The Quick Recap and Section-by-Section Summary for One of Us is Next by Karen McManus are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.
For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of One of Us is Next by Karen McManus.
(By the way, if you need to catch up on the first book, see here for a full summary of One of Us is Lying (Book #1). That said, that this book, One of Us Is Next (Book #2), really does recaps anything you need to know from the previous book. So feel free to just jump into Book #2 even if your memory is fuzzy.)
In Part I, this book (Book #2) starts about eighteen months after the events of One Of Us Is Lying (Book #1). The students at Bayview High get a group text from an unknown number ("Unknown") about a new Game. Unknown will pick one person at a time for a round of "Truth or Dare". "Truth" means a secret about you is revealed to everyone. Dare is a challenge. No reply defaults to "Truth" (and the advice Unknown gives is to "always take the Dare.")
Phoebe (a junior) is selected as the first player. Her secret, that she slept with her older sister Emma's (a senior) boyfriend is soon revealed. Next, a "Dare" and then another happens. Then, Maeve (a junior) gets chosen. Her secret, that she dumped her best friend Knox because he couldn't get it up, is revealed. Things are quiet and then news breaks that Brandon, a kid who is a jock and kind of a jerk, has died from an accident at a construction site. Knox was there, too, but he was injured and doesn't remember what happened.
In Part II, Phoebe, Maeve and Knox try to figure out what happened. They eventually determine that Brandon's death was an accident that occurred during his "Dare". Nate (from Book #1) thinks it wasn't an accident, and that the construction site was engineered to harm Brandon. Phoebe also gets a message from a stranger asking to meet. Phoeve, Maeve, Louis (Maeve's love interest) and Knox go to scope out the stranger ("Intense Guy") and take down his license plate info. Separately, Knox thinks his parents know something about Brandon's death, so Maeve steals some files off his mother's computer. Maeve has also been tracking a forum on Reddit where someone involved in this game seems to be posting, and that person mentions Phoebe.
Meanwhile, the weekend of Eli and Ashton's wedding arrives (characters that met during Book #1). Eli is a lawyer that Knox interns for, and Eli has recently gotten some cops convicted in a high-profile case. Maeve and Knox are busy tailing Intense Guy's car and researching. They discover that Intense Guy is Jared Jackson, the younger brother of one of Eli's convicted cops, Ray Jackson. They also find out that Phoebe's father died many years ago because a forklist that Brandon Weber had been playing with (when he was 13) malfunctioned, killing Phoebe's dad. Brandon's parents got him off the hook.
Maeve and Knox tail Jared Jackson, who shows up and drops a bomb off at Eli's wedding. Maeve and Knox rush to move the bomb away, where it detonates without killing anyone. Afterwards, Emma's sister admits that she pretended to be Phoebe (Emma had already known about Phoebe sleeping with her ex and was angry) and made a revenge pact with Jared. Emma promised to help him get revenge (she didn't know Eli was the target), and Emma wanted Brandon to be injured (not killed). But as soon as the Game started, Emma backed out.
Then, Emma's lawyer shows her a chat log, and Emma and Phoebe know implicitly that their tech-savvy younger brother, Owen, must have re-engaged contact with Jared for fun (just playing the Truth or Dare game). However, when Brandon died, Owen stopped contacting Jared. The book ends with them both covering for Owen.
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The book opens 1) a news clip on March 6th about on another death at Bayview High, eighteen months after Simon’s death, and 2) a conversation from 10 weeks prior from the “Vengeance Is Mine” subreddit/forum on Reddit dedicated to revenge. A user, Bayview2020, says that they are looking for revenge for someone who wrecked many people’s lives. Another user, Darkestmind, encourages them to do something about it.
Chapters 1 – 2 (February 17 – 18)
It’s been nearly a year and a half since Simon’s death. Of the Bayview Four, Browyn Rojas is now at Yale. Nate Macauley is still in Bayview, but is taking some community college classes. (Browyn and Nate have been dating, but are on a break. They’ve been on and off since Browyn left for college.) Cooper Clay is on baseball scholarship at Cal State Fullerton, and there’s rumors he’ll soon go pro. Addy Prentiss works as a waitress as Café Contigo.
Ashton Prentiss (Addy’s older sister) is getting married soon to Eli Kleinfelter (Nate’s former lawyer during the Simon debacle).
Phoebe Lawton (16, junior at Bayview) works with Addy at Café Contigo. Phoebe’s mother is the wedding planner for Ashton’s wedding. Phoebe has two siblings, Owen (younger brother) and Emma (older sister, 17 and a senior at Bayview). Their father died three years ago from an accident at work.
Phoebe is hooking up with Brandon Weber, a football player. As Phoebe and Brandon make out, they get a group text from an unknown number (“Unknown”) about a “new game” for people who miss “About That”, referencing Simon’s old gossip blog, and a link. The website says that one person at a time will get an option to choose “Truth” or “Dare”. You’re not allowed to reveal who you are (or this person will “get cranky”.) Truth means a secret about you is revealed. Dare means you get a challenge.
Then, Phoebe gets another text, and it’s the “Truth or Dare” text (meaning she’s the first player of this new game).
Chapters 3 – 5 (February 19 – 20)
Knox is an intern at Eli’s firm, Until Proven, which focuses on defending the wrongfully accused and helping them find jobs after they’re exonerated. For example, Nate now works for a construction company, Myers Construction owned by Knox’x dad. At work, Knox gets the newest mass text from “Unknown”. It says Phoebe was the first “Truth or Dare” player, but didn’t respond. So, Phoebe chooses “Truth” by default. The next text says, “Phoebe slept with her sister Emma’s boyfriend”. Unknown also advises to “always take the dare.”
The next day, Maeve (Bronwyn’s younger sister, 17, junior at Bayview High) gets a nosebleed, and Maeve worries her cancer is back. Maeve is old for her grade because she spent much her childhood hospitalized with Leukemia. At lunch, she sits with the drama club kids, since Knox is one of them. Maeve previously dated Knox, but now they’re just good friends. Knox and Lucy Chen are the leads for the school’s production of Into the Woods.
At school, Sean Murdoch, a school bully and friend of Brandon, bullies Phoebe and gets sent to the principal’s office. Brandon also acts like a jerk about it, and Phoebe decides to cut things off with him. (Later, Brandon tries to force himself on Phoebe, but Owen interrupts, so Brandon leaves.) At home, Phoebe tries to apologize to Emma about sleeping with Derek, but Emma angrily stalks off. Jules, Pheobe’s best friend, is also a bit hurt that she never knew about Derek.
Chapters 6 – 8 (February 22 – 28)
Knox’s dad is so pleased with Nate’s work that he plans on hiring some more of Eli’s exonerees. Eli has recently revealed a big blackmail scandal incriminating the San Diego Police chief, Sergeant Carl D’Agostino. It resulted in a number of phony convictions being overturned, and exonerees needing jobs.
A second “Truth or Dare” player is contacted, and soon in town a restaurant’s signage (Wing Zone) is vandalized. “Unknown” identifies Sean Murdoch as the student who did it. Meanwhile, Maeve searches for mentions of Simon’s old screenname (AnarchiSK) and discovers the Reddit forum with the same name as the 4chan forum that Simon used to post on. Maeve determines that the posts in the Reddit forum disappear after a few hours.
A few days later, there’s a pre-bachelorette party for Ashton at Café Contigo. It’s become a big event in town because Cooper (a baseball star) will be there. Browyn is in town, too. Jules Crandall marches up to Nate, who she has always had a crush on, and kisses him. “Unknown” confirms that Jules has successfully completed her “Dare” (to kiss one of the Bayview Four).
Chapters 9 – 15 (March 2 – March 5)
Maeve is the next one to get the “Truth or Dare” text, and she decides not to respond. She also has bruises, which she fears is another sign that her cancer is back. She calls the doctor’s office, but they can’t do any tests without informing her parents and she doesn’t want to worry them needlessly. Meanwhile, Luis Santos (whose parents own Café Contigo) has been flirting with Maeve and takes her to the Bayview Arboretum.
Knox is at work when the “Unknown” text comes in with Maeve’s secret. It says that Maeve broke up with Knox because he couldn’t get it up. Both Knox and Maeve get teased at school. Knox avoids Maeve. Maeve and Phoebe agree to block “Unknown” instead of continuing to feed into this. Later, Maeve and Luis share a steamy kiss in the kitchen of Café Contigo.
Phoebe is still being bullied at school due to her secret. Her family is also having financial problems because they didn’t get a great worker’s comp settlement after her father died. When Jules expresses excitement over the next “Unknown” text, Phoebe gets mad at her. Later, she convinces Knox to cut class with her instead of putting up with their classes’ jeers. Meanwhile Derek has been trying to contact Phoebe, but she ignores him.
Ashton and Addy chat about Addy’s future as news of the death of Brandon Weber at a construction site at Bayview Mall breaks. Knox has a concussion but is fine. According to Sean, the story is that Brandon had been cutting through the site with his friends (Sean, Jules, and Monica) and the roof collapsed. Knox had tried to prevent it, and Sean had knocked Knox down to stop him (and saved his life in the process).
However, when Knox awakes, he disagrees. He can’t remember what happened but he think’s Sean’s version of events is wrong. As someone who has been on construction sites his whole life, he would have known it was too dangerous to go after Brandon.
This section opens with an exchange on the “Vengeance Is Mine” subreddit/forum. Darkestmind is demanding to know why Bayview2020 has gone silent, threatening to do something if he/she doesn’t respond.
Chapters 16 – 18 (March 16 – March 19)
After Maeve, no new “Unknown” texts have shown up. Sean is dating Jules now. Sean is also trying to buddy up to Knox, and Knox still doesn’t remember what happened. There’s also a guy (“Intense Guy”) who was looking for Phoebe that has been hanging around Café Contigo. Nate notices Maeve’s nosebleeds and tells her she needs to talk to her parents.
Knox and Phoebe have been hanging out. When Emma blows a tire and has no phone (she lost it a week ago), Knox changes the tire. Later, Knox overhears his parents discussing Brandon and how Brandon’s parents had once gotten him out of some legal trouble. As he’s playing video games, Knox also has a memory of of the day at the construction site. Sean taking a video of something and then saying “What the fuck are you doing here, Myers?” Knox tries to get Sean’s phone to see the video, unsuccessfully, and Luis notices and offers to help.
Chapters 19 – 20 (March 20)
Eli’s law firm routinely receives threats as a result of their work, but Sandeep Ghai, a Harvard Law grad who works there, notices they’ve gotten a few from the same person. Sandeep plans to contact the police. He thinks it’s likely related to the D’Agostino case.
Luis “borrows” Sean’s phone and sends some videos from Sean’s phone out. One of them is clearly Brandon doing a Dare to do a jump, but the roof caves in. Knox shows up, and the video goes black.
Later, Knox and Nate chat about the construction site day. Nate thinks there was some type of foul play because the beams have holes like joists used to be there. He wonders why they would have been removed. Knox also gets in a fight with his dad. Knox thinks his parents know something, but won’t tell him.
Emma starts acting strangely and being flaky, which is unlike her. Phoebe finds Emma drinking and drunk, but Emma won’t say why. Emma also still hasn’t replaced her phone and is using Phoebe’s instead.
Chapters 21 – 25 (March 23 – 26)
Maeve gets news from her oncologist that her cancer is not back, that she just has an iron deficiency.
At Café Contigo, Phoebe gets a note from someone demanding to meet with her. She thinks its Derek, but isn’t sure. Phoebe, Maeve, Louis and Knox go with her to the meeting place to scope him out. It’s not Derek. Instead, Louis recognizes him as Intense Guy. They take down the guy’s license plate and find that it’s registered to a David Jackson.
Maeve has set up a notification system for the Vengeance subreddit. It shows Darkestmind gets mad at Phoebe (he references her by name) for not showing up, saying that they “had a deal”. This implies that Intense Guy is Darkest Mind (and possibly Unknown) and that Phoebe is Bayview2020, but Maeve is skeptical. They also wonder if anyone would want to harm Brandon on purpose. Knox decides to have Maeve break into his mom’s computer to try to find out what his parents know.
Phoebe goes home to find Emma sick from alcohol poisoning.
Chapters 26 – 28 (March 27)
Maeve figures out where Intense Guy lives, in Callahan Park nearby. They see him driving so they start tailing him. This is also Ashton and Eli’s wedding weekend and there’s the rehearsal dinner tonight. Maeve and Knox review the information they’ve accumulated. They determine that David Jackson is the father of Officer Ray Jackson, one of the officers that was implicated for helping D’Agostino. Based on a photograph, they know that Intense Guy is Jared Jackson, the younger brother of Ray Jackson (who is in jail, awaiting trial) and likely the person who’s been sending threats to Eli. Knox tries to contact Eli, but Eli has turned his phone off for his wedding weekend.
On the Vengeance subreddit, a message goes up saying “Tick-tock, time’s up. Guess I’ll just fucking do it myself.—Darkestmind.”
From the files on Mrs. Myers computer, Maeve finds a document about workers compensation settlement for Phoebe’s dad, Andrew Lawton. The corporation was the Granite Manufacturing Corporation, and that company’s EVP was Lance Weber, father of Brandon Weber. Moreover, the death of Andrew Lawton was linked to faulty machinery. Weber’s son (Brandon, 13 at the time) had been allowed to play with a forklift that later jammed and killed Andrew Lawton.
Before Maeve and Knox can figure out what to do, they realize Intense Guy/Jared Jackson has pulled up at Talia’s Restaurant, where the rehearsal dinner has already begun.
Chapters 29 – 30 (March 27)
Knox and Maeve watch as Jared Jackson drops off a backpack underneath the restaurant deck. They go to investigate and find what they think is a bomb. Unable to contact anyone, they grab it and run to the arboretum nearby, which is closed now. However, as they run back, they see Bronwyn and Nate taking a stroll. Knox and Maeve tell them about the bomb and all four of them run as the bomb detonates behind them. Afterwards, Nate, who was closest to the bomb has the most serious injuries, but he’ll be okay. There are no fatalities.
Phoebe finally calls Derek back, and he tells her that he was the one who told Emma about their hookup because he wanted to come clean, leaving Phoebe confused.
Jared Jackson claims he had concocted a revenge pact with Phoebe. Phoebe was supposed to help him get revenge on Eli for putting his brother in jail. In exchange, he would help her get revenge on Brandon. When police come to question Phoebe, Emma admits that it was her pretending to be Phoebe (to get back at her after learning from Derek that they’d hooked up). Emma states she had visited the forum after learning about Brandon’s link to her father’s death, but he was never supposed to die. Emma’s mother cuts her off before she can explain further.
Chapters 31 – 34 (March 28 – April 1)
Eli and Ashton’s wedding goes smoothly. Everyone attends as planned, except for the Lawtons. Knox goes to see Phoebe afterwards and tries to comfort her.
Later, Phoebe asks Jules why they lied about what happened at the construction site. Jules says it was to simplify things and not have to explain to the authorities about the “Truth or Dare” game.
At home, Martin McCoy, Emma’s lawyer asks her to review the facts with him. Emma admits to talking to Jared and agreeing to a plan to hurt (not kill Brandon), but once it started she wanted to back out. She told him right at the beginning, after the text about Phoebe went out.
However, Martin shows her a chat transcript where “Phoebe” tells Jared soon afterwards that she’s back on board the plan. As Phoebe and Emma look at it, they recognize a spelling error (“Bazaar” instead of “Bizarre”) that their brother Owen had previously made. They realize that the technologically savvy Owen must have somehow found a way to resume contact with Jared as “Phoebe”. Phoebe thinks he must’ve listened in on Emma, found out what was going on and egged it on for fun, up until Brandon died when Owen ghosted Jared.
The book ends with Emma insisting to Martin that those must be fake chat logs that Jared made (in other words, she knows the truth that it was Owen, but covers it up).