Review of “The Cousins” by Karen McManus

One of my favorite authors that I came across in the past year or two is Karen McManus. I first read “One of Us is Lying” in 2019, and I immediately became hooked. 

McManus has so far released four books, and I read all four in 2020 with “The Cousins” being the book I read to bring in the new year. 

Just like all of the rest of McManus’ books, “The Cousins” focuses on the suspense and mystery of the plot and has interesting twists throughout.

The Story family is full of secrets beginning with the secret that led to a generation of siblings becoming distant with their mother. So, when that same woman reaches out to her grandchildren, everyone is curious as to why. During a summer trip working on their grandmother’s island, the Story cousins will begin to piece together the different secrets that make up their family.

As with McManus’ other books, there is an ensemble cast that the audience is able to switch between. Because of this cast, the first part of the book focuses more on the characters which leads to a kind of slow pacing.

The titular cousins are Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah. Because of how distant their parents are with each other, they have not interacted since they were young. Now as young adults, they reunite to meet with a grandmother they never met before. The final character whose perspective we get to view is Milly’s mom, Allison. All of her chapters take place in the past when the siblings first start becoming distant with their mother. 

From this point on, I will talk about the main plot and the secrets that are revealed. So, if you haven’t read this yet, you have been warned. 


As mentioned in the summary, the Story family is full of secrets. However, as the secrets are steadily revealed, they soon become a letdown of sorts. 

The reveals start strong with the truth that the Jonah who is with the other cousins on the trip is not the real Jonah. Instead, he is someone who goes to school with Jonah Story, and he is being paid to pretend. 

However, Milly’s and Aubrey’s secrets are less fascinating. Milly’s secret is that she is insecure about her place in the family, so she tends to cover it up by acting more self-assured. Aubrey’s secret is that she introduced her dad to her swim coach who became his mistress. 

While most of the secrets are disappointing, the story still picked up after Jonah’s secret was revealed. It soon became hard for me to put the book down.

The biggest secret was the one revealed at the very end. The big twist is that the grandmother had actually died when Story children were still in college, and her assistant replaced her to steal her money.

There were more reasons as to the crime, but this is the most simple explanation. At the moment I was reading this, it was amazing. However, when I reflect back on the reveal, it doesn’t make as much sense as they try to play off.

The former assistant, Theresa, states, “We see what we expect to see.” That was how they were able to masquerade as different people for over 20 years. This just doesn’t make the most sense to me. 

Overall, despite the lacking secrets and the confusing twist ending, I very much enjoyed reading this book. McManus does a great job in creating a sense of suspense even when it doesn’t seem like there should be any there. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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