One of Us Is Lying

by Karen M. McManus

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Chapters 1–4 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1433

Chapter 1

Bronwyn Rojas, a student at the top of her class at Bayview High with Ivy League aspirations, is annoyed to be headed to Mr. Avery’s detention. She, like the other students assigned to detention that day, has been caught with a cell phone in Mr. Avery’s lab, which is strictly forbidden. All of the students insist that the cell phone Mr. Avery confiscated was not their own; they pull out their personal and non-confiscated cell phones as proof, but Mr. Avery doesn’t listen to their pleas. Bronywn settles in to write Mr. Avery’s punishment essay about how technology is ruining the American high school, as do her fellow detainees: Simon Kelleher, a snarky boy who runs a gossip app exposing students’ secrets at their school; Addy Prentiss, a beautiful and popular student who is dating an equally popular boy named Jake; Nate Macauley, a known drug dealer who is on probation; and Cooper Clay, a friendly and popular baseball player. 

Simon reaches into his bag for his water bottle and finds that it’s missing. Mr. Avery tells him to be quiet and to get water from the back of the room. Suddenly, a car crash outside interrupts detention and sends all of the students to the window. Mr. Avery heads outside to make sure no one has been hurt. As the cars then drive away, Simon describes the interruption as “anticlimactic” and then surveys the room, telling the small group that they are “walking teen-movie stereotypes.” Meanwhile, he sees himself as the “omniscient narrator.” Simon chugs the rest of his water and falls to the floor, wheezing. He asks for his EpiPen as his lips turn blue and he begins making horrific, choking sounds. No one can find Simon’s EpiPen, and when Mr. Avery returns to the room, he frantically instructs them to get one from the nurse’s office. Cooper runs to retrieve one, but when he opens the box labeled “EMERGENCY EPINEPHRINE,” he finds that the box is empty. He returns to Mr. Avery’s room as the paramedics are arriving.

Chapter 2

Jake arrives and takes Addy home, where she refuses to talk to her mother about the experience. Addy’s mother highly values beauty and believes that her daughters need to attract men who will be able to take care of them. Ironically, her mother has failed in those efforts herself, and Addy’s older sister, Ashton, is in a two-year marriage that is also failing. 

When Nate and Bronwyn exit the school, the parking lot is nearly empty. Nate offers Bronwyn a ride on his motorcycle, and at first she adamantly refuses to get on his “deathtrap.” As she protests, Nate flashes back to memories of the time they shared in Catholic elementary school together. Nate takes a drink from his flask and is shocked when Bronwyn decides to do the same. She tells Nate that she is impressed by his EpiPen knowledge and how he handled the situation with Simon. Changing her mind about the ride home, Bronwyn puts on Nate’s helmet and gives him directions to her house—a huge Victorian with lush landscaping. Just before she goes inside, Bronwyn receives a phone call informing her that Simon has died. 

Chapter 3

Upon returning to school the next day, Bronywn rereads the last published entry on Simon’s gossip app, About That, and reflects on how accurate Simon’s posts always were. Bronwyn’s teacher pulls her aside to tell her that she and the other students who were in the room with Simon are being offered one-on-one counseling. When she sees Nate in the hallway, she calls out...

(This entire section contains 1433 words.)

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to him, and they have a brief conversation before parting ways. Her friends call him a “man-whore,” but Bronwyn remembers the special care he took when driving her home after thetragedy. In her guidance counselor’s office, she is asked to provide tutoring to juniors who are struggling with the same academic content she did the previous year; they want to learn strategies from someone who conquered the material. Bronwyn forces a smile as she struggles to avoid this conversation. She recalls that she had a D average at midterm but that no one would want to use the strategies she had employed to bring her grades up.

As Cooper dodges a commitment to spending time that evening with his beautiful girlfriend, Keely, he and the other students who witnessed Simon’s final moments are called to the main office. The principal is joined by Officer Hank Budapest, who tells them that according to the results of Simon’s autopsy, he died by drinking peanut oil and suffering an allergic reaction. The group begins piecing together the final moments of Simon’s life. The officer notes that Mr. Avery realized the confiscated phones had been a prank when none of the students came by to claim them after the detention. The officer then asks if any of them worried that they might end up on Simon’s app because of some secret they were hiding; everyone except Nate looks concerned. He’s already been on the app plenty of times for “hooking up.” 

At Cooper’s home that night, his younger brother asks Cooper questions that make the tragedy seem more like a game than real life. His questions earn him a swat on the hand from their grandmother, who moved with the family when they left Mississippi five years prior. Because his fastball has picked up speed, Cooper is being eyed by ESPN for the MLB draft. He’s also being considered by several colleges and isn’t sure which path he will pursue. A ring from the doorbell signals the end of their family dinner, and Keely arrives unexpectedly. Cooper acknowledges that she is “sugar” all the way through—and he secretly texts a mystery person about how much he misses them.

Chapter 4

Addy prepares for Jake’s arrival, noting that leaving her hair down will please him. Her mind returns to Simon, and she thinks about how he only had one real friend, a Goth girl named Janae. Once, Keely had gotten drunk and had let Simon kiss her for five minutes in a closet, and Simon had tried to cling to Keely after that. When Jake arrives in Addy’s room, he tells her that Simon’s mother asked him to be a pallbearer at Simon’s funeral. He then asks if she’s planning to join a group the following night at the beach, and Addy is displeased to learn that TJ, a friend of Jake’s, will be there. Nevertheless, she agrees to join Jake and their friends. 

As Nate arrives home on Thursday, he assesses his crumbling and decrepit house. His father is passed out on the couch, which is typical behavior for him. Nate reflects that his life has never been a fairy tale, even before his mother abandoned him. She was bipolar and was often unable to care for him. Nate hasn’t seen her since he was fourteen. One of Nate’s phones buzzes, and a friend directs him to a Tumblr post; the post is titled “About This” and is supposedly written by Simon’s killer.


The first four chapters establish the central conflict of the novel. Simon is a high school outcast, yet he has established himself in a position of power over the more popular students at Bayview High by developing an app which exposes their darkest secrets. Given his desperate and ineffective reach for Keely, it is clear that Simon wants to be in the popular circle, yet it is clear that he is relegated to spending his time with Janae, an outcast herself. Bronwyn reminds Addy that Simon was on junior prom court with her, and Addy blinks as though she had completely forgotten. 

Simon is indeed a forgettable student outside of his work on the gossip app, and his death stands as a vividly memorable contrast to his invisible daily existence at the school. Because of the circumstances around his death, it appears that one of the other four students have intentionally killed him by lacing his water cup with peanut oil, creating a fatal anaphylactic reaction which could not be reversed due to the missing EpiPens. It seems as though each of the four remaining students has something to hide, and this climate of lies and secrets at Bayview High increases the suspense and tension in these earliest chapters and hints that one of them could be responsible for Simon’s death.


Chapters 5–8 Summary and Analysis