Karen M. McManus is an American author who writes young adult thrillers. McManus published her first book in 2017. Titled One Of Us Is Lying, the novel became an instant New York Times bestseller and brought McManus in the global limelight. The book remains her most renowned work to date. The book would later evolve into the One of Us series, which includes two works. The third installment is still in the making.

The author followed this up with a standalone mystery novel titled Two Can Keep a Secret in 2019. While received positively by her readers, the book couldn’t surpass the success of her first work.

Having been writing on and off since she was in second grade, McManus finally decided to pursue writing as a full-time vocation after drawing inspiration from The Hunger Games in 2014.


The Cousins is Karen McManus’ fourth book in the thriller/mystery genre. Its plot revolves around the second generation of a rich family whose parents got cut off from their inheritance under mysterious circumstances.

The three cousins receive a written invitation to intern at their grandmother’s estate after being out of touch for years. Their parents refuse to reveal anything, either. However, fresh challenges await them when they contact each another before this anticipated trip. The teens are found to be keeping secrets from one another, each of which is revealed in layers.

The grandmother is hardly ever around. However, as the suspense grows, the protagonist takes it upon herself to get help and unravel the secrets that have plagued their family for decades.


The Cousins is set in the contemporary era of smartphones. The protagonist dominates the story from start to finish. The story begins with the protagonist’s mother, who is intriguing from the first, brief glance. Her daughter’s actions drive the story. However, her cousins also influence her decisions and actions.

Arguably the most memorable moments in the book are the flashbacks of the young parents. Their motives feel real, bringing the story to life.

Overall, the story is structured beautifully. It reveals critical information at just about the right time to keep the readers on their toes. All the pent-up tension prepares the readers for a thrilling climax, rounding off a superb page-turner. With a Sidney-Sheldon-like feel to it, the dramatic ending serves as the perfect finale to a wonderful story.


Mystery novels are largely plot-driven. While the characters in The Cousins are impeccable, the final reveal is somewhat of a letdown.

Another noteworthy drawback of The Cousins are the young parents’ flashbacks. While enthralling in their own right, they kind of hog the limelight off the three cousins who should have been at the forefront throughout. After all, one would expect the lead characters to be the most memorable ones.


The Summer Gala. I used to think it was a magical event, the absolute height of glamour. I loved looking at pictures of my mother in her white dress, and imagining myself transported in her place. Now I’m finally here, and all I can think is that I hope she wasn’t as miserable that night as I am now.

I lift my chin. “We don’t owe Mildred anything. She can figure it out on her own, just like we did.” It hits me, as I say it, that I really do think about Aubrey, Jonah, and me as a “we” now; an odd little team, caught up in something that only the three of us can understand. This summer keeps twisting in ways I never expected, and it’s a relief to have them along for the ride.


Ameya Score:

All in all, The Cousins is a book aimed at readers who relish a cocktail of romance and mystery. Both the setting and family dynamics are engaging on every page. That said, readers with a penchant for thrillers with a gut-wrenching ending may not find this a very satisfying read.

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