Book Review: The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

With its unique premise and slower pacing, I think it’s fair to call The Cousins Karen M. McManus’s most controversial mystery. And yet, it is the book that reserved McManus’s spot on my list of favorite authors.


With its unique premise and slower pacing, I think it’s fair to call The Cousins Karen M. McManus’s most controversial mystery. And yet, it is the book that reserved McManus’s spot on my list of favorite authors.

an atmospheric-ish picture to match our setting

About the Book

Title: The Cousins

Author: Karen M. McManus

Published: 2019

Genre: YA, mystery/thriller, contemporary

Rating: 4/5 stars

Book Review

“‘Everybody has secrets… that’s non-debatable. The only question is whether you’re keeping your own, or someone else’s.’”

When Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story (the titular cousins) are invited to spend the summer working on their eccentric grandmother’s private island, they don’t know what to think. For one thing, they’ve never even met Grandmother. She disinherited each of their parents years ago with no explanation, and the malevolent rumor mill has been the Storys’ only source of information.

So, what happened all those years ago to make “Gran” cut ties with her children? And why has she suddenly decided to give the Storys another chance?

At first glance, this seems an odd plot for a mystery. But it works, I promise.

I have definitely read better books by Karen McManus (One of Us is Next and Two Can Keep a Secret), but this one was solid. (My least favorite of her books would probably be One of Us is Lying, although it is the most popular)

The Cousins is decidedly more of a slow-build mystery. The book has more of a YA contemporary flavor with a subtle undercurrent of intrigue that gets closer and closer to the surface as you continue reading. McManus throws in some preliminary twists towards the beginning to keep you engaged, and by the time you realize the real mystery hasn’t quite kicked in yet, you’re already sucked into the book.

One of the good things about this book was the distinct differentiation between the personalities of Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah. It’s really easy for characters to blend together, especially in a multi-perspective book (I can’t even imagine myself trying to write a memorable character), but all of the cousins had their own backstories, personalities, and quirks.

I still wasn’t completely sold on the multi-perspective narration; on one hand, it let the reader learn more about each cousin individually, but on the other hand, multiple-POV narration is multiple-POV narration. More often than not, you’re going to finish a cliff-hanging chapter and experience the realization that you’ll have to slog through a slew of comparatively boring pages to get back to the POV you were reading before. The Cousins had 3 POVs topped with a dual timeline, which partly generated suspense and partly generated frustration.

This book, for a thriller, was also lacking in high-stakes situations. It amped up at the end, but as I said earlier, much of the beginning felt more like a contemporary book and sported the trademark YA contemporary vibe, for lack of a better word.

It definitely got darker as it went on, though, and the ending was great, entertainment-value-wise. Not particularly realistic, but that’s to be expected in this genre.

You know me: if I don’t guess the twist, I’ll like the book. (Actually, did I guess the twist in this one? Maybe one page before the characters. Not very early-on.)

Another interesting thing about The Cousins that I enjoyed: it was refreshingly different. The plot was different from most YA mysteries on the market, but that added to my enjoyment of it.

Book Recommendation

I would recommend The Cousins to fans of mystery, YA, and Karen M. McManus’ novels, of course, but also to anyone in need of a reading slump cure. This one will surely lift you out of your bookish rut.

Have you read The Cousins yet? What was your take on it? Feel free to leave a comment!

As always, thanks for reading my blog. But before you go, I’d like to give a shoutout to one of my real-life friends, Hannah, who has just started a book blog! Make sure to check out Woes of Prose and her brand-new book review for Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Another quick note: I have been trying to prioritize writing book reviews this year, since I kind of slipped out of the book review cycle in the fall (despite the fact that my blog tagline includes the words “Book Reviews”) I’ve also been preparing to post some of the blogging tags/awards for which I was tagged in the fall… there are a lot, and I promise I haven’t forgotten to do them, so stay tuned!

2 comments on “Book Review: The Cousins by Karen M. McManus”

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