Teen Volunteer Book Reviews: One of Us is Lying and Dread Nation

Teens: did you know that you can earn community service credit for writing a book review and submitting it to us? Today, we’ll hear from two teens who did just that. Find out more about how to earn community service hours from home at cheshirelibrary.org/teens/.

One of Us is Lying by Karen A. McManus, reviewed by Julia F.

If you enjoy a mix of realistic fiction, mystery, high school drama, and social media intrigue, One of Us is Lying, by Karen M. McManus, is for you.

Who murdered Bayview High School’s Simon Kelleher? Was it Bronwyn, the bright academic who wishes to attend Yale? Or could it have been the Cooper, the group’s “jock”? Maybe you will suspect Addy because she is popular and social? Or was it the troubled Nate who already has a checkered past? You may be wondering why someone would want to kill Simon in the first place. He ran the school’s widely followed juicy gossip app ABOUT THAT, which was set to reveal secrets about each of the suspects. All four had skeletons in their closets, but was someone’s secret devastating enough to warrant a murder?

We find out that Bronwyn has gone to interesting lengths to protect her academic future and her family’s legacy. Cooper has a baseball career in the balance, and his tangled web of lies threatens to take away his opportunity to be a star. Addy is not who she seems to those around her and now she stands to lose those closest to her. Nate doesn’t have as much to lose, but the post could land him in jail. Simon’s death causes new alliances to form between the suspects as they scramble to protect their secrets and prove their innocence. As you read this book you will find yourself suspecting each of the four students at one point or another.

This book will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. If you are looking for an exciting thriller and quick read, be sure you have a chunk of time available because you won’t want to put it down! Good news— there is a sequel (One of Us is Next) that follows Bronwyn’s younger sister Maeve and it is just as captivating.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, reviewed by Stephanie D.

Dread Nation is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the American Civil War… with one important twist. In this alternate history universe, the fighting stops halfway through, around the year 1863. Why? The answer is simple but terrifying: the soldiers don’t stay dead anymore. The Civil War is postponed as Northerners and Southerners alike grapple with a zombie apocalypse, and our story focuses in on a teenage girl named Jane. Jane is sent from her mother’s plantation to one of the recently opened combat schools. These have been springing up around the country as African and Native American teenagers are forced to learn to fight zombies (or “shamblers”, as they are called in the book). Dread Nation follows Jane and her classmate Katherine as they are sent to defend Summerland, a frontier town under the constant siege of shamblers. Once in Summerland, Katherine pretends to be a wealthy white woman and Jane her Attendant (someone who is responsible for their employer’s life in the event of a zombie attack). Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Summerland, the town is soon overrun by shamblers, and Jane and Katherine must flee to save their lives.

I gave this book a solid four stars. I really enjoyed the universe building and detailed description of historical events, because I could compare it to the version of history I had learned in history class and the fictional zombie version. It was fast-paced, which I enjoyed, but I also felt that the pacing was rather inconsistent. The first part of the book felt much slower than the second, even though the latter seemed like it was supposed to be the focus of the story, as it contained a majority of the action. In short, there was too much build up to the climax of the book, and in the wrong places. I would have liked to hear more about Jane’s life on the plantation and the story of her family, which was revealed piece by piece throughout the novel and provided an interesting side plot. Additionally, I would have preferred a more complete ending. I understand that this is the first of a series, but the conclusion did not feel nearly concluding enough to tie up all the loose ends left by the big zombie invasion and battle of the final chapters. One final criticism is that I found the character of Jane to be a very typical YA heroine: a rebellious tomboy, always the best at everything, and generally “different from everybody else”. These characters can certainly contribute a lot to a story, but they seem to be everywhere and therefore Jane did not earn this book any points in the protagonist department.