The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

All summer I kept seeing the new YA novel The Inheritance Games (Amazon) (AbeBooks) being recommended if you like the movies Knives Out (Amazon). Since I did find the movie better than most modern mysteries, I decided to check it out. One the one hand, I’m glad I did, on another, I didn’t. I’ll explain in a minute.

From the publisher:

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.”

First off, nowhere in the rave reviews or descriptions of the book did it say that this is the first book in a series. That wouldn’t bother me so much (after all, Nancy Drew is a series, too), but the book ends on a cliffhanger, a writing trope I hate. Had I known it was a series, I might have waited to read it. There’s an adult mystery series that I discovered last year that will remain nameless, and I loved everything about it except the endings, but I was able to read all of them up to the most current novel in one stretch, so it didn’t bother me as much. It’s a great hook for writers and publishers, I get that, but I personally don’t like it because I guess I’m impatient for a resolution to the story.

The Inheritance Games (Amazon) (AbeBooks) reminds me a lot of a middle grade book series that my older two kids loved, The 39 Clues (Amazon) (AbeBooks) A wealthy person dies, the will shocks the people expecting money, a bunch of clues leading to an inheritance, so it’s not really original to me. But the twist in the story is that Avery has no idea who Tobias Hawthorne is or why she was included in his will. So you’re hoping that mystery will be solved.

It turns out Hawthorne loved puzzles and games, and so does Avery. She’s got above-average intelligence (she wants to be an actuarial science major), and has a dead-beat dad and a dead mother. Her guardian is her half-sister, who has a loser boyfriend, so when we meet Avery, she’s refusing to live with her sister and is instead living in her car.

Then they get summoned to Texas for the reading of the will. We get to meet the Hawthorne grandsons, Xander, Nash, Grayson and Jameson, who are all about Avery’s age, of course, so there’s naturally going to be a romantic angle to the book (this is YA fiction, after all). Their mother, Sky, sort of rebelled when she was younger, and the way she rebelled was to take off for a couple months, and when she returned she’d be pregnant. She did this four times, so four sons. She never revealed who the boys’ fathers are, and is the typical spoiled rich woman.

I found myself wanting more mystery and less romantic triangle in The Inheritance Games (Amazon) (AbeBooks) , and happy there was a little action included in the form of assassination attempts against Avery. I’m not sure why the comparison with Knives Out, other than a rich dead guy and an unexpected heir to the fortune. The mystery finally picks up at the end, and then we get the cliffhanger. The End. Until the next book comes out, that is. Which of course I’ll read, because I want resolution to the story. Until then, I think I’ll just go watch Knives Out again so I can have a satisfactory resolution to a modern mystery.

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