Sunday 13 December 2020

The Cousins, Karen M. McManus

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This post is part of the Ultimate Blog Tour for the novel. Thank you to Penguin and The Write Reads for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

The Story family is infamous. Wealthy and fractured, the four children of Mildred Story were disinherited with no explanation beyond a note that read ‘you know what you did.’ Except, they don’t, and have each become closed off in their other relationships as well as to each other. Over two decades later and the next generation is invited to Gull Cove Island for the summer. Their parents are not going to let the opportunity pass them by and soon cousins Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah are reluctantly on their way to the island for a summer they’ll never forget.

The cousins take it in turn to narrate the chapters, and Allison, Milly’s mother, also has some sections detailing the events of the year before her family were cut off. McManus sets the tone straight away, giving us a taste of each teenager’s personality, family relationships, and priorities. They each have their own secrets and varied thoughts on the Story family saga. The narrative style is chatty and believably youthful, although the voices lose some of their distinctiveness as the novel progresses.

There are a lot of twists and turns along the way as the cousins size each other up and wonder why their grandmother invited them to the island only to completely ignore them once they’ve arrived. Mildred herself is a bit of an enigma, largely absent but commanding a lot of attention. She has loyal advisers and you begin to wonder if she is being manipulated. The flashback sections show her struggling to keep up appearances after the death of her husband. Being in possession of a huge fortune, it’s not hard to imagine the vultures circling. 

For the cousins, who have had very little interaction with their aunts and uncles, it’s disorienting being on the island, where the locals seem to know more about their family history than they do. Could it be that one of them holds the key to unlocking the Story mystery?

An enjoyable read that will keep you guessing throughout. All the smaller reveals help build suspense and ensure you’re never quite certain that all is as it seems. You see the cousins grow closer and support each other yet also lash out and accuse when their reality is thrown off kilter. The Story siblings may not come off as all that likeable but their offspring have fortunately avoided some of the less desirable family traits. Love, mystery, and murder collide in this YA thriller whose conclusion is more heart wrenching than I could have imagined. 

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