OK, so this was a tough one. It couldn’t be an easy decision where one book is definitely superior than the other. But I guess that’s the woes of a round 2 reviewer. I won’t go into a long summary as you’ve already read through those in round 1. I’ll just throw a few thoughts at you.
One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus
Let’s start with One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus. First of all, I love that this book is a mystery/thriller type of story. This is such an underrepresented genre in teen books. So right away, I was excited that I got to read this book. Even more exciting is that is was great. I kept seeing reviewers describe this as a Breakfast Club-esqe book. Let me stop you all right there. Yes, the drama starts in detention. Yes, the characters are pretty much your basic teen trope templates. Simon, the victim, even mentions that the four fit into the predictable character categories of most teen movies. But aside from those two similarities, this book is absolutely nothing like The Breakfast Club. Throughout the investigation of Simon’s death, Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Addy have the suspect light put on them for a variety of reasons, mostly circumstantial. McManus manages to create a feeling of confidence and predictability that is shattered with each new piece of evidence. It’s an interesting feeling know that only the killer knows what truly happened. The rest of the cast of characters are in the dark, same as you. There are some secondary plot points like trauma-fueled romances and unnecessary family drama that feel like filler and don’t really add much to the story. I took another arbitrary point off for the nice, neat ending. McManus really wrapped this story up with a super shiny bow. I expected more devastation and destruction after such an intense investigation.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Moving on to Stranger the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. This one has a bit of bias attached to it as I adore Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” series. Before getting into the plot details and the like, I will say that Strange the Dreamer has a more much literary writing style. When comparing the two books, One of Us is Lying feels more like a mainstream psychological thriller while Strange the Dreamer is more like something that would get an Oscar nod and have a limited theater release. Taylor writes very lyrically. Very rarely is she simply telling something. Her words paint a clear picture of this fantastical world. Taylor also utilizes a few fantasy trope characters like McManus and her high school students. Lazlo is the outsider who is given a hero’s chance to save the day. Sarai is the beautiful outcast struggling with her identity that history states should be evil. The book starts on the slow side, but eventually gains some momentum. There are also some predictable twists that astute readers can pick up on earlier than Taylor’s intention. A big plus for Taylor is that unlike McManus, she has a book 2 coming up so she didn’t need to create a tidy ending. The ending of Strange the Dreamer is probably the most exciting part of the book, seeing how everything has come together to one point.
And the winner is…
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
This was more difficult than I expected as these books are so different from each other. When I’m not sure about how much I liked a book, I always ask myself if I would read the book a second time. I think that One of Us is Lying is a one and done type of book. I can see myself reading Strange the Dreamer multiple times and discovering new things about the story each time. For that reason, I must choose Strange the Dreamer.
Brandi Smits is the Youth Services Manager at the Orland Park Public Library. You can often find Brandi on Wednesdays dominating the bar trivia world. Most other days, she is engaging in fascinating book dates or working on cross-stitch projects.