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Review: “One of Us is Back” provides ending to Bayview High trilogy

Rina Kobayashi
Karen M. McManus brings her popular book trilogy to a close with the publishing of “One of Us is Back” July 25, 2023. Her eloquent novel captured the attention of readers through elements of relatability and inclusivity, as well as point-of-view narration.

While sitting on my couch reading “One of Us is Back” by Karen M. McManus, I suddenly found myself turning the last few pages of the book. I was surprised and incredibly saddened by how quickly I came to the end of both the novel itself and the entire trilogy. It was not long ago that I experienced the same captivation from reading the first and most popular installment of the series, “One of Us is Lying.”

McManus released the compelling final installment July 25, 2023 for the trilogy that began in 2017. The third novel created the perfectly fulfilling close to the cycle of suspense that McManus artfully crafted over the years.

The author presents readers with a world of alluring chaos with the mystery novel “One of Us is Back.” Throughout the trilogy, groups of students attending Bayview High School are dragged into new high school drama in every book, but not the average kind that you would expect. Despite the distinctive storylines of each installment, McManus finds a way to interconnect the books to form one consolidated storyline.

In the first installment of the trilogy, the four main characters of the story — Bronwyn Rojas, Cooper Clay, Adelaide Prentiss and Nate Macauley — are introduced. Though the characters are living completely separate lives at first, they’re brought together in detention at Bayview High School. Soon after, they are brought into the police station as suspects for the murder of fellow student Simon Kelleher, the creator of a school gossip app who died during that very detention session. The four students stick together, slowly but surely figuring out the truth that could save them from the blame for his death.

In the second installment, Knox Myers, Phoebe Lawton and Bronwyn’s sister Maeve Rojas are introduced, but their lives are not any easier. An anonymous rogue starts a game of Truth or Dare through text messages to continue the legacy of Simon’s gossip app. Thus, the three students are the first to be dragged into the game, enduring the lethal risks and hazards that come their way as they attempt to reveal the culprit who started it.

Despite the distinctive storylines of each installment, McManus finds a way to interconnect the books to form one consolidated storyline.

The third and final book then takes the best of both worlds by combining the characters into one plot, forming the ultimate edge-of-your-seat thriller mystery novel. As soon as the Bayview High students think they’re finally off the hook to live regular lives, another daunting game begins. As usual, the tricks gradually escalate, and the students think they’ve found the criminal quickly this time. However, doubt still lingers as they confirm whether their findings were correct.

Multiple point-of-view narration is one of the many stylistic writing choices that McManus consistently makes throughout the trilogy. She formats the books to write from a different character’s perspective in each chapter to create a truly immersive experience for her readers. It feels as though I have worn the shoes of each character, giving me the satisfactory feeling of understanding all sides of the story.

In addition, by formulating a story around teenage students, McManus establishes a connection between many readers and her books. The books portray an accurate sense of a school environment and its social atmosphere, allowing young adult readers to feel like they live the lives of the Bayview High students as they flip through the pages. Readers can see themselves in the featured characters, connecting events within the book to their day-to-day lives. This relatability has been a recurring element that appeals to teenagers in her books, making them want to return to the series for more.

Although the final installment comes late after the publication of the first book, it provides older readers with a pleasant break from the usual complicated plots and genres read at this age.


McManus also imbues diversity within her trilogy, with the television series representing four main characters of diverse genders, races and economic statuses. Additionally, she depicts their lives in a realistic way, incorporating the characters’ relationship and academic struggles rather than romanticizing school life. Such a variety of representation encourages teenagers engaging in McManus’ work to feel confident and accepted for who they are, increasing inclusivity and positive self-image among modern generations that often struggle with such topics.

Despite the admirable features of her writing, McManus fails to create a sufficient amount of solidarity between the three installments of her trilogy. The recurrence of characters is the only common element within the three books, while the plots and tone change drastically in each novel. As a result, the installments can feel choppy and incohesive, which loses the trilogy’s purpose of being one book series.

Regardless, “One of Us is Back” provides readers with a satisfying ending to the popular Bayview High trilogy through an artful construction of plot and characters. McManus implements stylistic writing choices in this last installation, including multiple point-of-view narrations, the composition of a relatable storyline and an emphasis on diversity.

The sense of nostalgia, thrilling nature and creative plot twists in “One of Us is Back” are what truly distinguish McManus from other authors. If you were to read this trilogy of hers, I’m sure you would feel the same way.

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About the Contributor
Rina Kobayashi, Reporter
Rina Kobayashi ('26) is a member of the Media Team of The Standard in Advanced Journalism.  

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