One Writer’s Journey

September 1, 2017

Multiple Points of View

If you are contemplating writing a young adult novel with multiple points of view, you need to study One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus.

If you don’t know this book, five students are given detention on the same day. They were all caught by a single phone-hating teacher with phones in their backpacks during his various classes.  But the phones aren’t theirs.  They are:

Bronwyn is the school brain.  She’s heading straight for an early acceptance from Yale.

Cooper is a jock with an amazing fast ball. He’s already being scouted by a variety of schools.

Addy dates the school quarterback. She’s sweet and pretty enough to be on the homecoming court.

Nate, a known drug dealer, who doesn’t care what anyone thinks.  He’s focused on convincing his probation officer that he’s doing everything right.

In spite of the fact that Nate is there, Simon is the odd man out.  Why?  He has one friend in the whole school and everyone else hates him.  Hates.  Him.   Simon runs a gossip ap that used to “out” whoever did anything they wouldn’t want someone else to know about.  Cheating on a boyfriend, casual sex, drunken anarchy, pregnancy.  All could be and were punished by a post from Simon.

But not everyone makes it out of detention.  Note: I don’t consider this a plot spoiler because the vast majority of this book is spent trying to figure out how and why Simon died of an allergic reaction to peanut oil in the middle of detention.

Why is this a book you should study for POV?  Because you spend a great deal of time in each character’s head.  The moment you pick up the narrative through a particular set of eyes, you know who is in the driver’s seat.  There is never any question whether the POV character is Addy or Cooper.

Some authors would be able to pull off telling the boys from the girls and that’s about it but McManus gives us four distinct voices.  She does an amazing job.  Part of it is done by giving the characters distinct backgrounds.

Cooper is a good-ol’ Southern boy who moved to California to play baseball.  When he gets nervous, his accent gets mighty thick.

Nate is a drug dealer but he does it to pay the mortgage and put Chinese take out on the table.  He doesn’t love his life, but he doesn’t know how to fix it. He’s used to telling adults, especially his probation officer, what they want to hear.

Bronwyn is the insanely smart daughter of an immigrant father.  Can you say driven to succeed?

Home-coming princess Addy lives in a fatherless household with a mom who is addicted to plastic surgery and young husbands.  She’s not the prettiest or the smartest but her boyfriend is a catch and she knows she’s lucky to have him.

Each of these characters uses a different vocabulary and different sentence structure.  Once you learn the four points of view, you never wonder whose head you are in.  A masterful job and a book worth studying.





Blog at

%d bloggers like this: