One of Us Is Lying: A Review (of sorts)

Imagine this:


plus this:


but subtract the carefree fun of this:


and that’s what you get when you read this:


Karen M. McManus’s One of Us Is Lying is classic whodunit with a modern twist.  It centers around 5 teenagers who are sent to detention, only to have one of them murdered while they are there.  Just like 1985’s The Breakfast Club, we have an eclectic group of students: the athlete, the brains, the criminal, the social outcast, and the beauty.  All are stereotypical on the surface, but each one becomes much more complex as the story unfolds.

Told via alternate perspectives from the 4 remaining suspects, the reader is propelled into their separate–and now intertwined–worlds where there is plenty of speculation on all accounts about who committed the crime.

Full disclosure: I did have it figured out from the beginning.  I didn’t want to call it, but I am the same person who leaned into my husband about 1/2 way through The Sixth Sense and told him that dude was dead.  He has never forgiven me.  What can I say: I see dead people.

My sleuthy Sherlockian skills aside, I thought that if I ended up being right about the killer, the story would end up feeling like it fell short.  But I was wrong about that.  McManus does a great job building doubt for several characters throughout the story, so I did start to question my theory a few times.

Overall, this is a fun read, and I recommend it.  Since I don’t read as much YA anymore, I enjoyed stepping back into it, if only for a little while.

Also, I think John Hughes would have been proud.  Here: enjoy this for a minute.



Do Not Become Alarmed: A Review (of sorts)

I haven’t posted in a while, but this read was too good not to give a quick shout out.  The premise of this fiction (Thank God it’s fiction!) is relatable to all parents who have taken their children on vacation and have feared the worst would happen: losing your child(ren) in an unfamiliar area.  Are they dead?  Alive?  Trafficked?  Held hostage?

The panic.  The stress.  The absolute loss of control.  It’s terrifying.33155774

Whether Nora and Liv’s fears were realized in the book, I’ll leave for you to discover.  It won’t take you long; though the book is 342 pages, the chapters are short and the story progresses with great speed and alternate points of view.

Even though it’s a quick read, this book has heft and depth.  There are a lot of complexities with the characters, both internal and external, and the reader really has an opportunity to feel as they do, and all of them are relatable, whether it’s Neomi, a South American 10 year old who is trying to make it across the US border to be with her illegal-immigrant parents in NY; Marcus, an 11-year old map enthusiast with autism; or 40-something Nora, a stay at home mom and wife of a successful actor.

The character development is what I enjoyed most.  One of the book’s accomplishments is to tell the story in such a way that the reader may not realize how complex the plot is until he steps back and evaluates how the characters are responding to what is happening to them.

I still have a lot I could write about from the books that I’ve loved most this year (Exit West by Hamid and Word by Word by Stamper have been among my faves.).  Maybe stay tuned for more on those and more.  I’ll get back to writing more now that summer has officially begun.

Book Winks

Call me a lit nerd, but I sort of love it when this happens:

I’m reading along, minding my own business, and then, in some cosmic literary force, my stars align and fiction reaches out to hold hands with reality.  It’s an act of fate that says, “Yes, you’re reading the right book at the right time.”  Since it doesn’t happen often, it’s pretty freaking amazing when it does.

IMG_5112I’ll explain…

I finished a book today, but I didn’t have a book hangover this time (thank god), so I wanted to read something else right away.  I picked up a few novels from my nightstand and started browsing to select just the right one, but I wasn’t really feeling any of them.  So I asked my best friend what she was reading and was happy to learn that she was reading a YA novel, Mosquitoland by David Arnold, which was already on my mountainous to-be-read-shelf.  I cracked her open, and pretty much right away, this happened (See pic.).

Sure, most people will think it’s no big deal and that it’s just a coincidence.  BUT IT’S LABOR DAY EVE for goodness sake, and don’t even try to pretend that it’s not freaking cool!  You can’t take this from me!

This has happened before.  In the weeks after the Sandy Hook tragedy, I, like most of America, was wrapped up in the news coverage of this horrific, senseless shooting, and I needed to take. a. step. away. from. CNN.  I casually picked up Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her, and almost immediately I came across the line:

“Magda, is ‘rocking a dope Ochun-colored bikini that her girls helped her pick out so she could torture me, and I’m in these old ruined trunks that say ‘Sandy Hook Forever!’”  

Are you kidding me?  I couldn’t believe it: a book that had been published before the shooting, and yet even in my attempts at a quiet escape from reality and the news, the written words still found their screaming way to my ears.  Not such a great thing at the time, but still an interesting coincidence.

There’s more…

About a year and a half ago, as I was reading The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, I found myself immersed in the historical-fictional account of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  I had never heard of this tragedy before, so I set the book aside and Googled it, only to learn that I was reading about it on the very anniversary of the fire, March 25.  Of all the books in the world to read, and of all of the days of the year they could be read, and of all the days one could be reading a particular part of a certain book, I was reading about that particular event in history on the very day it had occurred 103 years earlier.  What are the freaking odds?  That’s just magic, I don’t care what you say.

So what?  What could these instances mean?  Carl Jung called these meaningful coincidences “synchronicities.”  His theory actually goes much deeper than my book-related coincidences, but it’s definitely worthy of mention, and the essence is pretty much the same.

My mom is pretty spiritual, and she has told me about these little messages that she believes God sends to her in times of need.  She calls them “God Winks.”  She even asks God to send people she loves these little signs or messages.  She will tell me, “I prayed that God would give you a little God Wink today.”  She’s so sincere and sweet, and man, I love that about her.

But, while I don’t necessarily think it’s God sending me messages through my Book Winks and I don’t think my meaningful coincidences go as deep as Jung’s Synchronicities, I certainly do think that sometimes these coincidences are pretty spectacular, so in the words of John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, “It’s hard to believe in coincidence, but it’s even harder to believe in anything else.” Continue reading