One of Us Is Next

img_20200411_221757593img_20200411_221812469This book is a sequel to the author’s book ONE OF US IS LYING. However, I have not read that book and I found that, while fairly frequent references were made to the previous story, the current book stands perfectly fine on its own.

Students at Bayview High School near San Diego CA fit the description of what I assume are pretty typical older teenagers today. They’re on their phones all the time, they go to parties and drink (and sometimes do drugs), they care somewhat about their schoolwork and getting into preferred universities, they have the usual mix of attentive and useless parents and other adult figures, they are casual about sex and tolerant of nontraditional relationships, they have part-time jobs and are trying to identify their strengths and interests. Reputations are made or destroyed based on the coolness quotient, and once consigned to a societal slot it is hard to break free. Kids hang out at coffee shops and endure both bullying/humiliation and/or support from caring and loyal friends. Relationships form, change, and endure. Students slowly gain understanding of human behavior and some learn forgiveness. It’s a great soup kitchen for humanity.

In this book an anonymous someone texts the entire student body announcing a game of Truth or Dare. One student is selected at a time and presented with the option of allowing the game master either to release a truth about him or her to the entire student body, or accepting a dare instead. Although students generally are scared (and some horrified) at this, everyone is curious also to see how it plays out. A couple of extremely embarrassing truths are revealed to begin with, and this spurs future targets into accepting dares instead.

The hunt then is on by one student in particular, Maeve Rojas, and her buddies Knox, Phoebe, and Luis, to find out who is behind the game. The author has created a satisfyingly complex plot full of tensions, romance, and twists and turns, resulting in a reasonably addictive and fast read.

There is a lot of coarse language, including religious profanity. There is a lot of sexual talk, including ugly public bullying and harassment of female students. There is an attempted rape and a nasty death. Multiple homosexual relationships are presented with approval. Family dysfunction is on display (some tied up conveniently at the end), and the unmasking of two of the perpetrators of all the trouble is really quite disturbing.

All of the above is in the service of telling the story, so if it jells with your readership and community values, plop down your $19.99. But, this book will not elevate your spirits.

Categories: Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Crime, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, LGBTQIA, Mental Health, Mysteries, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Racism, Social Media, Violence

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