Understanding the killer in ‘One of Us is Lying’


Published under the head of Penguin Books, Karen Mc Manus, in her debut novel One of Us is Lying, turned the reader’s minds by vividly discussing the nature and severity of mental heath issues in the society.

Simon Kelleher, an outcast at the Bayview High School, reveled in the attention, albeit unglorifying, to have shared the secrets of the people at the school, subtly keeping the names anonymous. His brain was poisoned, to say the least. Being emotionally and mentally uncared for isn’t what normal parents plan. But then it happens. And there’s nothing in the present that could have probably helped that person. So neither did Simon’s parents. They were angry and sad at Simon’s death. They did what all parents do. They grieved. But Simon was long gone before his death. His soul had already left his body when his depression took over. When that depression combined with rage, jealousy, and envy. When it turned into the perfect revenge, where he became the omniscient narrator. Of his death and of his crime.

From a bird’s eye view, Simon’s death changed and transformed the relationships of everyone connected with the crime. And their entire being. Addy turned into someone she loved. She found her self-confidence, her self-respect. But most of all, she found how to love herself. Bronwyn understood that it takes more than a few A grades, an entrance to Yale University, and a remarkable report card to be brave in life. To be happy about the journey to the goal. From being emotionally hollow to finding something new with Bronwyn, Nate understood why it was important to embrace his mother’s comeback into his life. Why it was important to feel everything, why it was important not to be alone. All the basketball scholarships didn’t mean anything if Cooper didn’t have someone to share it with. Not unless he started being true to himself. Not unless he let his father knew that the constant pressure would vapourise Cooper’s passion for playing.

On a microscopic note, it was Janae who actually ever understood and knew Simon. She understood how depression could make someone so vile that one would kill themselves just to have the one last say. It was so disturbing to know Simon’s elaborate plan to uproot the lives of the four above. Nevertheless, it begs the question. How much hate could one person harbor? Of course, not as much as Simon. Although, at the back of our minds, we already know it’s true. He not only hated others; he just hated himself, his life, and altogether life itself. His heart was barren except the feeling of hate. He wanted the attention his suicide brought. Can you imagine the level of desperation one has to reach before it entwines with hate? If not, then Simon’s character is your answer. It’s sick to even think like that. But Mc Manus left no stone unturned when it came to revealing the ugliness that depression plays in one’s minds. It made us question: Are we doing something that will hurt so tremendously to someone else? Is it right to laugh at someone? Should we be cold and indifferent to others’ and their situations?

However, the most significant question we pondered over at the end was: Are we there for the other person?

One of Us is Lying became so phenomenally realistic that we realised the message of mental health hit us even before the pandemic. We do not know of everyone’s battles, but that everyone is going through something. Something that even we can’t comprehend, except the person who’s feeling it. It vocalised the fact that not every feeling is understandable and yet people feel that. It’s just absolutely important to be there for each other.

The world is already cruel and the society cold, as it is. Let’s not make a mess of that and bring forth another incarnation of evil Simon. Let’s do something, a small thing each day, where the Simon Kelleher is sometimes alone and sad, but is never lonely.

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