Book Review: “One Of Us Is Next” by Karen M. McManus

Warning: This book review for “One Of Us Is Next” by Karen M. McManus contains spoilers.

Happy November, everyone! I hope all of you have been staying safe and healthy in these odd times.

Cover of "One Of Us Is Next" by Karen M. McManus.
Cover of “One Of Us Is Next” by Karen M. McManus.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “One Of Us Is Next” by Karen M. McManus! I previously read and reviewed the prequel, “One Of Us Is Lying,” so I’m looking forward to reading its sequel. Here is the summary so we know what it’s about:

“Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe’s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.”

Content Warnings:

This book contains mentions of cheating, some mildly sexual content, attempted bombing and murder, and actual character death. If you are sensitive to this content, I suggest you read the book carefully or skip this book entirely.

Plot Development: 2 out of 5 stars

When I first started reading the book, I was actually excited by the concept: Someone trying to extend the now-deceased Simon’s legacy through a scandalous version of truth or dare? The concept alone drew me to reading this book in the first place. Unfortunately, the book mostly failed to deliver on this concept. What basically happens is that you have 24 hours, after being prompted, to choose “Truth” or “Dare.” If you choose “Dare,” you must complete a task or else a scandalous truth will be released about you. If you choose “Truth” or refuse to make a choice, said scandalous truth will be revealed about you. Either way, it’s mostly a lose-lose situation unless you achieve the Dare…and even if you do go through with the Dare, there are deadly consequences as shown with one or two characters in this book.

What I didn’t like about how the book executed this concept was that none of the main characters had major involvement in this game. Sure, they suffered the outcomes of refusing to choose to play, resulting in “Truths” revealed about them, and yes, someone does die from a “Dare.” However, I felt like the only real risk any of them suffered during the events of the “Truth or Dare” game was having people mad at them. Heck, even the minor characters that were seen going through with “Truths” or “Dares” did a better job of participating than the main characters did. When the minor characters do a better job of engaging in the story’s main concept than the main characters, it doesn’t feel like the characters interact much with the one thing that’s supposed to drive the conflict of the story.

The “Truths” revealed about the main character are very, very trivial and nothing as scandalous as I expected.  One character slept with her sister’s boyfriend and a couple broke up because one of them couldn’t, er, live up to sexual expectations at the time. I was hoping for secrets revealed like “this character is actually the half-sister of someone else in their class!” or “this person has been blackmailing these teachers”-type of scandalous secrets. The fact that the “Truths” are just based on cheating and not being able to have sex at the time of the breakup felt very disappointing. I felt like I got invested into this concept as a reader, only to be paid off with very little.

I also found the first half of the plot to be very slow. The plot does pick up a little bit by the second half of the book, which helped. However, the ending left me quite confused. It seems to tease a potential third book coming in the future, given the cliffhanger-esque ending, but whether this may happen is unknown.

Character Development: 2 out of 5 stars

The only character that is likeable and sympathetic in this book is Knox, and he mainly acts in the second half of the book. None of the other characters felt interesting, nor could I sympathize with any of them. I also found it odd that no one spoke up about the “Truth or Dare” game to their teachers, authorities, and/or their parents because they didn’t want to get in trouble or get their phones taken away, despite the dangers they faced and learned of from the previous book. Had they done this earlier, they would prevent the giant mess of a situation ensuing in the second half of the book.

Overall, I’m rating this book 2 out of 5 stars!

I definitely enjoyed the first book better than this one, but I enjoyed reading this book mainly for its concept. Even if the execution of the game was poor, I do think the plot picking up in the latter half of the book makes up for what the book generally lacks in depth of characters and concepts.

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