Book #08

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus

The Storys are the envy of their neighbours: owners of the largest property on their East Coast island, they are rich, beautiful, and close. Until it all falls apart. The four children are suddenly dropped by their mother with a single sentence:

You know what you did.

They never hear from her again.

Years later, when 18-year-old cousins Aubrey, Milly and Jonah Story receive a mysterious invitation to spend the summer at their grandmother's resort, they have no choice but to follow their curiosity and meet the woman who's been such an enigma their entire lives.

McManus delivers another YA thriller, this time focusing on family secrets and feuds - is there anything more tension-filled than family?

So, a wealthy, respected matriarch cuts off all of her children and refuses to see them. This goes on for twenty four years until, very abruptly, she contacts her grandchildren and demands they visit her island for the summer. Propelled along by parents who are desperate to regain their place in the family, with a view to eventually getting their hands on the inheritance, they are forced to oblige.

What follows reads more like a YA ‘friends on an adventure’ novel than a thriller. The early twists are predictable, with McManus making these more and more ridiculously far fetched until we ultimately reach an explosive ending. It’s compelling, and (dare I say) cute, but there’s no real suspense injected anywhere, and I found most of the characters dry and unrealistic. I also got to experience one of my pet hates in YA fiction - a romance shoehorned into the plot with no real reason. 

I always enjoy a multiple voice narrative, and this did well to support a rounded view of the mystery. McManus also takes us back in time to the nineties, to better understand the family’s relationship dynamic before the walls were brought down by mother. It was definitely a blow, for a woman of my age, to come face to face with the fact that the nineties are indeed now considered the olden days.

Despite its lacklustre attempts at shock, I did enjoy this. It’s a nice, light read, and McManus is an engaging YA writer. My main issue here is that The Cousins simply does not match up to its older sisters in twisty tension and whirlwind mystery.