The Cousins, Karen M. McManus

***This review is going to totally spoil the book, so if you have high hopes for reading this, and don’t want the book spoiled for you, don’t continue reading***
Additionally, I’m not posting this review anywhere else so it doesn’t spoil it for others.

I read One of Us is Lying, and I really dug it. I tried reading Two Can Keep a Secret, but I couldn’t get into it. The Cousins was really hyped up, and I figured I did like her first book, so I had this in the wings at the library well ahead of release day because wait times have been 6 months or more since the pandemic.

The story starts slowly, and you have to push yourself through it. There are 3 different grandchildren, from 4 children of Mildred, and the story breaks off amongst the grandchildren’s views. But it’s nothing all that interesting, and you don’t find yourself attached to the characters.

But there is something interesting in Jonah, so let’s talk about that. Jonah is supposed to be incredibly smart. Smart enough to get into an elite, highly competitive science camp. So if he’s so smart, why does he think sending someone else, someone who doesn’t even look like him, in his place to the island is a smart idea? Especially when 1. Mildred is essentially the island fairy godmother, everyone knows her. 2. The whole island knows the family has been cut off for 24 years, which will make them celebrities on their return. They will be sought out. That means Jonah isn’t smart enough to realize this, so he sends someone else anyway. McManus is not giving credit to teens for being able to logically realize this. And she is just ignoring the fact Jonah is supposed to be smart, so why make such a dumb decision. It’s bad writing.

Moving on, you find yourself wondering, “what could they have done that was so bad that their mother would completely disown all her children?” And if you’re like Archer, well then, you *know* you did absolutely nothing. So why wouldn’t he attempt, in all those years, to find out? We never find out why he didn’t try, but we’re supposed to believe alcoholism is to blame, and that’s a big no from me.

But then towards the end, we get to the reason why she cut her kids off. Because Mildred had been dead this whole time, and her closest advisor took her place! For 24 freaking years! You’re telling me, that no one living on this island could tell the difference between the women? Even if she was a recluse, she still got out, and NOT ONE PERSON NOTICED! This is the bull-shi**iest-“plot twist” I have heard of. It’s weak, and it doesn’t work because not only is it not believable that no one noticed, but because it places the blame of the kids not digging deeper solely on Archer, who is conveniently an alcoholic and apparently doesn’t miss his mother enough to look further.

Again, another “they’ll never recognize me” meme is apt here.

So apparently, everyone on this island and everyone related to people on the island are dumb.

Also, we learn you can get away with killing people on the island because even though the doctor is in on it, the people on the police force are so swayed by money, they don’t care to investigate deaths. (The bribery was never flat out stated, I’m inferring here.) But… the money had dried up! So that means they aren’t bribing the police anymore. So why aren’t they looking into the new deaths? Because they’re dumb.

I give it two stars because the writing around the things I didn’t love isn’t bad. This book wasn’t right for me, but others really like it. There are a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews. I’m not ready to give up on the author because a bad twist, or plot lines that fall apart doesn’t always extend across all an author’s books. Especially because I really dug her first book. I think there are more good books in store to look forward to.


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