This is the most ultimate of Ultimate Blog Tours and I am honoured to be a part of it! When I heard that Write Reads Tours had secured Karen M. McManus’ next book I was beyond excited – I recently read One Of Us Is Lying and loved that one, so I could not wait to pick this one up.
Thank you very much to Dave, the maestro behind The Write Reads moniker, for my place on the tour. Thank you also to Karen and the publisher for my free physical copy of the book, and as always to Noly for designing such a fabulous blog tour banner!
On to the review!
Published: 3rd December 2020
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Trigger warnings: Alcoholism, sexual references, miscarriage
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.
This entire family is built on secrets, right? It’s the Story legacy.
This summer, the teenagers are determined to discover the truth at the heart of their family. But some secrets are better left alone.
This is an entertaining book which contains unexpected twists and unravelling secrets everywhere you look. There is no shortage of incident in what is albeit a contrived plot, yet despite that and some other occasional flaws, there is plenty to enjoy and connect with here, from an attractive and well described setting to a thoroughly likeable set of protagonists.
At the centre is a mystery with many components. It begins with an intriguing premise and goes on to feature a huge array of characters, many of whom have skeletons in their proverbial closets. We see this over the course of two separate timelines, and there is also room for a romance. It may sound a little overwhelming, but it is an engaging story and one that is actually quite easy to follow.
Mildred Story is a rich and influential woman who owns the largest and most beautiful house on Gull Cove Island, as well as many of its other bars and tourist attractions. Nearly 25 years ago, she suddenly disowned all of her children for no reason that is immediately apparent. All they were sent was a letter with the same, single sentence. ‘You know what you did’.
There has been no contact between them ever since, but now Mildred’s three teenage grandchildren all receive invitations to spend a summer at the resort. Milly is extraverted and outgoing; Aubrey is polite yet is having to deal with problems in her home life, while the aloof Jonah was originally planning to enrol in a science course at college.
The three cousins have not seen each other since they were very young, but are curious to discover what really happened to their family. Upon their arrival, things immediately become even more suspicious as they find their grandmother did not in fact issue their invitation and had no idea they were coming. As they get to know some of the Gull Cove residents, it appears that a cover-up, and a series of tragic events all those years ago may hold the answers the trio are looking for.
I loved the whole setup and the general air of unpredictability that the plot has to offer throughout. There was always something interesting happening and plenty of things to keep you guessing, all the way to an ending that is both very tense and genuinely difficult to see coming. Perhaps the most impressive thing was the way the author successfully wove all of the characters into the complex narrative.
However, the plot did have its problems. The first thing to say is that a lot of it was quite far-fetched, and that somewhat ties in with the other main issue, which centres around the twists. Most of the main twists came as a real surprise, but without giving too much away the exact same means of concealment were used on no less than three separate occasions, which certainly seemed excessive and gave the story less credibility.
The book is told from four different perspectives. The three cousins are all written in the first person and the chapters mostly alternate between them. But every now and then, we go back to 1996 and follow Milly’s mother Allison in the lead-up to when she and her siblings were cast aside. These sections are in the third person and the events that take place help provide events with more of a context.
Of the characters, my favourite was undoubtedly Aubrey. She is extremely kind and considerate, yet also quite daring when she needs to be. I found her subplot fascinating as well; maybe it could have been explored slightly more. It took me a little longer to warm to Jonah, but there is more to him than what is on the surface and once you get to know him, he does become fairly likeable.
It was a similar case with Milly. I was not sure whether I would connect with her at first as she initially came across as slightly condescending, but that feeling ebbed away as the story progressed and I so I ended up liking her a lot too. Despite her outwardly nonchalant manner, she is inquisitive and headstrong and has a very sharp mind, which made it exciting to read from her point of view.
There are a lot of supporting characters to get through, but most of them were well developed. The past storyline really helped in that respect, shining a light on individuals such as Allison and her three brothers, as well as the elusive Mildred. The likes of Hazel and Dr Baxter also bring a lot to the story, while I continually regarded Donald Camden with unwavering suspicion.
Gull Cove Island made for a really fun setting; definitely the kind of place you might want to visit on a summer holiday. Mildred’s manor house and the resort as a whole were vividly realised and acted as a very memorable backdrop to events, with the secrets the place held giving it that feeling of trepidation.
The entire story moves along at a fast pace, and that meant I got through it all very quickly. The ending does bear some similarities to other thrillers, but I was not expecting it to turn out the way it did. The stakes grew very high and at this point you really do appreciate how multi-layered the plot is, with the writing taking on a more tangible sense of urgency.
Overall, this is a consuming book which you will absolutely fly through, giving you a whole host of questions to ponder in the process. It may have its faults in places, but there is a lot to enjoy from the dual timelines to the wonderful dynamic the three main protagonists share. A positive reading experience, and a nice dose of escapism.
Karen M. McManus has a Masters’ degree in Journalism from Northeastern University, and has gone on to be a New York Times bestselling author and one of the most popular authors of Young Adult fiction.
She has achieved notoriety with her debut novel One Of Us Is Lying in 2017, the sequel to which was published in 2019. In between, she wrote Two Can Keep A Secret, and The Cousins promises to be another highly successful book. She lives in Massachusetts.
An exciting and addictive read – issues for sure but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
*I was sent a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Check out all the other posts in this massive blog tour!