How to Keep Secrets and Influence Grandmothers

If there’s one book that we’ve all been counting down the days for, it’s The Cousins by Karen M. McManus! And believe us, you won’t be disappointed. This YA mystery takes place on a resort island owned by the estranged and reclusive grandmother of three teens: Jonah, Millie, and Aubrey Story.

The teens have the opportunity of a lifetime to get into the good graces of their mega-wealthy grandmother. Their parents want them to get into Gran’s good books and back in the will. The cousins don’t know why Gran cut their parents off in the first place, and nobody’s willing to talk.

To solve the mystery, they must win over their grandmother and piece together the puzzle behind their parent’s disinheritance. It’s a good thing they have a plan!

All this plotting got us thinking that keeping secrets and influencing grandmothers is a tricky business. So, in case you’re plotting to win over your affluent relatives anytime soon, here’s what you need to know.

Dodge personal questions.

Nothing good can come from personal questions. Avoid these at all costs. You can use one of the following tactics to ward off curious relatives and family friends.

  • Be cranky, rude, or bored—whatever it takes to get the questioner to leave you alone.
  • Be friendly and sweet so that everyone feels comfortable opening up to you and no one suspects you’re hiding anything.
  • Beat them to the punch and ask the personal questions first. They’ll be too scared of what you know to try anything.

Get to know the locals.

If you want to dig up information about ancient family secrets, local people can be a goldmine. From old friends to lifelong enemies, there are no better sources to help uncover secrets.

Don’t be afraid to do some digging.

Keep your eye out for anything suspicious, and look into things that don’t add up. You’d be surprised what you can learn by doing some poking around. Keep track of what you find and compare notes with people you trust.

Whatever you do, don’t fall in love.

Seriously, romance brings more trouble than it’s worth. Keep both your heart and your secrets safe by avoiding the whole sticky mess. Of course, this is not as easy to do as it sounds. You might find yourself weakening, especially if you come face to face with a pair of very kissable lips.

Discussion Questions:

Because we know how much you’ll want to talk about The Cousins after you’ve read it, we’re giving you a few discussion questions. Read the book, grab a friend or two, and use these questions to get the conversation started!

*Caution: Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read The Cousins yet, these discussion questions could spoil some of the surprises in the book. Proceed with caution!

1. The story starts with all three cousins receiving letters inviting them to spend the summer working at their estranged grandmother’s resort. If you were in this situation, would you go?

2. When the cousins meet their grandmother, she ignores Millie. Why do you think she does this? Is Millie justified in being upset about it?

3. Halfway through the summer, Aubrey realizes that her ex-boyfriend has many of the same shortcomings that her father does. Do you think it’s common for people to seek out relationships that feel familiar to them, even if they aren’t healthy? How can you change this?

4. Jonah comes to the island looking for revenge. When he meets his cousins, he discovers that he likes them—a lot. But that doesn’t stop him from going ahead with his plan. Do you think people are ever justified in seeking revenge? Why or why not?

5. Family secrets is one of the main themes of this book. Why do you think people keep secrets from their family? How are secrets beneficial? How are they destructive?

6. Allison kept a big secret for her brothers because she wasn’t sure if her suspicions were correct. Do you think she did the right thing? What would you have done if you were Allison?

7. After the cousins find Uncle Archer, they learn that he was the one who sent them the invitations. How would you feel if you found out your uncle had deceived you (and your parents) like that? Would you forgive him?

8. The cousins go through several theories and suspects before they find out the truth about their family. Who or what did you suspect? Were you right?

9. How did you feel about the way the book ended? What do you think Paula meant when she said that Anders Story’s new venture might “go up in flames”? Why did she sign her letter with the Story family slogan?

10. What was the most surprising part of this story? What did you like the most? What did you like the least?

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