, I had to take the opportunity.

Our Story Begins is a collection of stories from well-known authors and illustrators of children’s fiction. They include Kwame Alexander, R.J. Palacio, Candace Fleming, Gail Carson Levins, Grace Lin, Brian Selznick, and many more.

The sections for each of the 26 authors / illustrators follow the same format. They give you insight into how, when or why they started writing or drawing, followed up by an example of their early work. The examples range from poems to short stories and drawings.

As an aspiring author, I found this book very interesting and inspiring. It also gave me hope because the journey of many of these authors and illustrators has been long and difficult, but they’ve succeeded nonetheless. If anything, I’ve learnt to work hard(er) and to never give up.

My favourite story is that of Dan Santat, who was inspired to draw after seeing Norman Rockwell’s work.

Norman Rockwell was old. My five-year-old judgment of age concluded that he was probably a thousand years old. I remembered how, earlier that evening, my dad had mentioned that Norman Rockwell had painted for years to become that good.
NORMAN ROCKWELL HAD A THOUSAND YEARS OF PRACTICE ON ME.
And I was only five.
So I began to draw.

The only slight problem I have with “Our Story Begins” is that some of the stories are rather short. For some, I would’ve liked to read more about their lives and their reflections on their childhood and seen less material.

Having said that, this is a great read for anyone in the creative business. And even if you aren’t, I would still recommend giving it a read. After all, who doesn’t love a few good success and childhood stories?

Rating

Review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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Details & Summary

Title: More Happy Than Not
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: June 2nd 2015
Pages: 304

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.
Why does happiness have to be so hard?

My Thoughts…

“Sometimes pain is so unmanageable that the idea of spending another day with it seems impossible. Other times pain acts as a compass to help you get through the messier tunnels of growing up. But the pain can only help you find happiness if you can remember it.”

Where to start? I honestly don’t know. A lot of thoughts and emotions have come from reading this book, but it’s hard to put them into words. I guess I’ll start by saying that I thought this book couldn’t live up to History is All You Left Me, which I read first and is one of my all-time favourites, but it did. It most definitely did. More Happy Than Not is a dark, sad, and above all thought-provoking book that deals with suicide, homophobia, and depression but still manages to close on a semi-hopeful note.

More Happy Than Not is a contemporary book, but there are sci-fi elements to the story, mainly the Leteo Institute. The Leteo Institute takes away or rather “suppresses” memories or things you’d like to forget, such as being responsible for you twin brother’s death (which happened to one of Aaron’s friends).

The story starts out by detailing Aaron Soto’s day-to-day life. Aaron lives in the Bronx with his Mum and his brother Eric, his girlfriend Genevieve, and his friends. He’s struggling with depression after his father’s suicide. Aaron has recently tried to commit suicide himself.

The story kicks off when he meets Thomas, an eccentric and sweet boy who lives in his neighbourhood. The two of them hit it off and they grow closer as the story enfolds. Silvera did a fantastic job at pacing their relationship. It didn’t feel rushed and definitely wasn’t a case of “insta-love”. Aaron’s newfound feelings for Thomas came over time after having spent much of his free time with him. But please don’t think this is a cute romance story because it’s everything but that.

“From the shapes cast by the green paper lantern, you would never know that there were two boys sitting closely to one another trying to find themselves. You would only see shadows hugging, indiscriminate.”

Not everyone’s happy about Aaron’s close relationship with Thomas. His “friends” make it very clear they will not accept Aaron being gay in one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever read. They almost beat Aaron to death and I won’t spoil what happens next, but this assault “triggers” something inside Aaron. Something that makes him turn to the Leteo Institute for help.

He tries to erase a part of who he is, which leads to a horrible consequence or “side-effect”. The ending to this book is definitely sad, but also thought-provoking because, ultimately, it’s a way to show us that you can’t change who you are. It might seem hard and impossible. It might also seem like you’ll never find true happiness, but maybe you don’t have to. Maybe you can start by being more happy than not.

“I’ve become this happiness scavenger who picks away at the ugliness of the world, because if there’s happiness tucked away in my tragedies, I’ll find it no matter what. If the blind can find joy in music, and the deaf can discover it with colors, I will do my best to always find the sun in the darkness because my life isn’t one sad ending—it’s a series of endless happy beginnings.”

More Happy Than Not is another brilliant and must-read book by Adam Silvera that should be required reading.

Rating

Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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Details & Summary:

Title: One of Us is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: May 30th 2017
Pages: 370

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

My thoughts…

General warning: this review contains spoilers
Content warning: harmful representation of mental illness

I finished this book a while back, but I haven’t gotten around to writing a review. I’ve been staring at that blank page for a while now and, to be honest, my mind has been blank. Why? Because I’m conflicted. I don’t know how to feel about this book. On the one hand, I love it. I love the plot and the characters. On the other hand, I hate how mental illness was portrayed. I’m going to try and explain how I feel, but please excuse me if it doesn’t make much sense.

I’ll start with the things I liked about One of Us is Lying. First off, I’m a Breakfast Club fan so this book was right up my alley. Yes, this book contains a lot of character clichés (the jock, the bad boy, the princess, the nerd, …) but that’s the point. The reason why it’s okay is because there’s plenty of character development. None of the characters end up being the same person they were when they started.

Without giving too much away, I want to give props to Karen M. McManus for Nate and Addy’s character arcs since I felt those were done the best. Was I surprised by their development? No. Their journeys are fairly predictable, but I didn’t mind because they were done well. On the same note, I think she pulled off the relationships between the characters really well.

Spoiler ahead (!!)

Nate and Bronwyn were my favourite. I’m a sucker for the bad boy and nerdy girl romance and they were just. so. cute. together.

“I stand and hold out my hand. She gives me a skeptical look, but takes it and lets me pull her to her feet. I put my other hand in the air. ‘Bronwyn Rojas, I solemnly swear not to murder you today or at any point in the future. Deal?’
‘You’re ridiculous,’ she mutters, going even redder.
‘It concerns me you’re avoiding a promise not to murder me.”

Second, the plot is well executed. This book is an easy read because the plot moves along at a good pace and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you turning the page. I usually don’t read mystery, but I think she pulls it off. There are plenty of characters that look guilty over the course of the story but also enough hints for the reader to figure things out along the way or to read back and see what was foreshadowed all along. She left me guessing for a while but I caught on to the real killer a little over halfway in, which I didn’t mind because I still wanted to know if I was right and who else was involved.

Now, for the things I didn’t like…

I’m sorry to say that One of Us is Lying features harmful representation of mental illness. Nate’s mother is bipolar and while I don’t have much knowledge when it comes to the subject, I felt her mental illness was handled badly and, overall, in a very negative way. While I understand Nate’s feelings – meaning, I can understand it’s tough to grow up with a parent who wasn’t there for you, regardless of the state of their mental health – his comments often felt like an insult to bipolar people who’re trying to be a good parent.

“I can’t sit here listening to her promises and hoping it’ll all work out. That she’ll stay sober, stay employed, stay sane.”

Since his mother is shown in a more positive light toward the end of the book, I was willing to “forget about it” or at least forgive McManus for it, but there was a bigger problem I can’t ignore.

This is where the real spoilers start, so please stop reading if you don’t want to know who the killer is.

In the end, this book turned out to be the biggest case of revenge suicide I’ve ever come across. I appreciate that McManus incorporated the “standard” symptoms of the character’s mindset throughout the story (because they can potentially help readers notice the same symptoms and behaviour IRL, aka raises awareness).

The real problem is that character is made into a villain. It basically tells us readers that people who’ve committed suicide (or the ones that are contemplating on committing suicide) are “evil” and “dangerous”. This is clear example of the “mentally ill people are dangerous” trope that needs go away. Like, yesterday. Seriously, enough already. We don’t need this. We need empathy toward people who’re struggling with mental illness. The last thing they need is to be villainized.

While I enjoyed the characters and plot of One of Us is Lying and the writing was more than decent, I’m extremely disappointed to see a harmful trope regarding mental illness being represented in this book. It’s a shame because, without it, One of Us is Lying could’ve been a clear 5-star book.

Rating