I read a lot of thriller novels — like, a lot — and The One by John Marrs is the best recommendation I’ve gotten in a long time. The international bestseller, set in the near future, weaves the stories of five main characters who are all affected in various ways by a revolutionary DNA test that locates your ideal partner. As you may be able to tell from the cover, not everything turns out with a fairy-tale wedding. Relationships are shattered, secrets are revealed, and, eventually, blood is spilled.
Netflix has adapted the book into a series, and it only takes a viewing of the trailer (below) to realize that the show is incredibly different than the book. Before we get into those major differences, though, let’s take a look at the book. If you’ve read it, this will serve as a good refresher course before you dive into the show; if you haven’t, brace yourself for some megaspoilers. (Though I do implore you to read the book!)
Because the book is broken down by characters’ perspectives, I’ll be segmenting this the same way.
Soon after Mandy matches with Richard, a personal trainer, she finds out he’s dead. She attends his funeral and, after an awkward introduction, meets his mother, Pat, and sister, Chloe. She forms a tight bond with them and, fueled by the loss of her soulmate, agrees to have his baby. Yes, after surviving an illness in his teens, Richard saved his sperm.
Mandy grows distant from her family, who can’t understand her situation and are concerned for her sanity. Wanting to get to know Richard more, she contacts one of his ex-girlfriends, who shatters her perfect image of Richard. Not only was he a serial womanizer, Pat and Chloe also tried to get her to have his baby. Oh, and Richard’s not dead. After suffering a terrible accident, Richard lives in a nursing home and is in a prolonged vegetative stage.
Mandy, now nearing full-term, goes to Pat’s house to pack her things. After a scuffle with Pat and Chloe, Mandy falls down the stairs and wakes up in the hospital. Her baby has been delivered via C-section . . . and now it’s missing. Mandy and the police eventually track the mother and daughter down, and while Pat nearly kills the baby, he survives.
Mandy’s portion of the book ends with her taking baby Thomas to meet his father at the nursing home. Richard, against all odds, “slowly and purposely” holds his son’s hand.
Christopher is a serial killer in the middle of a spree around London. Inspired by some of the world’s most prolific killers, he is determined to murder 30 women. A self-described sociopath, Christopher meets his victims via dating apps. He’s content with his plan, until he meets his DNA match: Amy, a police officer.
While he falls for Amy, he finds himself getting less and less satisfaction out of his gruesome kills. (His methods involve strangling victims with a garrote.) Upon finally reaching the home of number 30, Christopher is outsmarted — by Amy.
She has pieced together his identity and is horrified by the man she thought she loved. After picking his brain about why he kills, Amy strangles Christopher with his own murder weapon and sets his body on fire. In a poetic twist, he becomes the 30th victim of his spree.
Jade flies across the world to meet her match, but Kevin isn’t at all what she anticipated. He has stage four lymphoma, and appears to be a shell of the man who was pictured on his profile. While she has trouble processing the information at first, Jade resolves to spend as much time with Kevin as he has left. In the weeks leading up to his death, Jade revives Kevin’s spirit, but she never feels that spark she’s been told she’d feel upon meeting her match. Then it hits her — she’s in love with Kevin’s brother, Mark. Still, she agrees to marry Kevin.
Jade and Mark deny their feelings for one another until Kevin’s death. The night they finally sleep together, Mark’s mother, Susan, catches Jade coming out of her son’s room. That’s when Mark confesses everything: Kevin never got a match. Jade has been Mark’s match from the beginning, and Mark let Kevin believe it so that he would hold on to some hope. The revelation is devastating for Jade, who had convinced herself she was a terrible person for not falling in love with Kevin.
After taking some time to heal, Jade has a heart-to-heart with Susan. In a flash-forward, Jade and Mark head out on a road trip together, content that they have found their match.
Nick is happily engaged to Sally, until she convinces him that they should both take the DNA test to confirm that they are indeed each other’s match. Naturally, they’re not . . . and Nick is matched with a man named Alexander. Never having experienced feelings for another man, Nick goes through a major identity crisis. These feelings become more confused when he meets Alex, who also identifies as straight, and the two begin to see each other.
As Nick becomes increasingly rude to Sally, she realizes he’s been seeing Alex and calls the engagement off. Nick agrees to travel to New Zealand with Alex, and just as he’s about to leave, Sally tells him that she’s pregnant. He agrees to stay in England to care for the baby, forgoing his future with his soulmate. Things take an even more tragic turn when Sally dies from a brain aneurysm during labor. The baby’s “skin was as dark brown as his hair” and it’s clear Nick isn’t the biological father — their friend Deepak is.
Though Nick is shattered by the discovery that Sally had been cheating on him, he loves the child. Deepak, who has a family of his own, signs his rights away and Nick and his baby go to live with Alex in New Zealand.
Ellie is the genius who discovered the “match gene” and created the DNA test. Admired by many and hated by a dangerous few, Ellie is ridiculously successful, so it’s understandable that she would be skeptical that her match might be after her wealth. At first, she doesn’t tell Timothy who she really is, but after a woman splatters red paint on her while on a date, she comes clean. Timothy appears genuine and she allows herself to fall for him. The two get engaged.
It’s not until a company party that Ellie is tipped off that Timothy, whose real name is Matthew, had interviewed for a job with someone from her hiring team. She has a team look into him, but it’s Matthew who puts together all the pieces for her on a fateful night.
His mother worked for Ellie years ago, when Ellie was still testing on her employees’ and government workers’ DNA without their permission. Her deception led to Matthew’s father leaving his mother for his match. His mother turned to alcohol and drugs, and eventually found her match, an abusive pedophile. She paid his court bills and was left with nothing; she died in a house fire set by her cigarette.
Matthew wants Ellie to feel the pain he’s held on to for years, but furthermore, he wants to humiliate her. He was never her match, and thanks to a bug he planted in the program, her company has incorrectly identified millions of matches over the last several months. As he’s walking away from Ellie, she strikes him with a decanter and he dies. But Matthew has a safety net — their entire interaction has been recorded and is automatically streaming to the internet.
Though Ellie clearly murders a man in cold blood, she is branded as a hero for abuse survivors everywhere. The book ends with her about to find out the jury’s verdict.