The Cousins

by Karen M. McManus

“My grandfather died when Mom was a senior in high school. Two years later, Mildred disowned all of her children. She cut them off both financially and personally, with no explanation except for a single-sentence letter sent two weeks before Christmas through her lawyer, a man named Donald Camden, who’d known Mom and her brothers their entire lives: You know what you did.

Mom has always insisted that she has no clue what Mildred meant. ‘The four of us had gotten…selfish, I suppose,’ she’d tell me.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A-

The Cousins is written in McManus’ signature style – great characters who hook readers into a story that is fast paced and unique. It is, however, different than her other books, so readers who go in expecting another One of Us is Lying will likely be disappointed. The dialogue is great and the plot is clever and original. I appreciated how each of the cousins was their own person and held their own secret which in a way defined them.

This story has moments of realism and moments of exaggeration, but the blend of the two leads to a story that is engaging and clever – unique enough to draw readers in. Also, knowing that each of the flawed characters is desperately seeking out the truth about their damaged family, I couldn’t help but root for them to unearth the truth so that they could better understand themselves.

The ending was different than I expected, but I loved working to puzzle everything out. Even though I hadn’t guessed the whole ending, some of my hunches paid off. The Cousins is absolutely worth reading and will be a hit with fans of realistic mysteries and coming of age suspense stories.

Movie Rating: PG-13

The Cousins is an intriguing blend of a complicated story line and realistically addressed challenging topics. There is a character who is an alcoholic, another who has an affair which leads to a pregnancy, and one who hides his homosexuality. Abortion is discussed as is divorce and embezzlement. These difficult topics are woven seamlessly into the story, but can make readers uncomfortable if they are not prepared for such heavy topics. There is some swearing in the story, too. While none of these should discourage readership, combined they might deter readers who are looking for a bit less dysfunction in their fiction right now.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes

While The Cousins will not be the choice for everyone, I am really excited to add it to the library collection. Karen M. McManus has quite a following with my students and I know that they will like to read her latest. I am aware that there are some topics which might deter students from diving into this book, but I am confident that the unique mystery and the clever plot line with engage many students.


Karen M. McManus has a new and wholly unique mystery in The Cousins. Milly, Jonah, and Aubrey are the titular cousins who are beckoned to Gull Cove Resort for the summer so that they may be reunited with the grandmother who disowned their parents. Although reluctant to go, each agrees to go to the remote island for their own reasons. When they arrive, however, they realize that their grandmother was not the one who invited them and was not expecting them. Thus, the mystery begins.

Milly – determined to get to the bottom of who invited them – convinces Jonah and Aubrey to try to solve the mystery of what happened 24 years ago that would have led to their parents being disowned. Along the way, the cousins begin to realize that the glittering island resort holds secrets, and even they hold their own lies. Quickly, it becomes apparent that they may be getting close to the truth, and they must evaluate who they can trust while unearthing the web of lies that has been buried in their family for generations.

With McManus’ signature character building and fast-paced plot, The Cousins is a captivating story of three teens determined to understand their family, even with all the twisty-turny events that lead to an unexpected truth.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. Describe Milly. What finally convinces her to go to her grandmother’s resort?
  2. What leads Milly to believe that their grandmother was not expecting her? Who actually did invite them to the resort?
  3. What is going on in Aubrey’s life at home that has strained her relationship with her father? How does she challenge him with her newfound confidence while on the island?
  4. What is Jonah’s secret? Why is he seeking revenge?
  5. What is discovered when the house burns down? How does this change the family legacy?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • The Cousins by Karen M. McManus
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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