The Cousins by Karen M. McManus review: An intriguing family thriller

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus. Image courtesy Penguin Random House
The Cousins by Karen M. McManus. Image courtesy Penguin Random House /

If you love One of Us Is Lying, you’ll want to check out other books from Karen M. McManus. Here’s our review of The Cousins by Karen M. McManus.

Most fans of YA have heard about One of Us Is Lying. The murder mystery takes us into the world of high school gossip and secrets. It’s recently been turned into a TV series, with a second season now confirmed. This isn’t the only novel by Karen M. McManus to check out.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus was released in 2020, but it seems to have gone under the radar. It’s certainly one to check out if you want to avoid the world of high school children. While it originally seems to be some sort of novel about entitled brats, that’s not what it becomes at all. It’s a darker thriller with a family secret the family doesn’t even know about!

What is The Cousins by Karen M. McManus about?

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are three cousins. They barely know each other, with their parents no long talking to each other. Their parents also don’t speak to their grandmother, meaning they’ve never met the rich and reclusive woman. It’s at the point where the parents have been completely disinherited, and none of them really understand why.

When the three cousins receive a letter each inviting them to work at the island resort for the summer, they all decide to go. Well, it seems like they all decide to go. There are secrets that start out immediately with one of the cousins.

If only that was the biggest scandal. There is a dark family secret that needs to come out. Over the course of the summer, the cousins will learn why their parents were disinherited. What could the parents have possibly done?

A twisty thriller with a surprising ending

The story is told from multiple viewpoints. We get to know the three cousins, but we also get the story from the 1990s through the eyes of Milly’s mom. This is a chance to learn what life was really like for the parents as they were growing up, giving us a chance to learn about the dark family secret.

The past’s story seems to lead to the reason why the parents were disinherited. We learn there was a death, and it looks like the past is leading to that story.

And then things take a huge twist, and this is what I love about the story. It’s a twist I only saw coming in the last quarter of the story. However, looking back at the earlier chapters, there are clues the entire way through the story. It reminds me very much of the twist at the end of One of Us Is Lying in the sense that it was always there, but you’re so focused on what you think the story is going to be about that you overlook it.

I like the way the ending doesn’t just leave us with the reveal and makes us wonder what’s next for everyone. We get the aftermath with the parents and the children as the full truth comes out. This is important considering the reveals at the end.

There are a few flaws in the leadup to the twist, though. There also seems to be a lack of consequences for some due to the way the ending is written. I would have loved to see all the villains to get real comeuppance so there was real justice for those hurt. I can’t really go into any more details without revealing spoilers, but I think you’ll see what I mean when you get to the ending.

Stars: 3.5 out of 5

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Get The Cousins by Karen M. McManus on Amazon.