Welcome to the ninth day of The Cousins blog tour! Below you will find my book review for this young adult mystery novel by author Karen M. McManus. I will not be revealing any spoilers in my review.
Many thanks go to The Write Reads and Penguin Platform for putting together this Ultimate Blog Tour and for letting me join in alongside so many other great bloggers. You can find out where to get a copy of the book and information on the author at the bottom of this post. For more thoughts and reviews for The Cousins, click here.
Content Warning: death of a grandparent, dementia, adultery, miscarriage, alcoholism, underage drinking, body dysmorphia, elitism, drowning, deadly car accident
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know one 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 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.
There are so many elements to not just this story but the way Karen M. McManus chose to tell it. This reviewer cannot tell you what to expect if you have read this author before, but if you were looking for a place to start with her books it’s definitely worth a pre-order or checking with your library to see if they will have a copy (or copies).
The setting is just what is promised in the summary, and to take it a bit further, is exactly what one would expect from a New England resort destination. But what makes it stand out among the vast sea of New England mansion or resort-based stories is the locations across the island in which most of the conversations, confrontations, and discoveries take place. It all seemed a little cliché at first, and some readers still might think it is, but McManus certainly gave each dwelling, restaurant, and beach its own distinguishing factors, so they feel like part of this story instead of all stories with a similar base setting (New England).
Right from the start, the reader is introduced to the main characters, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah, as well as the side characters who play almost as big of a part as they do. Everyone is a distinct person, and very much products of their environments. Those environments are a bit dramatic across the board, but this fortunately does not diminish the believability of the plot. Not all of the characters from the entire cast are immediately likeable, but it’s impossible not to root for many of them, particularly our protagonists, as the mysterious past and chaos of the present unfold.
And unfold it does. Using alternating perspectives (from each cousin) and a narrative from the past, anticipation over the darkness and tension promised in the summary continues to mount with each chapter. More secrets are exposed, some mysteries are further complicated, and moments of shock and awe crop up when they are least expected. This back and forth adds so many layers to the story and to the characters’ lives, but never does the story feel muddled or confusing. The pace at which the author chose to write works so well for the story, too. It is quick but not rushed; it makes you want to read faster but still allows the reader to savor descriptions and scenes to their fullest extent.
It was quite satisfying to see the protagonists—all around seventeen years of age—undergo realistic character development while navigating the pressures put on them by their families. They don’t completely mature by the end of the book, but they all take steps to make small changes based on things they learned about family, forgiveness, standing up for oneself, and standing up for others. The final reveal and event of the book was a surprise, and it happened so quickly yet tragically that it was hard not to feel wonderfully overwhelmed as the truth came crashing down. Just like the rest of the book, the epilogue is not void of surprises, and it might make you wonder if the story is actually over.
Whether it is actually over or it isn’t, The Cousins will make you want to hunker down and try to solve the mystery before the Story family does, but don’t get too cozy; this roller coaster is full of drama, lies, and learning who the people closest to you really are.