The Cousins by Karen M. McManus


Goodreads: The Cousins
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Official Summary

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised… and curious.

Their parents are all clear on one point—not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious—and dark—their family’s past is.

The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over—and this summer, the cousins will learn everything.

Star Divider


Karen M. McManus solidifies her reputation as a talented writer of YA thrillers with The Cousins. Like her previous release One of Us Is Lying, the book switches among various perspectives to give readers an insider’s look at the potential suspects. Someone in the cousins’ pasts did something to get their parents disinherited. Do any of them know why? Or could they be harboring dangerous secrets of their own? This strategy works to make the readers feel empathetic towards the characters, even as they harbor their own suspicions. A great thriller keeps the audience guessing until the end and this book did that for me. So, while it may not be a perfect read, The Cousins will certainly entertain.

Perhaps The Cousins loses something because it is not McManus’ first work. It shares a few too many similarities with One of Us Is Lying, in fact, to feel wholly original. Part of this is structure, and so is not surprising–surely an author of mysteries will favor a certain way of building a plot and then creating the final twist. However, part of it is the characters. Did we need another pretty and smart female lead along with another shy and reserved female lead? I think McManus can move beyond these stereotypes to create more nuanced characters; she does not have to keep creating characters in the vein of The Breakfast Club.

Readers unfamiliar with these similarities will probably enjoy the book more, since it does have plenty to offer. There are layers upon layers of mysteries here as the cousins try to uncover what happened during their parents’ teenage years to tear the family apart. But they also have to figure out who their parents are now. And who they are now. The cousins have barely met before, so they cannot even trust each other as they try to work together to solve the mystery.

The final reveal is not totally unexpected, as McManus whittles down her suspects as the story progresses. However, a satisfying conclusion ought to have some lead-up, so it does not feel unrealistic or forced. More bothersome is some of the over-the-top drama that occurs in the finale. Apparently McManus thought more action was needed, but the theatrics take away more than they add.

Altogether, however, The Cousins is a satisfying thriller, one that kept me engaged and kept me guessing. I eagerly anticipate reading my next book by McManus.

4 stars

9 thoughts on “The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

  1. jawahirthebookworm says:

    I whole heartedly agree with your comments about the increased dramatics because I too thought the plot was solid with good twists. With McManus I feel I’ve reached a point where I ask myself: In her next book will I read something different? Or another recycled version of One Of Us is Lying?


  2. Classy x Book Reviews says:

    Great review! I actually really enjoyed this one (though I might be biased because it takes place near my hometown). It’s also been a really long time since I’ve read One of Us is Lying, so I don’t remember all that much about the story. I definitely agree that the ending was a little dramatic, but I absolutely still enjoyed it, hah!


  3. DoingDewey says:

    I’ve also found that when an author writes several similar works, I often like the first one I read the best. It can feel unique and fresh in way that’s lost when reading additional books by the same author.

    Liked by 1 person

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